We left Florence, its art, and its mosquitos behind. We left with many, many souvenirs of the mosquitos.........I know, TMI.
One stop at Santa Maria Novella --- beautiful church right across from the train station. Santa Maria Novella has Giotto's "Crucifixion" in the center of the space, and it is exquisite to pray and meditate in the presence of this beautiful crucifix.
As we sat down on the train, 3 American women got on---with too much luggage. There are lots of polite Italian boys who will help you onto the train and load your luggage into the racks for you----but these kids expect to be tipped. Personally, I don't let anyone I don't know touch my luggage, but other people can do what they want. The women seemed irritated that the young men wanted some money. They finally gave them something and then spent most of the ride from Florence to Siena complaining loudly so that anyone in the car who could understand English could hear ...."well, can't people see that we are 3 women traveling together and need some help? SOMEONE could have helped us. This is just terrible that people expect something from you...." and on and on and on.......seriously. Everyone on the train who could understand them just rolled their eyes. These women were so rude and entitled-----and I felt embarrassed that this is how many of us behave when we travel. I saw it all over the place. My fellow Americans.....you bring too much luggage. Do not bring what you can't carry. And stop acting like you are better than everyone else and expecting the rest of the world to show up to help you with your overwhelming amount of stuff, just because you are an American with entitlement issues. The rest of the world does not exist to serve us, and it is high time that Americans who travel understand this.
I have never come back from any trip wishing that I had taken more stuff. Ok, rant over.
We stopped at the beautiful Duomo--likely one of the most decorated and complex cathedrals you could ever imagine. And then we went to San Domenico to visit Catherine of Siena's relics. Well, some of them. Let me explain....
First I have to go back to Rome and tell you about Santa Maria Sopra Minerva---built over the Temple of Minerva. This is a lovely, quiet church near the Pantheon in Rome. It houses the tomb of Fra Angelico, the great Dominican artist responsible for some of the most beautiful frescos in church history---the ones at San Marco in Florence, for starts.
It also houses the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena. Well, most of her, anyways. Catherine died in the rooms behind the sacristy in this church. According to legend, the Romans wanted to keep her body in Rome. The people of Siena didn't particularly care for this idea. When Catherine was exhumed in Rome, as part of her canonization process, her body was mostly incorrupt---but her head was disconnected from the rest of her body. So......the people from Siena spirited her head out of Rome----they were stopped outside of the city, and when the bag containing her head was opened, her head was miraculously replaced by flowers. By time they got to Siena, it had regained its earlier form, and that is where it remains, in a reliquary at a side altar in San Domenico. They have her thumb, too. Europeans do death differently than we do in America.
So, we visited San Domenico and then moved on to visit the house where St. Catherine lived---just down the street (and yes, I mean DOWN). Siena is one of the hill towns---and one of the most beautiful cities in Italy----especially after the tour buses leave and take the day tripping tourists with them. Walking up and down in Siena was good practice for Assisi and for life.
1. Giotto's "Crucifixion"---Santa Maria Novella
2. Cloisters--Santa Maria Novells
3. Masaccio's "Trinity" fresco----3D if you stand in the right place!!
4, 5---Duomo in Siena
6. Chapel in St. Catherine's house
7. Exterior of St. Catherine's house
8. Reliquary with St. Catherine's head---too much light, which is probably just as well...
9. St. Catherine's tomb, Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Rome