Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Less Visited Tuscany

My wife and I recently spent a week at a 1200-acre Tuscany estate called Compriano. She spent the week painting at the grounds there and I cruised around the area in a comfortable Audi pretty much depending on my good luck and eye to stumble upon good photographs. Oh, sure. Everyone tells you to do your research and be prepared. Yeah, okay. I perused the Internet until my eyes bled looking for places to go, but in the end, I decided to just wing it. The advantage of this is the sense of adventure and surprise one gets every day, but also, I ended up being attracted to places that weren't necessarily visited by the tourist hordes. Below are three towns I found that had a pleasant, medieval feel to them but apparently weren't on the tourist bus schedule. It was just the residents and me. And for the most part, they ignored me as I conspicuously set up my tripod or crouched low for one shot or another. I had fun.



Horti Leonini gardens, San Quirico d'Orcia

San Quirico d'Orcia

San Quirico d'Orcia

Horti Leonini gardens, San Quirico d'Orcia
Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Sign at Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore asking women to dress appropriately. And if they can't, the Abbey supplied a robe of sorts.

Detail from the murals at Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Library books, Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sienna in the Morning

Sienna is a wonderful medieval city in the Tuscany region of Italy. The closest thing to a mall there is a narrow street full of modern shops selling clothes, wine, shoes and more wine. To my eyes, the residents have done little to acknowledge all the tourists that come there every day. A few souvenir stands at the two main attractions, the Duomo and Piazza del Campo and perhaps more restaurants than the base population could support are about it. I saw two Siennas while there. I came early in the morning when the residents were going to work, and the narrow, ancient streets were not only charming but felt—I'm guessing—like it was a few centuries ago. No traffic jams. Only a few cars and many more motorcycles. People were walking, usually briskly, as if late.

And then there was the mid-morning transformation when crowds of tourists materialized (no doubt from caravans of buses) and the streets turned into something out of Disneyland. That's about the time I left.

The advantage for a photographer getting there early was I could freely wander around using my tripod to compensate for the long exposures necessitated by the shadowy streets without worrying about tripping someone from Japan or Germany or America. Plus, I was able to get shots of the locals going about their business, making the pictures feel a little more authentic.

So here is my take on Sienna, shot over the course of about four hours.

One of the gates into the city. A few centuries ago, this was no doubt guarded.

Side street. Well, actually, most of the streets are like this.

A resident on her way to work (I'm guessing on both points).

The Duomo, one of the city's main attractions. Early in the morning before it opens the plaza in front was mostly empty.

Detail from above the Duomo's entrance. The entire church is covered with this kind of stuff.

Nun walking away from the Duomo.

A man having a morning smoke and stroll past the Duomo.

Priest in a hurry, the Duomo.

Early bird tourists. Very convenient how they stood in the shaft of light for me.

Three windows.

Motorcyclist on a side street. I suppose this might qualify as a residential area.

There was a fair amount of graffiti in Sienna as if it's tolerated.

Hat stand in a restaurant outside of the Piazza del Campo.

Woman making her way (slowly) to the Piazza del Campo.

Yours truly at the Piazza del Campo. My kind of selfie.

Two men deep in conversation, the Piazza del Campo.

Not sure what kind of animal this is, but you can't beat the contrast between the bright color and the gray surroundings.

Feather on a street.

News stand. If I'm reading the headline correctly, it says that the Pope is ill with a tumor but the doctors say it's curable. For some reason, this was the only place I ever heard of the supposed sickness.

Man carrying what I believe is a sack of concrete. I liked the shot because it had the feeling of something that happens every day there and has been going on for centuries.

Café tables adjusted for the street's steep slope.

I'm a sucker for pictures of hanging laundry.

I'm also a sucker for long stairways.

Someone on his way to something and probably a local.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Tuscan Landscapes

Even though I was on vacation, during the week I recently spent in the Tuscany region of Italy, I got up most mornings before dawn, tossed my camera gear in the rental car and explored the area for decent landscapes. This wasn't always the easiest thing to do from a logistical standpoint—the roads were narrow and rarely had anything approaching a shoulder on which to park. Every morning, I came back for breakfast grateful I hadn't caused an accident. After all that effort, here's what I came up with.

Farmhouse near Monteroni d'Arbia

Cypress trees near Buonconvento.

Plowed field near Buonconvento.

Abandoned farmhouse, Piana.

Farmhouse near Buonconvento.

Cypress trees near Asciano.

Estate near San Quirico d'Orcia.

Fields near San Quirico d'Orcia.

Hay bales near San Giovanni.

Maritime pine near Asciano.

Maritime pines, Piana.

Homes in the morning mist, near Radi.

Fields near San Giovanni.

Fields near San Giovanni.

Fields near Monteroni d'Arbia.

Plowed fields near Murlo.

Fields near San Giovanni.

Fields near San Giovanni.

Farmhouse near Asciano.

Sunset, near Asciano.


Road to Radi.