After a beautiful few days in Florence we escaped the busy city and drove off into the Tuscan countryside. We stopped at a lovely little hotel just outside the city of Siena.
I loved Siena. It’s a small hilly town filled with narrow cobble-stoned streets and tall houses that were packed tightly within the city walls. It was a city full of hidden treasures.
One of my favourite parts of this city was walking through the dark narrow streets and all of a sudden emerging into this beautifully light and open piazza at the centre of the city – the Piazza del Campo. It is well and truly the heart of Siena – lined with restaurants and accommodation with people hanging out of balconies or filling up the sloped Campo itself. The atmosphere changed throughout the day, as did the light, as the sun drafted long shadows from the surrounding buildings.
Siena completely confuses your sense of scale. One minute you are navigating your way up steep staircases, under overhanging arches and washing lines and between the tightly packed buildings, and then suddenly you emerge into a huge open space with structures that seem to reach the skies!
The Duomo is a stunning piece of architecture inside and out. I loved how it’s bold striped exterior made it stand out amongst the other buildings of Siena and as unique to many other Italian Duomos. We were fortunate enough to come at a time where they had uncovered the ornate floors within the Duomo itself – something that usually only occurs in September to preserve the incredibly craftsmanship. Every detail of the structure was ornate and intricately decorated.
It was clear that there was such a strong community there as we watched many people wearing their region’s flags with pride around their necks as they had recently won the Palio di Siena – An incredibly exhilarating biannual horse race in which a representative jockey from each region of Siena rides a horse bareback around the Campo in front of thousands of spectators! It is one of the biggest events of the Tuscan calendar.
For the winning region, such a celebratory spirit was clearly evident. On our last night there we stumbled across the most beautiful sight – one of the long streets of Siena was lined with 2 long tables as the celebrating community gathered together for a communal dinner. It was such a beautiful thing to see the community come together and share a meal in such a magical setting – the kind of thing you only see in movies… or so I thought!
I highly recommend spending a few days in the Tuscan countryside or simply in Siena itself. By staying just outside the city we enjoyed the beautiful views of Tuscany and a cooler escape from the city whilst having easy access to the bustling city. The lovely Hotel a Siena Palazzo di Valli was an incredibly accommodating and serene location for our stay.