Tuscany. Oh my goodness, what a place.
The town of Siena
I would describe Siena as the smaller sibling to Florence in this region of Italy, known as Toscana in Italian.
Sure, it doesn’t have the man himself (the statue) David or the lovely Ponte Vecchio but what it lacks in size comparison it makes up for in atmosphere.
It’s entire town centre isn’t a UNESCO heritage site for nothing.
Siena has held on to medieval tradition in having its neighbourhoods or contrade divided up. There are 17 in total, each with their own identity and mascot which is usually named after an animal.
When you’re walking around the city pay attention to the street lanterns and signs around you. I was wondering why on earth there was caterpillar statues on a wall and once you learn more about the contrade you’ll start to see reoccuring images of different mascots everywhere, which will giveaway the area you’re currently in.
The flags of the contrade
Twice each summer, once both in July and August, Siena has an event called the Palio. Each contrada takes part and is represented by a jockey who rides a horse without a saddle around the main town square, the Piazza del Campo three times.
Leaving aside the issues which come into argument around any sporting event involving animals, I think it would be hard to dispute how amazing the town would be during this time of the year.
The prize is a painted banner (a palio) of the Virgin Mary but I think the matter of contrada pride is what really matters most.
Like a lot of Italy, with its strong Catholic population, there is no shortage of churches but the Siena Cathedral with its duomo really took my breath away.
The city isn’t short of fantastic dining options either and there’s quite a few cooking classes on offer too around the place.
Next time I’m in Italy I’ll definitely be hanging out in Siena for a few days and if all I do is eat and drink wine the entire time, I consider not a minute of that wasted.
Now that’s a calzone, for the Parks & Rec fans
Being located in Tuscany means that Siena is a perfect base to explore wineries, especially the Chianti region.
We checked out the Villa Buonasera on our tour, which is run by a young guy named Christian who explained the wine making process in perfectly Italian accented English.
His mother Barbara had prepared a beautiful home cooked meal for us featuring pasta ragu and a different wine to compliment each course. It was delizioso!
Just one course from our dinner