An hour south of Florence, we find the gorgeous town of Siena, one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. Here, we can find the essence of this country embodied in all of its cultural forms, food and history.
A visit to Florence is always a memorable one. No matter how many times we’ve been to Florence, we still can’t get enough of its beautiful streets, amazing monuments (such as the Duomo), its excellent museums (like the Uffizi), and beautiful architectonic masterpieces like the Ponte Vecchio. Also, the food and wine are amongst the best in the world and, all in all, it just makes our stay in the city on the shores of the river Arno an unforgettable one. However, it would also be a crime to miss out on one of Florence’s neighboring towns, like the medieval town of Siena.
Siena is about 40 miles south of Florence and its historical centre has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. One of its main historical landmarks is its beautiful cathedral, begun in the 13th century. Its façade is its main attraction, finished in 1380. Inside, we can find the famous octogonal pulpit from the 13th centure, created in the gothic style and made by Nicola Pisano. Inside there are also amazing renaissance frescoes by Ghirlandaio and some bas-reliefs by Donatello.
The main town square, the Piazza del Campo, houses the Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall, and the Torre del Mangia. The square is unique due to its shell shape. This is where the famous Palio races take place twice a year, probably the event that Siena is most famous for. The Palio is a horse race with riders from 17 different contrade (neighborhoods) race for the victory. The races are highly dangerous due to the speed of the horses and the lack of safety barriers, but during the few minutes that the race is run, the whole city of Siena turn the Piazza del Campo into a cauldron and cheer their man on, since they are all very proud of their own contrada. The music and the flags are present on this day, which is one of the most popular and colorful events of Italian culture, one that we must not miss on our visit to Siena if we are lucky to coincide on the dates, the 2nd of July and the 16th of August.
Food is another of Siena’s strong points. The old town is packed with trattorie and rustic restaurants where we can enjoy the best Tuscan cuisine and, from my very own experience, the best ever tiramissu in Italy. One of the best places to try the tiramissu and the excellent Tuscan and Italian cuisine is Osteria le Logge, Via del Porrione 33. However, make sure you get there early since this is an incredibly popular restaurant and it gets full quick. The atmosphere is amazing, the food is amazing, and the service is first-class.
After lunch, we can have a walk around the town’s many churches, the beautiful gardens kept by the University of Siena or the Palazzo Salimbeni in the square with the same name. A visit to Siena is an unforgettable one and one that we cannot miss out on. Its culture, history, events and gastronomy will forever captivate us.