I’m pretty sure you’ve heard about Siena when looking for places to visit while in Italy. Maybe you are considering it as a one-day trip from Florence, but what I would advise is to start thinking about staying a weekend or more, I mean why not just stay there for the long run and have it as your base for your studies? Why should you consider Siena for more than a one-day trip? Mostly because of how well kept the old part of the city is.
It’s true that for many years Siena and Florence fought for dominance over Tuscan lands, just looking at the vast majority of Renaissance paintings that depicted war, we can see that the main focus was that revolving around the endless battles between the two cities. But even though the wars were in the end won by Florence, there is one war that Siena won: The war of craftsmanship.
How did Siena Craftsmanship beat that of Florence?
If you visit the center of Siena you can still find various “botteghe” (a bottega is where an artisan has his shop) that range from the most diverse handcrafted jobs you can find today. It’s really rare to find places like this in the centre of Florence now, mostly because many high street brands have taken hold of the city center, but in Siena you’ll still find many botteghe that you can visit, and who knows maybe even find a gift to bring home.
So, why should you stay for more than one day in Siena?
The main historical attractions of the city are easily done in a day that’s true, from it’s beautiful “unfinished” Duomo to the world-renown Piazza del Campo in which twice a year you get the opportunity to enjoy the Palio di Siena, you’ll be full of history for the day. But if you get a chance to lose yourself in the winding streets of Siena you’ll be able to find a wide range of different “Bottegai”.
Pictorial artists in Siena are experts in the field of trompe l’oeil, lacquering and screen printing. The only way to see it is by visiting one of the Botteghe you find and maybe joining a workshop.
These Artigiani work on wood, fabric, glass and also in the fresco business, making them very sought out, a few people still are in this profession today.
Jewelers in the Bottegai world are divided into two categories the ones that work with gold and precious stones, and the ones that work with silver, producing bracelets, necklaces, and pendants. Remember that when you visit a Senese Jeweller.
A profession that is dying worldwide, in Siena you’ll be able to find a wide variety of Candlemakers, that give a personal artistic interpretation to the century-old business.
Another very important aspect of Senese Craftsmanship is the one that is reserved for Potters, as they have a very recognizable technique that is used to decorate the pottery they produce. Most of the time they represent the Senese Landscape (something that you need to visit whenever you get a chance)
This is the highest form of Pottery that is made in Siena if you consider that normal Pottery is already a specialty in the city, just imagine how amazing the Majolica work will be.