Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Taste of Siena

by TheTruth (writer), Manhattan, New York, March 19, 2007


When I heard that there was going to be a political art exhibit opening in Siena, I wanted to hop on a train that very second. Although I had to wait a few days, the wait was completely worth it.

I’m not sure which one of my senses was most intrigued when I first arrived in Siena at about 11:30 in the morning after a three-hour train ride from Rome. Was it the sight of the winding brick roads, the smell of fresh flowers, or maybe the taste of the creamy gelato?

While walking down a small alleyway, I was stunned as it opened up into the enormous Piazza del Campo. During the summer this piazza is turned into a racetrack for horseracing but throughout the year, it’s a main nesting ground for locals and tourists alike, with several outdoor restaurants, cafes and gelaterias (ice cream shops) with something to please everyone’s taste buds and appetites.
Once I was finished devouring some tiny tortellini filled with gorgonzola, and after sipping on my cappuccino, I decided to take a siesta. The Senesi people are very relaxed and seem to enjoy the finer things in life. I took note as to what the locals were doing and soon after followed suit – casually just lying down on the stones of the Campo while basking in the sun’s rays of that brilliant Saturday afternoon.

In the same piazza an enormous bell tower, Torre del Mangia, rises out of Palazzo Pubblico and functions as the city’s town hall. It’s very hard to miss, comprised of twenty stories and 375-steps to the top. I’ve heard from past visitors that the view from the summit is breathtaking, but I was unable to experience it because the tour is not given on Saturday afternoons; most likely due to the Italians’ mid-afternoon siesta which makes even the busiest streets in Italy seem like ghost towns.
After that disappointment wore off, I decided to set out to find something just as exciting.

Completely by accident, I stumbled upon the city’s Duomo (cathedral). The frescos, sculptures, and the finely-detailed walls and cathedral-ceilings brought upon a sense of awe beginning the second I stepped inside. The fine architecture that was structured by hundreds of artisans can be seen within every inch of this holy space. Each column that cascades from the ceilings to the floors is comprised of intermittent black and white stripes of marble. The illuminated sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna creates a sense of peace and reverence throughout. Although this cathedral still houses regular mass, it also serves as a museum to display its marvelous composition and history. The mere entrance fee of three Euro doesn’t seem to prepare its visitors for the grandeur that lies inside.

Along with the Duomo, Siena holds a tremendous amount of history within its city limits, so it seems only right to house such an art gallery. Entitled “System Error: War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning”, this art exhibit is being held until May at the famous Papesse art house in downtown Siena. Forty international artists are showcasing their works on various types of mediums; all focused around one central theme: war. The viewpoints of the artists are displayed through photography, film, canvas, cartoons and even in t-shirt form.

The artists were able to stray from the popularity of criticizing the current war on Iraq. Many artists brought to light struggles that aren’t usually focused on such as the crises in Rwanda, Israel and Palestine. These artists weren’t relying on their opinions alone – the pieces were fact-forward and well-researched.

Emily Jacir, a popular artist in New York, had been inspired by a woman whose boyfriend was killed in Rome at the height of the Munich conflict. Jacir used this woman’s story to create an abstract arrangement of art to tell the tragic story of a lost love in the midst of an international struggle. The descriptions next to each piece of art depicted different events, some general and some personal. Yet, they all opened my eyes and touched me emotionally.

Although short, my eight hour visit to Siena enabled me to observe the attractiveness of the city and the exquisite architecture of the Duomo. Being an American in Europe, the art gallery at Papesse has helped me become a more conscious human being. It was refreshing to see how others view world issues. For once, people of all backgrounds were able to come together, in a city steeped in beauty, to fight against the one thing that is destroying us: war.

About the Writer

TheTruth is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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