A Short Visit to Quaint Siena

in Siena, Italy

I have a confession to make. The first time I visited Italy ten years ago, I actually didn’t enjoy it. I was brought along a two-week holiday in Tuscany which included a villa with a swimming pool lost in the Arezzo area and for some reason I did not connect with the country. I was barely 18, was not awaken to its beauty, didn’t speak a word of Italian and in general did not comprehend how lucky I was taking a dip while admiring the winding Tuscan hills. 

Yet, there is one city which atmosphere I was particularly charmed by. 
Siena

Let me put it simply: the city is incredibly harmonious. Its architecture, its narrow streets, the warmth of its stones makes you feel you are out of time and space. It is actually difficult to explain this feeling; maybe it has to do with the size of the city. Smaller than Florence, but still big enough and yet, feels like a village. 


That’s why I wanted to pay it a visit again after spending a few days in Florence this summer. I stayed less than two days overall – but enough to take all the energy the city has to offer in. I do have recommendations however, the bad blogger I am took more snapshots of the city than of restaurants and bars and so cannot illustrate all the good food. (I already take ten minutes on average to sip on a cappuccino when Italians take one second to gulp down their espresso; couldn’t possibly draw my camera and do close-ups at the caffè A. Nannini. Would have felt waaay too judged.)

By the way something to take into account while travelling there, if you don’t have a car: the train station is located quite far away from the centre. As I couldn’t find where the buses were, I just took a taxi to my Airbnb in via Roma. I would learn later that I became part of the Contrada di Valdimontone 🐏, one of the city's neighbourhoods that compete in the famous Palio horse race twice a year. Unfortunately, 2020 not being the greatest year to gather thousands of people in the same place, the two editions occuring on 2nd July and 16th August got cancelled. Each contrada has its own coat of arms - according to the one you belong to, you'll have enemies and allies. Medieval cool.


EXPLORING THE CITY


The first thing I did once I arrived in the indolence of a summer evening, was to head to Piazza del Campo to sit down (and social distance) directly on the main square’s ground – like others do to admire the Torre del Mangia. The crowded restaurants around the seashell-shaped piazza, the music and the sunset made it quite magical. I had a walk around and made the healthy choice of having ice-cream for dinner; can you really resist one of the best gelaterie called NICE? I don’t think so.

So little time to visit a city, and so willing to discover as much as possible: I had the idea of booking a last-minute Airbnb experience tour of the city. I had done so in Florence – bear with me, this post is absolutely not sponsored by Airbnb but if you don’t know any service on-site that organise tours or if you don’t know anybody that could recommend an agency, I would definitely try out the service. Once again, I got on a three-hour long tour alone because of the pandemic and I don’t regret it! I learnt so much wandering around the city in the morning – I would never have lived such an experience with a guidebook.

ALL IN ALL


That day was divided between a morning coffee (colazione al bar) at A. Nannini, the tour, lunch at Osteria Bocon del Prete, a walk around the city, an afternoon coffee on Piazza San Giovanni and a visit to the Cathedral, which has just been renovated and is now open to the public to see its special floors. +1 for the pink marble. Everywhere. 

I would say the particularity of this city is its pride. All major Italian cities and regions do have a strong sense of identity, but I had never come across one such as Siena’s – to the extent that it is almost inward-looking in my opinion. As I talked with the guide and people in cafés, it appeared quite clear to me that you either belong to the city, which has everything you can hope for, or you don’t (in which case, good luck to you to integrate). I guess this is what makes Siena who she is. 

Although I did not spend a long time there, I hope you will consider popping by if you’ve never seen it - if you have already let me know what your preferred! It is also a great stop before further exploring the Tuscan countryside, such as the Chianti area for the vino and San Gimignano. At least they're on my list.




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bonjour white