Hey everyone! I realized I never talked about a lot of the excursions that happened earlier on in this whirlwind of a semester, but I thought I’d talk a little bit about Siena! A lovely little city in Tuscany.
A quick digression: one of my favorite childhood books takes place partially in Siena. I am of the opinion that everyone should read it because it is wonderfully funny and kind of sad and touching in a weird, weird way. Here’s the cover as I always knew it:
Unfortunately, it’s quite a small image. There are several versions of it, but in any case, I love this book a lot and I’d read it over and over if I had the time. Still would.
Anyways, Siena! Still didn’t have a proper camera, but I think I did okay with my iPhone. We started off with a quick coffee break. I hadn’t quite gotten into the swing of Italian coffee–far superior to American coffee, loathe as I am to say it because it’s so cliche, but. It’s true. I don’t really like coffee that much, but I’ll drink Italian coffee, man.
And then off to this fountain in the main square full of pigeons!!!
Look, I know most people think of pigeons as nuisances, but I love pigeons okay? Pigeons are adorable fat little birds of joy and everything bad about pigeons is the fault of humans. They were all really pleased to be taking a bath in this fountain. They were all puffed up and covered in water. It was great.
Anyways, to the probably best part of the trip: the ARCHIVES. I am and forever shall be a massive old books nerd, so this was a really fabulous time for me. I just love old books okay? All the time! All the people that touched it! The different binding techniques! Oh boy.
Just look at these beautiful books.
I also took this picture while we were there, and I still rather like it, even though it’s a little pretentious or whatever.
There were two other pretty great highlights for my nerdy little heart in this day trip, one of which was the centuries-old graffiti in the Palazzo Pubblico. (I know I’ve already posted about it, but please bear with me I love it so much.)
It’s a little hard to see, but if you look closely on the red stripe, you can see someone’s carved “1464” right there. 1464?!! That’s before Columbus landed on the shores of America and ruined everything! That’s before Shakespeare!
Look at that! That’s in Greek! People were making marks on the walls here in Greek. That’s incredible to me. There’s also a couple from a little later–1848 and 1902, which I still think is pretty exciting. The passage of time, and yet people keep marking the same places, even as all the people who went before them are dead.
I love stuff like this, weird little snippets of human life and imperfection. Which brings me to this next picture!
It… admittedly kind of sucks as a photo, but look at this beautiful unfinished painting. It was too high up to take a decent photo, but man. Nero watching Rome burn. It’s a 19th-century work (my unabashed favorite art period), and there’s a detailed underdrawing and bits and pieces of completed painting. Agh. I suppose most people wouldn’t consider it great art–it’s mostly pretty, but it’s a antique-historical scene done in the ridiculously idealized style of 19th-century Neoclassicists. All my favorite things!! (That’s not actually true–I also love the Romantics dearly. Probably more so in terms of actual theme. Whatever.)
I think it’s really important to show unfinished work and drawings in museums alongside finished masterpieces, because it shows process versus product. Looking only at finished product can be deceptive. It leads to the idea that great artists were geniuses who produced things as opposed to ordinary people who worked hard on a single skillset. Art is not magic. Art is hard work. Certainly talent can play into it as well, but no one got by on talent alone. Let’s admire the unfinished work for what it is, and what it shows us we can all do. I can’t make a great painting, but I can make sketches. I can’t write a masterful novel, but I can write some crappy first drafts, and I am continuously thankful for the records of first drafts of novels now digitized online. How great to know how even the classics struggled! Ha!
Anyways, to finish the day off, we got to see a short procession of the Eagle contrada–Siena is quite unique in that it has an intensely competitive horse race every year amongst the different neighborhoods (contradas) that make up the cities: The Eagle contrada had won the most recent race.
That’s all on Siena! Stay determined.