To put “medieval” and “joy” together may seem like an oxymoron, yet both words are applicable when describing Siena, Italy. Founded between 900 - 400 BC, Christianity did not make an appearance until the 4th Century AD. Much of the Gothic architecture still donning Siena was built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries under the “Council of Nine”—a progressive governing body. Included in these Gothic wonders are The Palazzo Pubblico, The Piazza del Campo, and the Duomo (Cathedral) in Siena. The Palazzo Pubblico, a kind of City Hall, has a stunning bell tower and a clever, curved façade which borders the Piazza del Campo. The Piazza del Campo is the center of the city, and is very spacious. Bordering the Piazza del Campo is not only The Palazzo Pubblico, but also fine restaurants with great views of the piazza. You can enjoy a fabulous meal here, even during a short visit to Siena.
The Piazza del Campo is vast, and evokes a sense of freedom; but as a city center, it also radiates a sense of community and belonging. If you are a lover of architecture and are interested in saving money on travel, you can be entertained for hours just by looking at the piazza and its surrounding buildings. I was.
On the Piazza del Campo, the Palio di Siena is held every summer. The Palio di Siena, a pageantry horse race, attracts visitors from around the world. Fast-paced and exciting, it is not uncommon for the riders to be thrown from their horses. With this one of the most popular times to visit Siena, you might want to consider a vacation home exchange instead of a hotel.
Though the Palio di Siena is very exciting, generally Tuscany invites a lingering and a leisurely pace—another alternative may be a Tuscan villa where you determine when you wake, sleep, and visit the countryside.
In contrast to the open Piazza del Campo, are the many narrow, Siena streets best negotiated on foot. It was in one of these streets, I saw a man carrying a “man purse,” which actually looked like a ladies’ purse. I don’t believe I ever saw this in the United States—not even in Manhattan. Now, to our sophisticated European crowd, this may be a common sight, but to an American, especially years ago, not so much (To see just how much this can stun the American sensibility; see a clip of the now-famous “Seinfeld” episode).
Was it the slant of the autumn light (I found autumn a perfect time to go), being with the one I love, seeing a “man purse” or “murse” live, or the Gothic architecture which made for such a perfect day—one which I would love to repeat? The interesting thing is that I paid for no tour, bought no trinket; but still the exuberance of my brief time in Siena remains with me—all for the price of lunch.
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Thank you to Travel Blogger Sona Schmidt-Harris.