I admit, I was pretty sad to leave Tuscany after four days of sipping wine all day, eating cheese and taking naps. Alas, my family and I had a day trip to Siena and a 2.5 hour drive to our next abode, a little bed and breakfast tucked away on a mountainside in Pietrasanta.
We spent a half day exploring the Duomo di Siena, a large, incredibly old cathedral (designed and completed between 1215 and 1263) in the heart of town. One thing I didn't expect in a cathedral: it was greenish-black and white striped! Reminded me of something out of the movie 'Beetlejuice.' Like most Italian buildings, every detail is perfect and you could spend days staring at the same wall and learn something new.
Gargoyles. Gargoyles for days.
I think he might be in charge.
The outside was stunning, but the inside was magical. And again, seeing a striped cathedral was so unexpected it threw me at first. Almost seemed modern, like this ancient religious structure was ahead of its time.
My mom reminded me that growing up, my bedroom ceiling was painted navy with gold stars.
Who knew at 10 years old I was replicating the Duomo di Siena?
One of the domed ceilings was painted in an elaborate geometric star pattern and caught the light differently depending on where you stood.
At the center of the dome was a beautiful skylight, much like a widow's walk with individual windows and angels watching from the eaves.
These seated angels, each posed differently and looking down at the visitors below, was by far my favorite part about the Duomo. As I zoomed in and focused on the individual faces of each, it gave me a great sense of comfort and peace.
I thought about all the loved ones I missed and how they would have loved to be there with me or hear about it afterwards.
One of many stained glass windows, this one at the front of the Duomo was built in 1288!
Each wall had different mantles/chapels, commissioned by some of the greatest Italian sculptors and painters from the history books.
The colonnade features statues of 42 patriarchs and prophets. Kind of scary to look at (especially if the power went out)!
Even the floors were carefully designed with the edgy black-and-white marble theme. There were large mosaic panels of marble signifying different scenes from the Old Testament. The Piccolomini Library was one of my favorites for these reasons:
1) Along the sides were housed ancient, beautifully illustrated choir books ...
2) A stunning ceiling of painted panels of mythological subjects, with colors so vivid it was hard to believe it had been painted in 1502 ...
3) The famous sculpture Three Graces, standing in the center of the room ...
4) Brilliant frescoes lining the walls above the books, depicting the life of a Siena hometown favorite, Pope Pius II.
Just a super cool angel candelabra!
After a lovely morning exploring the Duomo and revisiting my art history days, we (per usual) took a gelato break and explored the town on our way out. Siena definitely has a commanding wall protecting it from the outside.
My family and I hopped in the car and headed for our next adventure: a night in the beautiful little village of Pietrasanta, tucked away into the mountains among the greenest scenery and NARROWEST ROADS I'd ever seen.
Outside of the frightening driving, our stay could not have been more wonderful. Almora Bed & Breakfast is a renovated farmhouse on a hillside and owned by a lovely couple named Dado and Kyle. Every detail about their farmhouse is thoughtful, warm and beautiful. The integrity of the 1790s farmhouse is intact -- original beams and structure but with modern, eco-friendly conveniences that match the landscape. The artwork and sculptures inside are by Kyle and Dado makes a lovely breakfast in the morning.
Oh, and there's Daisy, the adorable 15-year-old resident dog, who loves to be loved on.
Chapel across the street
Driveway to Almora
View from the bedroom.
And here's Daisy, the 15-year-old resident dog.
Side note: the best focaccia of your life can be found at La Trattoria Da Beppino in 'downtown' Pietrasanta.
Life-changing, I swear! Great homemade wine, too.
After just one night in Pietrasanta, we hit the road again ... this time, for Cinque Terre. On our drive we passed the mountains of Carrera, where some of Italy's finest sculptors quarried marble to create masterpieces, including the Pantheon in Rome.
All the photos above (and more of Italy) can be viewed and purchased here.
Next stop: Cinque Terre!