If you were to ask me why I chose Siena as the second destination on our trip to Italy, I probably would not be able to give you a good reason. The central Italian city of Siena lacks the art, flair, and ambiance of it’s much more well known neighbor Florence, and yet most tourists would say that it is too big to be considered one of the true Tuscan hill towns such as San Gimignano or Orvieto. So, if you asked, I would say that I had read “good things” about Siena, or that we were going to use it as a jumping off point to explore Tuscany. Ask me ten different days, and you’d most likely get ten different answers. If I had planned this trip for next year…we might have ended up just going to Florence.
So as it was, there we were, sitting in a train on Binario 8 in Roma Termini; Siena or bust. The middle leg of our trip was to Tuscany. We had three days and two nights to spend exploring this famous region of central Italy, and with no plan set in stone, any number of possibilities were open to us.
“Siena is in a good, central location,” I said as our train passed idyllic fields of Sunflowers. “We can explore any number of hill towns from here, or even take the 75 minute bus ride into Florence.” However, once we arrived in Siena, unpacked our bags, and began to explore this beautiful medieval city, we could not find one good reason to leave it any sooner than we had to.
Like I said, Siena usually isn’t among the top ten places to see if you do happen to take a trip to Italy. There was just something about it that I was drawn to from the beginning of our trip planning. Whether it was Rick Steves saying that if anyone mentions Siena in his office, someone inevitably gushes about how much they “luuuuv Siena”, or how cool it was that twice a year they close down Il Campo, fill it with dirt, and hold a horse race that dates back to the dark ages…I couldn’t tell you. Looking back on our trip now though, I don’t see how we could have possibly passed it by.
What Siena lacks in art or historical value, it well makes up for in its amazingly well preserved city core and square (the best square in Italy), Piazza del Campo. The streets have remained unchanged in centuries, and the square looks the same as it did (with a few modern cafes now surrounding it) during the renaissance. We could not stay away from this place once we laid our eyes on it. We shopped the surrounding neighborhood, but we always ended up back at Il Campo. We decided that we wanted to stay there all night, so that is exactly what we did.
We found a small grocery store and bought all the essentials for a picnic: bread, cheese, salami, prosciutto…and since wine was cheaper than water (and thanks to a lack of ‘open container’ laws), two bottles of wine. Instead of going out to dinner, we had a picnic on the square, sunset and people watching, and thinking to ourselves just how amazing this place really was.
Day two in Siena was….well, not actually meant be spent in Siena at all. However, after our first amazing day there, how could we go anywhere else? Now…up to this point I had been steering the ship and Missy had faithfully followed my every step and turn. She was feeling a bit adventurous on this day…so I grudgingly let her lead the way. So we walked through the ancient brick streets, under arches…and walked…and walked some more.
“Where ya headin, hun?”
“We are just walking around the square…right?”
“Oh…then I dunno!”
Don’t worry…we weren’t that lost. We weren’t lost at all actually! Missy ended up leading us to Siena College, which had an old church that overlooked the entire town. This is where we had our lunch. There was a great breeze blowing and we had an amazingly different view of the city…she should have been leading us the whole time!
After enjoying this view for a good two hours, we eventually made our way back to the square. Our second night in Siena was much like the first, only we got out to the square earlier and stayed later. It was nothing less then perfect…we LOVE Siena! Even though Siena doesn’t have the sights of Florence or the quaint charm of the smaller hill towns, it didn’t matter. It had a hold on us, and we would return in a heart beat. We didn’t stay out too terribly late though…our train left early the next morning as our Italian honeymoon continued on to Pisa and the Cinque Terre coast.