Often overlooked in favour of bigger ‘older sister’, Florence, Siena is a gorgeous jewel and must-see destination in itself. Brimming with the passion of the Renaissance, the city has much to offer those of you with a romantic streak. From the frenzy of the Palio di Siena to the peace and serenity of the city’s ‘duomo’, visitors can either enjoy a bit of the action or some of the peace.
Where to go
Head to Il Campo, the public square that has held markets, festivals and most importantly, the horse race that stops the city, the ‘Pal;o’, every year for centuries. Try to spot all the signs indicating the Contrada, or city’s wards, that compete in the Pallo. The rivalries are furious! Experience the Duomo, one of the glories of the Renaissance. Siena has long been a centre of leathercraft excellence, so visit the Via Banchi di Sopra for handmade bags and jackets. See glorious wall-paintings in the Palazzo Pubblico and learn about the life of St Catherine, the city’s most most famous inhabitant at her basilica. Walk the city’s winding streets and watch life continue as it has for over a millennium.
Food & Drink
Pork and beef are specialities of the region, raised in the excellent pastures and woods nearby. Some of the purest, finest olive oil in the country is made in the area, and features in most dishes. Siena is also known for its sweets, such as the panforte (thick, dense fruit cake) and ricciarelli (fresh almond cookies). For the best local cuisine, go to Antica Osteria da Divo (Via Franciosa, 25) by the Duomo for authentic Sienese cooking and what is claimed to be Etruscan ruins downstairs! Otherwise, go to Osterio di Castelvecchio (Via Castelvecchio 65) for creative spins on local favourites, served in a friendly, warm atmosphere.
Siena has a culture that lends itself to long evenings spent over a bottle of wine at a street cafe. The Bar Il Palio (Piazza del Campo 46-9) may be very popular, but it is the place to experience the city as the sun sets. For something more intimate and quiet, try the Tea Room (Via Porta Giustizia), a local favourite and the local spot for cocktails.
Where to stay
Campo Regio Relais
is perfectly placed in the centre of town for explorations of this medieval wonder. A small hotel with spacious suites and fantastic views, the knowledgeable staff can also arrange wine tours and access to the some of the city’s hottest spots. Castello Banfi Il Borgo
, outside of town, is a destination all of itself. Wonderfully-appointed suites and two fantastic restaurants complement the soaring medieval castle at the heart of the state. While you’re there, make sure you go on a wine tour of the vineyards! Finally, the ancient fortress of Castello di Velona
is now a celebrated luxury hotel with gorgeous suites, fine dining and a spa fed by a volcanic spring - just the place to unwind! How to get there
Vueling, Cityjet, British Airways and Iberia fly from London to the nearest airport, Florence, daily.