Sights and Secrets of Siena
steeped in history and rests in the heart of Tuscany. Complete with medieval turrets and a meandering maze of narrow, winding cobblestone streets, Siena can easily take up your day or your week, depending on just how much of the tiny town you wish to absorb. Arriving by train will place you at the foot of outcropping on which Siena sits, giving you a magnificent view of its lofty perch. From this point, ambitious travelers can meander up the Viale Giuseppe Mazzini toward the center of town; those who prefer less exercise, however, can easily find a bus headed in the same direction. While all of Siena deserves exploration, those with a limited time frame should head to il centro to catch of glimpse of Siena’s most significant landmarks. The first is the Piazza del Campo, the historical center of Sienese government and now a popular gathering place for lunch, a coffee, or souvenirs. Situated along the southeastern side of this piazza, known as “Il Campo,” one can find the early 14th-century Palazzo Pubblico, or ‘Town Hall,” easily locatable by its iconic (and incredibly high) bell tower, the Torre di Mangia. Climbing the bell tower’s 335 steps will give you a breathtaking view over the Tuscan countryside, while a tour of the Palazzo Pubblico will treat you to the magnificent frescoes of Ambrogio Lorenzetti depicting The Allegory of Good and Bad Government that line the walls of the town council’s meeting chamber. Though intended as a reminder for the 14th-century Commune members, the message is still relatable today! If you are visiting Siena in early July or mid-August, you can experience the special treat of Il Palio, a horse race completion that dates back to the 16th century. Run every July 2nd and August 16th on Il Campo, the Palio commemorates Sienese history and, with all of Siena in attendance, is truly an event to experience. Just a few blocks from Il Campo is the magnificent Duomo of Siena, a marvelous expression of 13th century Gothic architecture blended with Moorish elements. The Duomo is particularly spectacular when its marble façade, accented with gilded mosaic work, is illuminated by the sun. When you’re ready for a good meal (and, after all the hills and steps of Siena, you will be!), make sure to sample some of the local delicacies. Many small osterie near Il Campo and the Duomo offer seasonal specialties such as porcini mushrooms, Tuscan tartufi, or truffles, and even cinghiale, or wild boar native to Tuscany. Even though you are inland, many restaurants also offer seafood delicacies brought in fresh from the coast. If you are not ready for a full meal but would like a little sweet snack, look for a pasticceria that offers panforte, a classic Tuscan sweet bread similar to a fruit cake, or ricciarelli, almond cookies sweetened with local honey. For those looking to shop, the streets around Il Campo will be your best bet. The Via Banchi di Sopra, which heads north from Il Campo but requires walking around it (you can leave the campo on Via Rinaldi, take a left on Via Banchi di Sotto and then a right on Via Banchi di Sopra), is lined with a variety of chain stores and mid-range shops ranging from antique books to vintage handbags. Poke around and you might find a perfect souvenir to remember Siena!
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