Italy, Chapter Three: Siena

This is part three of a four-part series chronicling our recent trip to Italy. Check out Italy, Chapter One: Venice and Italy, Chapter Two: Florence if you haven’t already!

While planning our trip, we knew we wanted to make a short excursion to a rustic Italian town. After some research we settled on Siena, just an hour bus ride outside of Florence in the picturesque hills of Tuscany. Here’s the bus terminal in Florence.

A quick Google image search reveals the beauty of Siena. Naturally, we were eager for our visit, but in my experience, no trip worth taking ever goes exactly according to plan. As it turned out we were plagued by pouring rain the entire 24 hours we stayed in Siena. We still managed to explore the city in wet clothes and take some photos from beneath our umbrellas.

Here’s Piazza del Campo, the center of the city. Twice a year this plaza hosts the Palio di Siena, a horse race that pits neighborhood against neighborhood as jockeys ride bareback around impossibly tight and uneven corners. The YouTube videos of the race demonstrate just how crazy and awesome it is. Things were much more mellow while we were there.

We wandered through Siena’s narrow streets and checked out the neighborhoods on a rainy Saturday afternoon in April.

Siena’s interesting architecture dates back to medieval times when it was a powerful city-state.

Hanging flags delineate the boundaries between different wards, or contrade in Siena. There are 17 contrade in all, each with its own flag design, and they compete against each other in the Palio referenced earlier in this post. In the photo below you can see the flags change at the cross street on the left.

We periodically took breaks to dry out while walking around in the rain. Re-hydrating with wine and beer was essential for survival on the mean streets of Siena.

Rings to tie up horses are still mounted on walls and have well-worn grooves after hundreds of years of use.

The Siena cathedral, constructed during the 12th-14th centuries.

We worked up quite an appetite after spending the day exploring, and found a great local restaurant for dinner thanks to our Stick Reeves (another Rick Steves pseudonym we made up) guidebook. The food at La Taverna di Cecco was fantastic; I had a truffle gnocchi that probably ruined all other gnocchi for me.

Although the weather in Siena was disappointing, it was still cool to spend a day checking out the city. The next morning we boarded a bus for Rome where we would spend our final three and a half days in Italy. We experienced much better weather there and had a great time visiting sights like the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Vatican. Continue on to read about Rome, our favorite of the cities we visited in Italy!


  1. In spite of the weather, city is beautiful and the architecture spectacular-very medieval feel.

  2. Great pics, looks like you had a nice trip! Italy is a special place!!

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