Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Sights of Siena

After our full day at crowded Florence, we decided to stick to the countryside, hoping for more breathing space. Sienna is one of the most important towns in Tuscany so we decided to spend the day there--only a forty-five minute drive from the villa.

Our villa was in Monte San Savino, the right side of the map

The place was still crowded, but even with the tourists, Sienna still has a quaint, pleasant medieval-town atmosphere.  

Would you believe we just happened to be there the day before the Palio, Siena's 700-year-old tradition and one of two most important days of the year for all Siena residents? (the other one is another Palio in August).   Each of the 17 neigborhoods field a horse and a rider to race bareback around the town square. Biggest local event of the year with very expensive tickets if you book a seat on the outer ring of the track. To stand in the middle part of the ring is free.


Piazza del Campo prepared for next day's Palio

Very, very exciting, with a humongous crowd of locals--plus tourists! The type I'd rather watch on You Tube.

We focused on the Duomo of Siena instead, one of the most beautiful in all of Europe. Our  all-inclusive tickets allowed us entry into the Duomo, the baptistry the crypt, and the museum which includes to lookout point high above the town.  We immersed in rtwork and history for the next couple of hours.

G was particularly enamored by the Piccolomini Library and wanted to know how she could eventually own one of those ancient, huge, leatherbound music books!

There was just too much to see. Good thing the crowd was concentrated at Il Campo and nowhere near the Duomo or the museum.

We met up with the rest of the group for lunch at 3 pm, right when all the restaurants were about to close for the afternoon!  Our first choice restaurant had just closed so we walked around the corner and into a another restaurant that was just about to close. Luckily, the proprietors welcomed us warmly and happily served us. 

Our restaurant host served us family portions of his choice of the best pastas (which were all quite good), while we chose our main dishes. My grilled balsamic chicken was so delicious I didn't even notice what the rest were having.  I must try to duplicate this at home.

  Simply grilled with fresh rosemary and drizzled with a balsamic cream

With our restaurant hosts and the chef

With the (picture of the) owners who happily served us.

After that delicious lunch, we got our gelato at Grom, an Italian gelateria with branches in many Italian cities,  NY, Paris and even Tokyo!

 I detoured to get "un cafe" from Caffe Fiorella.  

In Italy, an espresso is just a "cafe"

We continued on to the museum (where we couldn't take pictures) which had old books and relics of saints, and then climbed up to see one of the nicest views of Sienna.

We were not at the tower at Piazza del Campo, rather we were at the viewpoint beside the duomo accessed through the museum.  Only 16 or so people can be accommodated at one time.

They limit each group to ten minutes max at the top, and everyone has to go back down the spiral staircase before they allow another group up. The line wasn't long so we only waited a few minutes before it was our turn.

From here you can see Piazza del Campo and the crowd gathering there.

Kat being nice and taking someone else's picture

Walking back to the parking lot, the drummers and the flags began appearing signalling the start of practice rounds. Horses would be coming out in an hour,  locals would be joining the tourists on the streets, and excitement was growing by the minute.

It was time for us to head back home to the villa. (I know, I know--KJs!)

I loved being in Siena and wished we had more days in Tuscany to explore other Tuscan towns.

But tomorrow we are returning our rental cars in Rome, where another adventure begins.

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