Ciao Italy: Siena

After a bit of a break and a trip to Sydney, we are now returning to my Italy posts! Siena isn’t too far away from Florence so my friend and I decided that it would be perfect for a leisurely day trip.

The actual town of Siena is a bit of a distance from the train station. This meant that we had to take a short bus ride over. It was a little confusing as we walked through a small shopping centre but before too long we found signs pointing us in the right direction.

To me, Piazza del campo is the heart of Siena. It is here that every year the famous Palio horse race takes place. On one side of the piazza is Fonte Gaia. Although it is fenced off, you can still appreciate how amazed the people of Siena would have been after years of pipe building finally led to the creation of this fountain.

Another town, another tower to climb! Torre del Mangia is situated on the other side of the piazza. It wasn’t as challenging or narrow as the leaning tower of Bologna, but I still needed to rest and catch my breath multiple times. The view from the top of the tower is incredibly beautiful. Because the city is on the smaller side, and there’s so much greenery around the contrast between the medieval town and everything else is that much greater.

The very top of the tower is actually only accessible via steep ladder-like steps. My fear of heights meant that getting up and down this was very slow going, but the feeling of accomplishment at the top was well worth it.

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Having done our exercise for the day it was time for lunch! With some help from Tripadvisor, we found ourselves in a car park in front of Gino Cacino di Angelo. After much indecision, Angelo helped us put on this veritable feast. This wine was exceptional, not too dry and perfect with the meats and cheeses. Just thinking about it is making me drool.

Some more aimless wandering was in order to work off the meal before we headed to the Siena duomo. This is one of the most visually impressive Cathedrals that I had the pleasure of visiting in Italy. From the façade to the interior Siena’s historical wealth is abundantly clear.

I was particularly impressed with the mosaic floor. Most of it is covered up throughout the year to prevent wear but some of the most impressive works are always on display. The slaughter of the innocents is probably one of my favourite pieces. From the inside of the building, you can also walk into the adjoining Piccolomini Library. Every inch of the library was ornately decorated. I almost hurt my neck craning up to see the frescos. I loved the royal blue colours.

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When presented with the opportunity to some steps and get another view of the city we gladly took it. There was a bit of a wait to climb the Facciatone. Only small groups are allowed up on the unbuilt façade of the duomo at a time and there are time limits imposed on how long you can stay up there.

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The baptistery of San Giovanni is actually also part of the duomo structure. It shares the same striking green façade but has an entirely separate entrance that is down a flight of stairs. Just moments before we entered there had been some sort of event going on, with many formally dressed Italians milling around. I love how these historical buildings are still very much in use today!

Before heading back to the station we got lost wandering around. We found ourselves in a handful of churches, as always seems to be the case no matter where you are in Italy and almost took the wrong bus back. Luckily my friend asked the bus driver and we made it safely back to Florence.

I am incredibly fond of Siena; perhaps unreasonably so. The absolutely perfect weather and leisurely pace at which I enjoyed the city contributed significantly to my impressions of the city as a whole.  The town is an absolute joy to walk through, although your legs might get sore from all the hills. I’ll leave you with this photo that I took of a local school’s art fair at the base of the tower. I wonder if you can get any more Italian than this pasta art!

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