VINTAGE MARKET AND 1930s PARTY IN SIENA: Saturday April 5, 2014

Considering how much Italy's image is linked to its 20th century icons (from Sophia Loren, Fellini and Marcello Mastroianni to Vespa and Fiat 500), it always surprises me how difficult it is to find a decent vintage store. Gucci and Fendi outlets may be thriving in Tuscany, but you're better off in London or Zurich, if you're after a dress Gina Lollobrigida or Eleonora Duse could have worn. 

Whether baby clothes or evening gowns, the majority of Italians prefer new to second hand, and whilst antique furniture markets are a monthly staple of many a Tuscan town, garage sales and vintage stores have never really gotten off the ground in this country.   

In Siena Aloe & Wolf is an exemption to the rule. The vintage shop in via Porrione has become a well loved staple in town and has every reason to celebrate its successful 10th year in business (yes, Kate Moss stopped and shopped here too). 

SWINGING ON PORRIONE: SATURDAY 5th of APRIL, 2014 from 6pm to midnight

Via del Porrione will look like a film set on Saturday night with street bands (thanks to Siena Jazz), Lindy Hop flash mobs and food stalls and restaurants joining in. All off it with a hat tip to the 1930s. Whether you want to buy a pair of vintage shoes or try a hot dog Al Capone style, everybody is welcome - as long as you're dressed to impress. 


Joining the vibe of Pharrell Williams popular song, Siena 2019 has produced its own joyful video for the world day of Happiness 2014. 

The video isn't just fun to watch (and dance along) but also fits a couple of points in Siena's bid book to become European Capital of Culture in 2019. 

  • adapt, change and reuse any type of normally copyrighted material, is the idea behind Copywrong. This must be exactly what Pharrell must have been hoping would happen to his song to make the world's first 24 hour video go viral (obviously always with a reference to the man himself). 
  • Play the City is supposed to bring in the sound. Choirs and young orchestras will get Siena to vibrate and provide ample opportunities for a dance or two. Music therapy will be a focus of Play the City and hopefully bring us much happiness into town as Pharrell's song. 
  • Still Dancing will provide technical and medical support to make sure everybody can join the fun - handicapped or not. 

Want to be happy somewhere else in the world? Check out Action for Happiness, a movement for positive social change, which hopes to develop a long lasting impact for a happier planet. 


San Pietro Alessandrino holding the city of Siena in Sano di Pietro's fresco
Fresco by Sano di Pietro in one of Palazzo Pubblico's six secret rooms


Upcoming dates: March 22/23, 2014; May 21/22, 2014

If you've been to Siena countless times, you may think you know it all. But you don't. Because you couldn't. Not even I - the famous writer of an arty-farty blog about Siena - have seen all of the Renaissance frescoes at Siena's civic museum yet. 

For a reason. Palazzo Pubblico in piazza del Campo may be one of Siena's main sights (think famous frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Simone Martini), but many of its beautifully adorned rooms are normally off-limits to the general public. Unless you happen to be in town for one of the guided visits which take place only a couple of times a year and grant you access to the hidden rooms with frescoes by Sienese masters like Sano di Pietro, Lippo Memmi and Il Sodoma. 

Guided visits at: 10:30 - 11:30 -  12:30 -  16:00 -  17:00 -  18:00
Tickets: € 11,00. Kids up to 11 years € 3,00 (the ticket gives you also access to the rest of the museum). For reservations and more info: +39 0577 286300;

Tours are in Italian only. However, just walk along. In most cases the guides know English and are happy to answer a couple of your questions. And without guide there is no secret room. 


Saturday and Sunday March 22/23, 2014

Every spring the Fondo Italiano Ambiente organizes visits to a multitude of historic and artistic sites in Italy which are often closed to the public. This year's event will open up the doors of several churches in the Valdimontone and Nicchio neighborhoods (two of Siena's biggest contrade), which are adorned with the frescoes of Ventura Salimbeni and Francesco Vanni, two Sienese painters of the late 16th century.


Together with another five Italian cities Siena has made it into the final round of ECoC 2019, a competition which will bring forth the Italian city entitled to be one of the two European Capitals of Culture in 2019 (the other one is being elected in Bulgaria). 

Siena's bid book has been Italy's best kept secret during the initial stage of the competition (read here why), but at last the salient points of the dossier have been presented to the city's population this January (more public events are in planning for the 19th of each month to come).

Winter afternoon in the stadium of Siena's football club A.C. Siena
 Waiting for #Siena2019

From what I have gathered so far, the dossier of Siena 2019 focuses on ten projects which intend to feature Siena and Tuscany's rich cultural heritage not as a showcase of the past, but as a fertile ground for inspiring art projects, innovative entrepreneurism and forward thinking social politics in the 21st century. 

  • Cultural Emergency Room is the name of the first project included in the bid. As a former hospital / orphanage and present day museum, the Santa Maria della Scala complex is the perfect location to set up a cultural E.R. Not convinced art and culture make for appropriate healing tools? Read the Novel Cure for your first dose of bibliotherapy, and for further evidence just ask me. As an ex-actress gone life coach I'm as unbiased as it gets.
  • Play the city will transform Siena into one big music school. The founding of young orchestras and choirs all through the province ties in neatly with the legacy of the Chigiana - the classical music academy with master courses that have been attended by directors like Claudio Abaddo and Daniel Barenboim - or with the Siena Jazz Foundation's Arrigo Polillo archive (one of the largest collections of this kind in Europe). Linking to the Cultural Emergency Room a collaboration is planned with music therapy centers through Europe. 
  • Napkin Economics - We all know the detailed reasons behind the current banking crisis, don't we? And assets and bonds is what I talk about at every lunch. But there is hope. Napkin Economics plans to end my ignorance of capital and credit by bringing world famous economists to Siena - for once not to talk jargon with their expert colleagues but pidgin with the rest of us. If anything I wonder whether these lessons of economic insight are intended for you and me or for the ex-leaders of the Monte dei Paschi bank
  • Still Dancing presents a newly developed technology, which will allow people with handicaps to dance and express themselves in creative performances with the support of a cultural and medical team at hand. 
  • Copywrong proposes a new way of dealing with copyright material: free use for everybody as long as the content is recreated or overworked before circulation. Siena will hold a festival dedicated to the highly creative works of art conceived by entire collectives using the copywrong approach. I love the idea (as long as you respect the copyright of this article). 
  • Gift Of Life - or not another dusty archive. Century old customs, tales and documents of Siena's 17 neighborhoods will be collected on an online platform. Gift of Life will be developed together with the metaLAB research unit from the university of Harvard, which fosters a new generation of curators of digital archives and aims to find better strategies for the storing and sharing of its contents. 
  • Tuscany In Your Bathroom: with cypress trees printed on every second mouse pad and coffee cup, does the world really need the rolling hills on loo rings too? Siena 2019 doesn't think so. The main stereotypes (quaint hilltop towns, anybody?) will be collected in a digital archive and elaborated by groups from Siena's young population, who will spread their 21st century take of Dante's homeland all through Europe. Tuscany's gastronomy will be part of the project with traditional recipes presented with a twist by the region's immigrant population. I'm planning to offer acquacotta in a Swiss chocolate sauce. But you may be in safer hands with the creations of my Albanian neighbors. 
  • Infective Roads reminds me of all the diseases that have circulated between badly fed pilgrims and ill washed merchants travelling on the via Francigena. The main road connecting Northern Europe to Rome managed to turn little known Siena into one of Europe's most important travel hubs during the Middle Ages. Focusing on the people hopping bacteria along the infected road made me forget what the project is actually about. To the few readers who are still with me at this point: please feel free to use this article and think up something yourself (for more information move back up to Copywrong).  
  • Parasite - a city for everybody, disabled or not. Input from the population and workshops with design students from European universities will open up Siena to every single person. A digital map will highlight existing barriers for wheelchair users and suggest solutions to overcome them. Regarding the highly important content - even more so in a city with a medieval outline like Siena - the project title seems a little unfortunate. What about the use of a hyphen (Para-site) to keep intellectually shortsighted people like me from continually thinking of a little loved animal?
  • Leonardo 500 - Da Vinci revisited. In 2019 five hundred years will have passed since Leonardo da Vinci's death - and we still wonder how he did it. Talent, curiosity, passion, the capacity to take risks and the courage to make mistakes were part of his DNA. Exactly the type of personality profile startuppers need in the 21st century. In a joint venture with Florence and the rest of Tuscany the project will among others produce a digital map of the human body, art projects for children and teenagers and a platform called 'serious gaming' (a new didactic model my 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter are all ready to contribute to). 

Bear in mind that this list is is not an official round up of the projects included in Siena's bid book. I may have left out important modules of each project, focused on minor aspects or just generally gotten it totally wrong. But then, I already learnt one thing from reading the inspiring synopsis of Siena 2019: errare humanum est. 

For more information about the project check out the Siena 2019 website or follow the committee on Twitter (#Siena2019), whilst I'll approach the mayor of my Tuscan village to suggest the cutting down of a few cypress trees. 

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