For those who like Italy in general, and, like me, Tuscany especially, the source of eye candy is nothing short of inexhaustible.
While I already presented some treasures of Florence and Lucca (which I will dare to revisit courtesy of some new shots taken recently), let me share with you the delights of Siena as well as another special place, designed and built by a famous American artist.
First, yes, I cannot say and repeat enough how much “simply” returning to Florence is a special event, despite the number of visits already paid.
I never tire of that moment when I rediscover the Duomo, and this spring was yet another occasion to pay homage.
But this will be the subject of a second chapter in this “Caramelle” series.
This time, we decided to go south and make a first stop in Siena along the way. This was around Easter when restrictions were in full force, and meant there were still few people around, mostly Italian.
Foreigners who came in droves over this Summer, fellow Belgians, Dutch and Germans, stayed home.
Siena is a town where traffic is severely limited. To reach the center, you basically park outside the city and walk along uphill streets.
You can of course get a glimpse of your final destination from afar…but nothing like the real McCoy.
When, huffing and puffing, you reach the top, your heart starts pounding, and your mind keeps racing where do I start, to share with and bring back the emotion to the faithful readers of Dear Susan.
There are two locations, both utterly spectacular, which one cannot miss when visiting Siena, the Piazza del Campo, which hosts a very famous horse race, the Palio, where various “contrade”, or teams, fight it out in two rounds, in July and mid-August.
The building which stands in the middle is Palazzo Salimberni, heardquarters of one of Europe’s oldest banks, Monte dei Paschi di Siena.
Seen from the other end, that piazza is just as gorgeous and spectacular.
As the pictures will hopefully allow you to appreciate, Piazza del Campo is vast.
One has to imagine that when the Palio takes place, it is overcrowded with people in the center together with riders careening on horseback on the outskirts.
Next visit in this spectacular city was the Duomo whose construction began in the 12th century.
If the front may be not as large, spectacular, as the one in Florence, it is just as ornate if not more, and in its own way, very beautiful.
Second stop on that trip is something we had wanted to see for a long time. It lies in the extreme south of Tuscany and is, well, quite different.
According to the official story, Nicky de Saint Phalle discovered the works of Gaudi in Barcelona in 1955 and they impressed her a lot.
They gave her the inspiration to create what she called the “Giardino degli Tarocchi” or Tarot gardens.
When one arrives, it is clear that this place is absolutely unique.
You may like or dislike her art, but most definitely, Nicky de Saint Phalle’s will not leave you stone cold.
From the moment work started on this colossal project, it took no less than twenty years until the official opening.
During our visit, there were, unfortunately, many people, some of whom thought that what is her chef d’oeuvre was some theme park, with their children climbing on statues…they are not part of this Caramella ;-).
During part of those twenty years, the artist lived on site to supervise the construction in the largest and most famous sculpture, the Sphinx.
Yes, indeed, this gigantic work of art includes a kitchen, a dining room, as well as bed- and bathrooms.
This is, for example, the bathroom; the shower head is located in the snake’s mouth…
Not sure a “normal” human being would want to live in such an glittery environment, but then again Nicky de Saint Phalle was someone very much out of the ordinary.
It takes a good two hours to walk around these gardens and one can only marvel at the painstaking detail of each sculpture.
To me, it unquestionably illustrates some form of genius.
There are many more statues in this tarot garden but not wanting to bore you, I hope it has sparked some sort of interest, titillated your curiosity and who knows, perhaps even generated enough interest to encourage a visit.
It is now time to say goodbye until Caramelle part two gets readied, closing this post with one picture typical of the beautiful Tuscan landscapes.
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