We arrived in Siena late at night, driving into the town after finishing dinner at La Bottega. The first thing you need to know about Siena is that the centre of the town is only accessible by foot. Carelessly park there and you are guaranteed a ticket. So when we were driving to our B&B, we were freaking out as we were the only car driving around the cobble stone streets. People everywhere but no cars. Eek!
Luckily I did my research like a PhD candidate and knew that we could drive up to the hotel, drop off our bags and park our car. I chose to stay in Albergo Cannon D’oro, which is a little hotel situation just off Piazza de Campo. This little hotel was a former palace built in the 13th century. It was a basic hotel, however the exterior as well as the interior whitewashed walls were beautiful (more beautiful than our room!).
Now I’m going to make an embarrassing confession. I wanted to stay close to Piazza del Campo. Yes, it is one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. Yes, it dates back to the 13th century. Very valid reasons to want to stay in the area. However my reason was based on something much more frivolous. It was a based on the game Assassin’s Creed. I watched my husband play this game for weeks, and I followed the main character through many cities of Italy – and Siena’s Piazza del Campo was one of the main areas the game was based in. Yes, that’s a bit sad.
The next morning we strolled through Piazza de Campo, which was massive to say the least. It was an overcast and slightly cool morning, and we took our time walking around the square – along with hundreds of other tourists.
We strolled to Duomo di Siena, a medieval Catholic church dating back to the 13th century. The first impression I got was that now THIS is what medieval is all about!!! I have no real concept of what it is to see buildings of such history so I just wandered around look at the marble columns, mozaic floors, and stained glass windows. We also took the opportunity to visit the duomo’s crypt. I saw original wall paintings depicting the stories from the Old Testament. The wall paintings had not been restored and were peeling and faded, and the crypt was kept at a cool temperature so it wouldn’t deteriorate any further. There were tombs of men and women inside, often with no name, but probably of some significance to the duomo or Siena. It was almost an eery experience.
While I enjoyed seeing the big sights in Siena, the sights that stuck with me the most were found in the back streets and alleyways of the town. Siena is a beautiful town high up in the hills, so we spent some time just wandering the back streets away from the major sights. We saw some beautiful sights just wandering around residential neighbourhoods, including this stunning view:
I wandered around the small stores and back streets, greeting locals as I went (not sure what they thought of that, but they were polite about it anyway). These were some of the views I saw while strolling along the alleys on my own…
A town seeped in history and culture, beautiful views and shopping, friendly people and delicious food. I truly loved visiting Siena.