During one of our day trips from Florence was a few hours visiting the city of Siena. A few hours is not long enough to discover a city like Siena, but it provided a glimpse into this famous Tuscan town, with the promise we might return one day to explore it further.
Our driver dropped us off at the Piazza del Duomo. This medieval cathedral is renowned for its distinctive columns and facade made from green and white marble. Many of Italy’s greatest artists, like Michaelangelo, Donatello and Bernini had a hand in the stunning decorations of this duomo. While the cathedral could have easily consumed all our available time in Siena, with great reluctance we skipped the interior due to the lines and use our time explore more of the city proper.
The streets in town are narrow and full of tourists, but as we wandered the shops and side-alleys, the essence of Siena revealed itself. The buildings lining the streets reflected traditional Italian medieval architecture, with magnificent wooden doors that opened into interior courtyards. Renaissance style wrought-iron gates protects the houses but offers a glimpse of stone and marble archways and cobblestone entrances.
From the cathedral, the streets all seem to spiral down to the famous Piazza del Campo, the city center and the heart of the town. Famous for the Il Palio, a horse race that happens twice during the summer, the Piazza is surrounded by imposing structures like that Palazzo Pubblico with the stunning Torre del Mangia, the watchtower that looms over the Piazza. While it is possible to climb to the top of this 14th century tower to get outstanding views of Siena and the surrounding countryside, we knew our time was limited and pushed on to see more of Siena.
Leaving Piazza del Campo from the Costarella dei Barbieri exist, we headed into the via di Citta, one of the major shopping areas of the city centre. While my wife strolled through the shops, I focused on the excellent leatherworking shops and products here.
At this point we realized it was time to walk back to the Piazza del Duomo to meet our driver to continue our trip. It was frustrating to be in a city as beautiful as Siena and not be able to discover more of its sites, features and history. Tuscany feels like the Italy Americans dream about, and Siena is perhaps the best representation of that dream. But a few hours here doesn’t do Siena justice. Don’t make the same mistake we did and think you can visit Siena in a few hours. You can’t.