Tuesday, 4 September 2012


After three days of country living, and most generous hospitality, we have once again become townspeople. Last night, we booked in to Hotel Almadomus here in Siena. It's not visible in my photograph, but very central, below San Domenico. We are here for less than 24 hours, so there's little point in being anywhere else. And anyway the hotel came with a warm recommendation from a knowledgeable friend.

Arriving at dusk last night and opening our bedroom window, there was the Duomo looming above: turning my head to the left, I found myself looking immediately into Santa Caterina's Sanctuary, and at the saint's more than life-size statue, arms outstretched: this morning, I was able to get to the 7 a.m. mass in its Church of the Crucifix, despite sleeping until woken by the tolling bell. (I was one of about 20 in the congregation, which included five nuns, who form the resident community and maintain the Sanctuary, an oasis in this busy city.)

We have had an exhilarating time, walking the narrow streets, exploring churches and other buildings of different periods, as well as the famous Campo. But the highspot has certainly been the Duomo, its Crypt and Museum. From the latter, we climbed up onto the facade of the unfinished "new" (that is, early 14th Century!) Cathedral, from where I took this photograph. Isn't it extraordinary how, when in these high places, one always feels a bit of an urge to jump off?

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