A trip to Siena


Siena is less than an hour away from Florence on the Rapide non stopping bus – (cost €7.40) and anyone staying in Florence for a reasonable amount of time might like a change of architecture and the change of pace afforded by this rival City.

NB Siena puts itself centre stage on this rondel of the Confederate Cities of Siena – one of the many extraordinary mosaics on the cathedral floor – their’s was not a friendly rivalry!

The Duomo in Siena is completely different from that of Florence , where nearly all the content has been removed and is now found in the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore –  In Siena the Cathedral contents are still very much on display.

To my mind one of the most beautiful parts of the Duomo in Siena is the Piccolomini Library – commissioned by Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini Todeschini before he ascended to one of the shorter Papal tenancies – as Pope Pius III he only lasted from the 26 days between September 22 to October 18, 1503!

His objective was to honour his uncle Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who became Humanist Pope Pius II from Pienza

And to provide an appropriate place to house his many books and his armless Roman copy of the Three Graces.

The impressive vault of the library is ornately decorated with grotesques, scenes from classical mythology, and a variety of putti, satyrs, nymphs and tritons. The three large squares in the center depict the Rape of Proserpine, the Piccolomini coat of arms with it’s crescent moon logo, and Diana and Endymion.

The artist chosen to fresco the library, working between 1502 and 1507.was the Umbrian Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, who may have utilised original designs by Raphael , whose portrait is featured with Pinturicchio, in some of the frescoes, including the one below.

Pintoricchio, The Canonization of Catherine of Siena by Pope Pius II

This incredibly detailed masterpiece is bright with vivacious colours which seem as fresh now as the day they were painted.

Every scene depicting the secular and religious career of Pope Pius II from youth to Papacy is explained in a Latin text below the painting.

They include Enea Silvio Piccolomini’s first role as an Ambassador to a very bright and sunny looking Scotland!

Pintoricchio, Enea Piccolomini as an Ambassador to the Court of James I of Scotland

Then we journey through activities such as being crowned a “poet” by Emperor Frederick III – then as Bishop of Siena presenting Frederick III to his future wife (below), then being made Cardinal and ultimately Pope Pius II

Aeneas Piccolomini Introduces Eleonora of Portugal to Frederick III

A Beyond the Yalla Dog garden tour went to Pienza in May 2011 and visited the palace and garden of Pope Pius II