Today, i'm so exited to share with you all Taylor's wonderful take on Sienna, Italy. Taylor is the blogger behind the amazing blog, Anticipation and you absolutely have to check out her incredible watercolors on her Etsy store... (she's really cool!).
1.Upon arrival, this is the first stop:
As soon as you drop off your bags, you should head back out to the Piazza del Campo! Not only is it the perfect setting to grab an evening apertivi, but you will be at the center of all of Siena's action. The Campo is the best meeting place, and you will undoubtedly meet friendly and curious locals who are just as into you as you are into them. The Campo is a great frame of reference to get familiar with as you explore Siena more frequently, and it's the perfect first step into immersing yourself into the city. After relaxing on the warm brick floor of the Campo, grab some gelato right off the Banchi di Sopra, Siena's main "street." My favorite gelateria is Super Panna, which has a big variety of gelato and generous sizing options! Super Panna Gelateria, Via Banchi di Sotto, Siena IT
2.To get a taste of the local culture, this is essential:
The best restaurants I found were accidents, and not planned. One of which was La Tellina on Via Delle Terme. The whole menu was in Italian, and that’s when I realized that this was not a touristy place. It was a small trattoria, which is not the same as a ristorante: the former is a small, family-owned business, while the latter is usually a higher-end, upscale business that isn’t necessarily family-owned. Another “accident” was a favorite of mine because of the kind, friendly and funny wait staff – and I could kick myself because I don’t remember the name of it, but I do remember that it was located on Via Galluzza in Siena. The waiter was entertaining and spoiled us with free desserts like crema catalana (it came out on fire!) and a delicious, crispy garlic bread made from scratch. The best restaurants are always the ones no one knows about.
3.To ride in style like this locals, I recommend this form of transport:
In Siena, the rapido bus may not be the sleekest or chicest form of transport, but it is certainly the most effective and fastest. Take the rapido bus to Florence, and boom! One hour later you're at a major hub. If you don't decide to take the bus, you can always choose to travel by train. I always liked TrenItalia's system, despite their (sometimes too frequent) train strikes. Nevertheless, I loved the routine of boarding a train, anticipating a new place to explore. You can't go wrong with public transport ation in Europe. Just pack light!
4.You will sleep like a baby here:
My favorite B&B was Al Mercato, right behind the Campo. It's a 30 second walk to the heart of Siena, and yet it is tucked away enough in a safe and quiet location. Al Mercato is located in what used to be the high-rent district of Siena, so there is a sophisticated flair to the bed and breakfast. The windows look out to a public square behind the Campo, where weekly markets are held. You can find the freshest Tuscan produce here. Al Mercato B&B, Via Giovanni Dupre, Siena IT
5.Want a souvenir, take this home:
One of the coolest things I brought home, amidst the boxes of pasta and fine leather goods, was a Contrada flag! Siena is split up into seventeen contradas, or neighborhoods. Every year, these contradas compete in an age-old bareback horserace called il Palio, which takes place in the heart of the city - il Campo itself. Find out which contrada is yours, and take home your flag! It's virtually weightless and easy to pack into a bag.
6.The locals and tourists like to get tipsy here:
One of my most memorable nights began at the Tea Room in Siena, which is located behind the Campo as well. It's a locally owned, upscale room that overlooks the beautiful gardens behind the city. My favorite drink was a strawberry daiquiri, which was topped with fresh seasonal fruits. Get dressed up to go to the tea room and make a night out of it! The Tea Room, Porta Giustizia, Siena IT
7. The culture here is unique because:
Each contrada or neighborhood in Siena is passionately competitve. Their contrada is their identity from birth until death. You will find that the rivalry is no joke, and you are to treat it with respect and sincerity because it truly dates back to the Middle Ages - I'm talking the 1500's. Il Palio has religious ties to the city, and the tradition remains strong. You will find that members of each contrade are fiercely protective of their heritage and will do anything to win il Palio, which is a one-of-a-kind banner-like tapestry depicting the event(s). Winner takes the banner!
8. If I had 24 hours here, I would spend it this way:
Wake up early, take a hot shower, grab a croissant from the kitchen nook upstairs, and then finally head to the mercato (in the summer, Fridays are the fresh food and produce; Wednesdays you can head up to la fortezza and peruse clothing and other souvenir-like trinkets from another market).
On the way home, grab a cappucino at Nuovo Caffe Greco, and be sure to stand at the bar like a real Italian. If you're lucky the handsome barista who made your cappuccino will talk with you and give you butterflies in your stomach (sigh!). This happened to me, true story! Rookie mistake, though: don’t even think about ordering espresso after 10am.
By mid-morning, it's nearly impossible to walk along the Banchi di Sopra without popping in a few stores. Before the stores open, go window shopping and make a mental map of the stores you want to visit later! ! A few memorable purchases that I made included gourmet pasta, a leather-bound notebook, and real Italian clothing from boutiques lined up the main via.
It’s almost the early afternoon and you’ve got to drop off all of your bags at your B&B! And all of this walking around is surely working up your appetite. Freshen up before lunch – I’m thinking pizza. La Pizzeria di Nonno Mede has the best pizza margherita I’ve found in Siena. The ambience is perfect for a daytime meal and overlooks all of Siena’s beautiful scenery, including the Duomo and St. Catherine’s church. You can even spot the Torre di Mangia in the Campo if you look hard enough. The pizza here is divine, Tuscan simplicity. You’ve been warned, though: you get a whole pizza all to yourself. Better finish it!
You’re going to feel like you need a nap, so head to the Fortress (aka La fortezza) , a true Sienese landmark. The fortezza is a gigantic, sprawling park with lots of grass and many benches to relax. Bring a blanket and doze off, or frolick in the fort’s grass and wildflowers. If you get a second wind, there is a nice bar in the fortress that you can visit for an afternoon drink. Besides that, enjoy the songs of the birds around you and take in an unbeatable view of the city from above. You won’t regret visitng the fort.
By the time you’ve made your way back to the city, it’s almost evening – and it’s time to get ready for apertivi! While you head back to the Campo, take a street you’ve never been on before and try to get lost on purpose. The Sienese will appreciate your attempts to get to know their city! Once you find your way back to the Campo, choose a restaurant or bar for apertivi – you can’t choose wrong.
Dinner is at my favorite restaurant in Siena, La Finestra. It is conveniently located right behind the Campo and right next to your B&B! It is located in Piazza del Mercato, so you’re ending your day right where you began. La Finestra is quality, delicious Italian cuisine. My favorite dish is the pollo allo griglio that is grilled to perfection; pair it with roasted vegetables or a delicious zuppa of your choice.
The rest of your night is a toss up: you can hit the bar scene or begin your night in the Campo early. If you choose to go to the bars, I recommend Ristorante Guido for their fun drink specials and partial-outdoors seating. I have fond memories of dancing both in and outdoors of Guido with my friends! If you choose to make it more of a bar crawl, go to the Barone Rosso and perhaps il Cambio for a more nightlife-y, dance scene. My favorite nights ended not with the clubs, but with the Campo. You simply cannot go wrong by bringing a bottle of vino rosso and sitting out in the Campo, people-watching and conversing with true Sienese.