Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Italy 2014: Siena

The only thing I knew of Siena prior to arriving was that it hosted the Palio - perhaps the most famous horse race in the world - and that it had a famous Duomo. So...not much. However, based on my visit I feel that perhaps those are the two things Siena is known for from a tourist perspective. The town seemed much more about a relaxed way of living versus crazy sightseeing.
That being said, Joe and I were ready to sightsee! After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we headed straight towards the Piazza del Campo in search of food. Realizing we didn't want an overpriced, long sit-down meal, we instead bought some slices of pizza at a grocery store (I viewed the mobs of locals a good sign), stopped off for an espresso, and finally purchased some gelato to enjoy while sitting in Il Campo. 

Pizza pizza!
In addition to being the civic and social center, Il Campo is where the Palio takes place. It is hard to believe that this sloping, huge Piazza is at times jam-packed with spectators and horses - but it makes me want to return to see it in person!

While enjoying our gelato, Joe and I decided that we should climb the main tower (Torre del Mangia) and get a better view of Siena. I'm happy to say that the 500 or so steps were much easier than the Duomo and Bell Tower! However, things got way too scary for me at the top, so I stayed at the top of the tower while Joe kept climbing to snap some gorgeous panoramic shots of the city. (I figured my view was good enough not to risk falling off the tower!) There were only a few other people on the tower, and for the most part we had it to ourselves. (A highlight of traveling during off season, of course.) I was so glad to see Siena and Tuscany from this vantage point - I know why art of this area is so popular, because it really is stunning scenery.
Another tower to climb? Yes please!
Don't look down!
Okay, look down now!

After the tower, we headed to the Duomo and visited the church, baptistery, crypts, and museum. It was yet again another very impressive church, but I wasn't quite as enthralled as I've been at previous churches. (Maybe I was reaching the point of church overload? I hate saying that because they are all so impressive, but it does happen after a while. Still very glad to have seen it in person, though!
For dinner, we headed to Trattoria del Torre based on a review of a restaurant that said we could watch the chefs make and prepare pasta right in front of the table. (Side note: So glad Yelp is catching on in Europe!) There was no menu - the waiter/owner said "what type of pasta do you want? how do you want it prepared?" and within a minute our dishes were sitting in front of us. Next we got "what meat do you want? what sides?" and before we knew it we had plates of chicken (or lamb for Joe) and vegetables in front of us. All the while we watched the owner's wife prepare everything. Once again, dinner was a delicious success and a meal I hope not to forget. If only I could figure out to get such good chianti back at home, at such a cheap price too... alas...
As we walked back through Il Campo toward our hotel, I realized that one day in Siena was the right amount of time for me. I am so glad we went, and as I said I would love to see the Palio!
Next stop: Pisa + Lucca!

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