Tuscany
by Steve Ford, 2010

This photo essay covers the second half of our 2009 adventure in Italy.
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Architecture
The central tower in Siena - Siena is the nicest big town we saw in Italy. Milan has its Duomo, Last Supper,and Teatro alla Scalla. Florence has the David and more Renaissance and pre-Renaissance art than you can shake a stick at.Rome... well I still haven't been to Rome, and I am sure there are many wonderful things to see there. But these are all "cities" of the modern era, filled with art and antiquities, but swamped with modern infrastructure and crazed by the frenetic pace afflicting all centers of business and commerce. Siena has retained its Renaissance era architecture and the small town charm. With minimal motorized traffic Siena is fun and easy to explore on foot. We did go to Florence... If you love art, you will probably like this city, but itIS a city... and don't even think about driving in Florence, we did, and it was an absolute miracle that we made it in and out without getting hopelessly lost or wrecking our car.

The passageways, alleys and corridors of Siena beckon for exploration.

I tried to capture the character and variety of the architecture in these charming old towns.

This is one of five similar windows in Cuna, a tiny little town about 10 minutes south of Siena.

San Gimigano is famous for its towers. Apparently there was sort of a "keeping up with the Joneses" thing happening and everybody just had to have one of these towers. The architecture is much like Voltera, Piensa, and Siena, but add 50 or so towers. It's also a tourist trap, so if you go to San Gimigano, you may find the edges of the town more appealing than the main drag.

If you look closely you can see that this doorway was once much bigger.

Tuscan countryside seen through a doorway in the wall of San Gimigano.

Voltera is west of Siena with more of this medieval architecture.

I love the way this image fades to white. It makes it look like the doorway goes right into the screen.

I couldn't resist this image. The colors are so clean and vibrant. It reminds me of Portugal.

Looking up through a portal in a calstello (castle) at the
city of Montelcino.

We saw this pretty little farm on a dirt road between Montelcino and Piensa.

I saved this spiral staircase image for the end of the architecture section because it is the only photo from Vernazza I am posting in this article. Vernazza is a little cliff side town in a famous area called the Cinque Terre on the northwest coast of Italy. The whole area is quite lovely with amazing cliff side trails everywhere and the some of the best seafood you will find anywhere. It would be a fantastic place to visit except for one thing... It has been given the Rick Steves "kiss of death." I don't want to knock Rick Steves, he is a very nice guy and he provides some fantastic info about tourism in Europe. But he has gotten just a little bit too well known. Almost everything he recommends is absolutely overrun with tourists. When we arrived in Vernazza it was so jam packed with tourists we could barely make our way to our hotel. I am not exaggerating... IT WAS PACKED. After two days we moved to Levanto, a little town just outside the Cinque Terre, but only a 10 minute train ride from Vernazza. So my suggestion is this... If you want to see the Cinque Terre, stay in Levanto. You get to have all of the beauty and fun of hiking on amazing cliff side trails, but you don't have to put up with being swamped with other tourists.
Edibles
Is your mouth watering yet???
Nooooooo??? Okaaaaaay...
How about now??? Just checking... ;-)
 
Hardware

We found lots of this sort of wrought iron in Piensa.

This great door knocker is in Siena.

This hardware helps to hold the central tower in Siena together.

 
Art

A fresco in the Milan Duomo.

Mosaic from the floor of the Milan Duomo.

Stained glass from the Milan Duomo. All of the stained glass images plus the mosaic image were adjusted in Photoshop to correct for  the skew effect introduced by taking these photos at an extreme angle.

Voltera has a fantastic museum for Etruscan art. While photos were allowed, flash photography was banned (this was also the case in all the churches). This piece was nicely lit and not encased in glass or Plexiglas, making this
photo possible.

These are images of sidewalk chalk art we saw in Siena. The perspective caused by the photographic angle causes the woman's head to look too small for her body, but it still makes for a nice image. I blacked out the unpainted sidewalk in the image on the left to increase the drama of the image.

You can see just a small bit of unpainted sidewalk in the upper left corner of the image on the right.

 
My Favs

Make way for the dog! Bet you can't guess why this is one of my favs. This is cropped from a photo of a painting in the Siena Duomo.

These are the spiral stairs from the tower in Vernazza again, except this is lower down in the tower where the lighting was so bad that I couldn't do much except Photoshop the image
into art.

Windows in a Tuscan Tower These two images are windows in the central tower of Siena. I like them because they are visually interesting to me... the way the light fades into blackness... I feel as though I am in a dungeon...

 

A Park in Piensa This image is a favorite because I like the idea of a society where the town's people meet face to face every day. As much as I like the Vine, I think some of this would be good for our society and me personally.

 

Piensa Moon

These last two are just before (right) and just after (left) sunset in Piensa.

Lamp Light