On our day trip through Tuscany, we wanted to visit two of the regions of greatest hits: Siena and San Gimignano. After a great lunch at La Bottega in Volpaia, we took the windy backroads to Siena, which is famous for its enormous fan-shaped Piazza del Campo (the mouth of which is pictured above). For the past 700 years, there's been a horse race around the campo on July 2nd and August 16th. We managed to be one week late or five weeks early, depending how you look at it.
Even if you arrive at Siena by car as we did (and your only other alternative is bus, as trains don't stop there), expect to do a lot of walking. That's because most day-trippers park outside the city's gates, at the bottom of the hill. That hill gave Siena a privileged position in defending itself, and that's how all that terrific medieval architecture managed remain throughout the years. Be sure to remember that when you're hiking up that steep hill on a hot day.
Aside from its beautiful campo, Siena is heralded for being a fully preserved "city" and not just a "town." Siena is large by Tuscan standards, but it's no Florence. The only element really giving it a city vibe were all the chain stores along the main drag. Still, we enjoyed walking through the medieval alleyways and feeling like we were surrounded by stone. We also spotted a talented sidewalk artist.
Siena has a few museums, but we didn't have time to explore them. But we did take a look at its main church, the Duomo (pictured right). Its exterior is in the same style as Florence's Duomo and Santa Maria Novella. Siena would be a good day trip on its own because there is plenty to see and do. (Or, you could always stay overnight as part of a roadtrip at the Grand Hotel Continental, whose public areas wowed us.) Alas, we had another stop to make — San Gimignano — and were hoping to return our car to Florence by 7PM that evening…