Client Spotlight: A Happy Retiree’s Bucket List Trip to the Cathedral of Siena

One of the most rewarding aspects of working in portfolio management and retirement planning is seeing positive results in real-time. At our firm, we believe strongly in the principles we preach, but it’s up to our clients to go out there and live life to the fullest. One client, Janet, recently did just that with a visit to the Siena Cathedral located in Italy.

Though the cathedral’s beauty would be obvious even to untrained eyes, Janet has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art History and was halfway to a Master’s when she stopped to take a job with an airline. Luckily, that career presented the opportunity to jet-set the world and feast her eyes upon copious masterpieces. Of all the spectacular spectacles, she particularly loved visiting Italy for its breathtaking churches and museums.

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After retiring in 2014, Janet went back to the books — auditing classes at Georgia State University and streaming others from The Great Courses. The latter’s catalog boasted “The Guide to Essential Italy” and “The World’s Greatest Churches,” and it was within these curricula that pictures of the Siena Cathedral dazzled her. She decided that she had to experience it in person.

A quick online search revealed that the Siena Cathedral currently serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Siena-Colle di Val d’Elsa-Montalcino. While the sound of that name triggered welcome (and delicious) images of spaghetti Bolognese in my mind, I wanted a more profound understanding of what compelled Janet’s pilgrimage. Referencing The Marble Pavement of the Cathedral of Siena by Bruno Santi and, she provided ample context for the root and strength of her passion.

The Cathedral of Siena is a Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral built between 1196 and 1348. While the architecture is magnificent with its bold black and white stripes inside and out, its most unique characteristic is its inlaid marble floor. All fifty-six panels were created between the 14th and 19th centuries. They reference the city’s history interwoven with a depiction of humankind’s past and the quest for salvation.

These panels have been painstakingly maintained throughout the centuries, and their strict preservation prevents visitors for much of the year. Finally, however, Janet found an opening this past summer. And she must like us because one day, this beautiful postcard arrived at our Atlanta office from Italy!

While the floor alone was a priceless experience, Janet said the Cathedral had so much more to offer. The best sculptors in Italian history have contributed to its treasures. For the church’s initial construction, the pulpit was carved by the medieval master, Nicola Pisano. His son, Giovanni, sculpted several statues for the original facade. During the Renaissance, Michelangelo created figures for the Piccolomini Altarpiece, including one of St. Paul with his first self-portrait. Later, in the Baroque period, Bernini carved St. Mary Magdalene and St. Jerome in the Chapel of the Vow. The Cathedral’s stained glass, especially the rose window, is also not to be missed. Overall, Janet says the Cathedral of Siena is a jewel box of masterpieces. In other words, her journey was immensely inspiring.

Janet will always cherish the memories of her Siena excursion, and her advice to other retirees is to pursue their passion, whatever it is. I couldn’t agree more. Cheers, Janet! Or should I say, saluti!

Please note, Janet gave us permission to share her story and photos.