In September of 2013 we’d hit the road again after returning to Franca’s hometown and so far had passed through Rome for the third time together to again see friends and see the ancient city once more, passed through Napoli where we’d seen the reality to the false ‘unsafe myth of Naples, and also taken a rememorable trip on a historical tour of Pompeii that we really enjoyed.
As our journey was loosely planned to continue north until we ran out of ideas – thanks to our ‘unplanning’ method of travel – we decided that we’d be foolish not to stop off in the medieval hill town in Tuscany that’s been the focus of pictures, stories and films since this former trading town on the road from north to south became a hub of interest for wealthy businessmen, and now, tens of thousands of international tourists who travel at all times of the year to see the city’s 1000 year old red brick buildings and the evergreen countryside that surrounds the town like a sea in every direction.
An Island In Tuscany
Life in Siena hasn’t changed a great deal over the centuries, though the leadership may have. Passing through time as once a great republic for over 400 years to then time under the rule of the Duchy of Tuscany before becoming part of the unified Kingdom of Italy towards the end of the 19th century.
For the people of the city things have mostly stayed the same with their lives mainly having been focused on the agriculture sector thanks to the bountiful green gardens and trees of Tuscany that they’ve been cultivating over the generations
Home Of A Businessman
Whilst the city may have been a much richer republic, the town still shows the signs of it’s more affluent time and still today enjoys great success as a popular holiday and business port of call for both Italian and international businessmen. This is most evident on walks through the town during the day when you’ll often see yourself walking past exquisitely dressed men and women leaving their houses to promenade through town, or just to the nearest bakery for fresh bread. For both they dress in their finest and it’s quite the sight when standing in a line for a loaf of some of their local treats such as panforte, or a large chunk of walnut bread that we devoured like demons!.
The Pride Of The Palio
Though Siena may be a famous travel destination for it’s scenic views, beautiful aged red and orange brick buildings and the luxury lifestyle that the city offers, of course the biggest attraction for most is the twice annually unique bareback horse race that takes place in the central square of the Piazza del Campo.
Though the two races of the year had already taken place and been broadcast to a keen international audience, evidence of the Palio are to be found everywhere, from street decoration to almost 100% of the souvenirs on offer for tourists. Most interesting of which, however, are the many flags that can be found in all parts of the city, but nowhere more than the neighbourhood of the most recent race’s winner.
Monuments Of Siena
In the main square of Siena where the race takes place on it’s cobbled surface is an interesting place filled with bars and restaurants that are full even on the quietest of days, and though the city was remarkably quiet thanks to the time of year we’d chose to visit, the tables and chairs around lunch time were all full to the brim with people waiting for their moment in the shade for a coffee or midday glass of wine.
Also in the Piazza del Campo is the Palazzo Pubblico, the 700 year old Tuscan city hall that is full of historical artifacts and paintings that document in remarkable beauty the history of the city.
Elsewhere in the city are other remarkable buildings that have seen many, many years. Many of them are churches, but none of those match the beauty and striking architecture and design of the Duomo of Siena.
Small, Yet Interesting
Siena isn’t the largest city in Tuscany by any stretch of the imagination, and whilst the history of the city, its buildings and the traditions are notable, the city still manages to stand up as one of the most unique places to take a day trip, but perhaps not much longer than that. Our stay was for only one night, but we had two days in which to fill our time with walking the small side streets and up and down the few roads that roll down the hill before sweeping around again to join the city at its old city wall gates.
By the time it came to leave we felt refreshed and ready to take on the next unplanned step of our journey, wherever that might be.