The lovely Tuscan town of Siena was probably my favourite place during 2 weeks in Italy. Although I spent only one day here, 24 hours were enough to fall in love. We took the fast bus from Florence, and after a scenic 1 hour 15 minutes (take the fast bus to avoid stopping at every village) bus ride through scenic Tuscan hills we reached this perfect medieval town.
So, according to Rick Steves, Siena once was as flourishing and powerful as Florence. Once Siena fell to Florence, it was abandoned into irrelevance for a long period thus preserving its medieval architecture and vibe. The place feels like you are stuck in a time!
We reached late afternoon and after check in spent sometime wondering the magical streets. First up, just look at the view from our hotel. I couldn’t stop staring! I spent sometime walking around Palazzo Pubblico situated on Piazza del Campo before my husband joined me. We sat down near the fountain for sometime just taking in the view and counting our blessings. It’s a shell shaped Piazza aka town square, a very unusual shape. For the first time, I was sitting in the centre of the town square as if I am sitting on the beach!
We ended the day with an absolutely delicious meal at a cute, family run restaurant Osteria Degli Svitati (reserve before you go–they are always fully booked). Loved the anchovies with fresh stracciatella cheese. When in Siena, do indulge in the local sweets i.e. Cantucci (biscuits) or panforte (cake) with Vin Santo (a sweet dessert wine). Apparently, you are supposed to dunk the biscuit in the wine and then have it.
Next morning, we bought our coffee and pastries (from Torrefazione Fiorella) and went up the terrace of our hotel for breakfast with a view! We spent most of our day at Siena Cathedral. I honestly thought it trumps Florence’s Duomo. It is as stunning outside as it is from the inside. The entire marble floor is inlaid with sculptures. The floor is covered most of the year to preserve the art. Luckily, it was open when we were there. I have never seen such intricate work on a church floor! The church houses some priceless works of art from various Italian painters and sculptors including Michelangelo and Bernini.
According to historians, Sienese people were building Siena Cathedral to outshine the Duomo in Florence. However, midway through the construction, bubonic plague broke out and the people saw it as a sign from God telling them to drop their pride. So, the church never saw the end to its glorious size as was envisaged originally. I would recommend getting a guide to understand the story behind the magnificent art inside!
You can easily spend an entire day the church exploring the museum, baptistry, the crypts, and going up the bell tower. The view from the terrace of the museum, is totally worth the long queue. We were blessed with gorgeous weather that day.
We had our last meal at Osteria La Chiacchera— a simple but hearty meal of pici, ragu and chianti.
Siena is definitely on my list of favourite places and I will return to spend more time here. I do wish it stays the way it is– rustic, warm and cosy.