A Perfect Day in the Tuscan Countryside
Ciao! Yesterday, we chartered a bus and visited two of the most cherished towns in Tuscany: Siena and San Gimignano.
A bit of history about Siena and San Gimignano. Siena many hundreds of years ago had a real hatred for Florence. A bitter rivalry formed out of Florence building their incredible cathedral, Il Duomo (which I have posted a couple of pictures of), and Siena wanted to build a cathedral that was bigger and more ornate than Florence's. Bigger? Not quite. More ornate? OH yes. Walking inside of the building is a visual overload, from the stunning fresco collection to the world-class sculptures to the white and black marble to the over 350 busts of Popes' faces used as a type of crown molding, it simply isn't possible to comprehend all of the artwork in that church. In fact, a certain level of spitefulness must have been present to produce a place THAT ornate. This cathedral was very much made for man, and not for God; a "revenge cathedral" as one of my fellow students put it. The following pictures are all from Siena. Though it may have rained quite a bit at times, the town was still gorgeous.
San Gimignano is famous because of how little if at all the feel of the town has changed from the medieval times. No cars are allowed within the old city walls because the streets are far too narrow for them, and the oldest buildings date back almost a thousand years. But inside of those buildings now are gorgeous little markets, countless cafés, modern stores, authentic comfortable hotels, and - my favorite - gelaterias. San Gemignano is home to Gelateria Dondoli, four time winner of the Gelato World Championships. At first I was skeptic of that title. In my mind, it couldn't possibly be any better than the gelato I had with my dad at the top of Assisi during a choir trip when I was in fourth grade. But, alas, it was. I even got the same flavor - classic chocolate. Everyone in my program agreed that it was objectively the best ice cream they'd ever had. We also agreed that it ruined other gelato for us forever - not to mention *gag* American ice cream. Click the images to enlarge them.
San Gimignano is also known for its stunning view of the Tuscan countryside. While three girls from Boston Conservatory and I were exploring the town, we came across a stairway that led down to a dirt path where the only thing separating us from the countryside was a steep hill and some pine trees. It was the perfect way to observe the landscape before us. When we first saw the view it took our breath away, and we all had to give ourselves time to pause and take in the beauty. To be completely serious, I feel as though seeing the countryside this way will actually help me to be a better and more fluid Italian singer. The hills flow so gently and freely into each other, creating a vast and open atmosphere that an observer can't help but revel in because of how effortlessly and naturally the beauty is created. The Tuscan countryside is in theory the truly great singer's voice: free, flowing, open, effortless, and natural. Now every time I sing an Italian aria or art song, I have this image in my head to keep me on my technique and feeling free and legato. This is why singers should study the culture and the language of the music they perform. I could have never gotten this image or this experience from a voice lesson in Cincinnati, no matter how amazing my teacher there is.