By Jordan Beatty, MA 2014-15
Siena is one of Italy’s most charming Tuscan cities, and it is not to be missed during your time in Florence. It is a walled, Medieval city known world-wide for the famous Palio – a horse race that takes place two times every summer. In the heart of the city you will find Il Campo, the main piazza where locals and tourists alike come to spend the afternoon, people watching and enjoying each other’s company.
Dominating Piazza del Campo is Palazzo Pubblico and its tower, Torre del Mangia. The civic palace, built between 1297 and 1310, still houses the city’s municipal offices, much like Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Its internal courtyard has entrances to the Torre del Mangia and to the Civic Museum. If you’re feeling extra ambitious and energetic, the climb up the 500 steps of the tower leads to breathtaking views of Siena and surrounding areas.
Il Duomo lies in Piazza del Duomo, above Piazza del Campo. It is a great, Romanesque-Gothic cathedral filled with treasures by Pisano, Donatello and Michelangelo, as well as frescoes by Pinturicchio. The exterior and interiors are decorated in white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, black and white being the symbolic colors of the city.
The Sienese are fun-loving, wine-drinking, warm people with a deep respect for traditions that they refuse to forget. One of these traditions is Il Palio. Each contrada, or district, competes in the race, and the Sienese take this very seriously. Walking through the seventeen contrade of Siena, you will notice that each is named after an animal or symbol, with its own museum, fountain, and motto. Many have allies and adversary contrade, with differing colors and flags.
When considering getting around, Siena must been seen by foot – it is one of the most picturesque cities in Italy. With winding, narrow streets and hills offering amazing views, be sure to bring your camera. Siena is great for a stroll through the piazzas, alleys, and palaces that haven’t lost their original charm.
During your journey around the city, you are bound to work up an appetite. There is a gelateria that goes by the name “Kopakabana” on Via dei Rossi that offers arguably some of the best gelato in Italy. Kopakabana has unique flavors like petali di rosa (rose petal), limone & basilico (lemon basil), and blue jeans. During a visit to Siena, stopping at Kopakabana is a must!
Siena is only an hour and twenty minutes by bus from Florence. Tickets cost around €7,40 each way on a SITA bus. When you arrive, get off the beaten path and allow yourself to stumble upon one of the many hidden treasures that make Siena so lovely!