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Siena: Help, what are we doing wrong?

Posted by Squiffy on October 25th, 2007

Siena is a lovely city which we only spent one day looking around, mainly because of the closure of the camping facilities there. However, had we been able to stay longer, I’m not sure what we would have seen. Bear with me here whilst I explain.

On our arrival, and after consulting the Rough Guide, we headed straight for the Campo, the city’s main square where they hold the famous ‘Palio’ horse race and the heart of all Sienese social life. We enjoyed sitting and watching life go by whilst soaking up the sun. After a while, when our bums became numb, we decided to go for a walk and visit some of the city’s other highlights. According to our book, the Duomo (cathedral) was not to be missed. Not usually ‘in to’ churches we agreed to give it a go, especially as we would be able to view the intricate mosaic floor, which a fellow camper had raved to us about, and which was only open in Sept and Oct – the rest of the year it is covered for protection. We were surprised to be charged 6 euros to enter when our guide book said it was free, but that’s why you should always have up-to-date versions.

We can’t deny the cathedral was impressive, both in terms of size and decoration. And we could appreciate that the floor must have taken a lot of work. But there’s where it stops for us. We looked around at many of the other visitors (mainly Americans), lost in wonder at the building. Feeling guilty, we tried to peak our interest in all of the art and history by reading the descriptions from our trusty book. However, we’d never heard of any of the artists, didn’t really understand the history, and above all, didn’t REALLY have a desire to. As an aside: there were no informative placards to explain the art, if you wanted to know more you had to put money into the conveniently located audio guide to hear about what you were looking at. To me, this doesn’t really encourage people to be interested. We left, agreeing that we prefer to appreciate architecture from the outside, whilst wandering, exploring, people watching and drinking coffee. As a result, we didn’t see any of the art galleries or museums of Siena.

We know many of you out there will be horrified, so we want to ask you; how do we become interested in this stuff? What are we doing wrong? Why are we not getting it?

On the flip side, is there anyone who thinks it’s ok NOT to visit the famous art galleries, museums and churches of Florence, Siena and the like (especially with the often steep entrance fees and multiple hour queues)?

We really welcome your opinions!


Comment from Chloe
Time: October 25, 2007, 12:12 pm

It’s called culture fatigue.

Aternatively in India / Thailand / Sri Lanka / Indonesia known as “ancient old monument/temple fatigue”

Not spent long enough in any European destinations to get culture fatigue (yet)!

It’s weird – you can travel a great distance, then after a while you start thinking “yeah yeah another 2000 yr old temple with amazing artwork done by an unkown tribe blah blah blah…” It’s only after you get back and get a bit of time and space that you start thinking “oh wow we saw that and I didn’t realise blah blah….”

Don’t worry – you’ll get it again!

Comment from Fi
Time: October 26, 2007, 10:51 am

Don’t worry, I’ve been to loads of places like that and passed by the museums and galleries. I think it depends how long you’re in a place for. If I had less than a two days in a place I’d much rather walk around and explore the sights of the city rather than spend time and money inside stuffy places with other tourists! I like to look around a city or whatever and get a feel for the place and try to see something about how the people live now. I think what you’re doing is much more worthwhile-you can look at pictures and artefacts in books if you want to but you can’t experience the archecture, food, music, whatever unless you do it first hand. Memorable times I’ve had on trips include listening to a really great busking jazz/skiffle band on the bridge in Prague and having coffee in Salzburg castle cafe looking over the plains at the snow-capped mountains opposite. Can’t get that in a museum or a book can you?

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