Somehow my dates of the booking of my hotel in Radda was miscalculated so I had to leave the Monday, make my way slowly to Rome and fly back home in 2 day’s time. It was all planned without me knowing it! I had an extra day to fit a quick visit to Siena in! The bus trip from Radda to Siena was such an eye-opener! The beautiful rolling hills covered in clover, sunflowers and weat … it was just breathtaking and I wish I could stop the bus for the odd picture .. I could not, but this is an area that I would love to do with a car – it is really pretty and a must do – very high on my list … but in the mean time … Siena here I come!
I have seen so many pictures of the old town and the very famous horse races in the Piazza del Campo that happens twice a year. The biggest events of the year in this area! An estimated 60 000 visitors are packed into the town square to watch on! The Palio di Siena (known locally simply as Il Palio) is a horse race that is held on July 2 and August 16, in Siena, Italy. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the bright colours (of their “clan”/ team) represent ten of the seventeen “contrade”, or city wards. I have missed the August race with about 3 weeks and all the evidence of the big festival was still visible in the streets with lovely colourful flags of the contrade still flying!
The square/ piazza is one of the biggest in Spain and I can understand how they could have horse races in it! The oval piazza’s cobblestones get covered with massive amounts of sand and thousands of people will pack the centre of the piazza and the surrounding buildings. The Palio di Siena kicks off with the colourful display of Alfieri, flag wavers, in medieval costumes and military police on horseback, wielding swords, demonstrate a mounted charge around the track ! An event not to be missed! … well…that is what they say … but trust me … I would not try and attend it after having seen the videos on Youtube! You will be lucky to see a horse! – the masses were packed like sardines in a tin! Enough to make me claustrophobic!
The old town of Siena is as Medieval as you would get! The size surprised me as the town has the feel of a small city although the old town is smaller but the biggest of the medieval towns I have seen thus far.
I have arrived at about lunch time, booked into my hotel (Hotel St Caterina) and took off immediately to go and see a much as I can before the end of day.(I was lucky to find a lovely hotel about 500m from the old town entrance!) I will be leaving early in the morning and just had to make the most of my one day there!
What an experience – The Siena Cathedral is absolutely stunning and packed with detail – enough to cause neck injuries from looking up all the time! Another amazing site to be seen is Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A. (MPS) is the oldest surviving bank in the world and Italy’s third largest bank. Founded in 1472 by the Magistrate of the city state of Siena, Italy, as a mount of piety, it has been operating ever since.!!!In the WORLD!!! And it is still functional (sadly it is struggling as so many otheer European Banks!). I was also intrigued by the numerous statues of the she-wolf suckling the young twins Romulus and Remus that is everywhere to be seen in Siena. According to legend, Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus (the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named)
Piazza del Campo: The centre of old Siena! The entire square is brick paved with a lovely smooth brick – easy on your feet and jeans!;-) You will often see people lounging around on the bricks as if they were at the beach, and indeed, the warm brown colour absorbs the heat of the day, making it a great place to be towards the late afternoon. Towering above every other building of the whole town, is the tower of Mangiais or “Torre del Mangiais” – a 290 feet high tower , constructed in 1325 and forms the focal point of the wonderful plaza.
As soon as the afternoon sneaked past the day most of the tourists have left. A great opportunity to find a nice spot overlooking Il Campo, grab a glass wine and some tapas, and watch the square turn pink as the sun goes down. There are lots of lovely shops in the maze of streets. Shopping was never on my menu – there was no space left in my bag and I could therefore relax and just enjoy the scenery. It’s a great town. I could just imagine how the invaders were chased out of the town on horseback through the maze of narrow alleyways … it should be a perfect setting for a movie … if you could find a day when none of the 1 million visitors per year would impose on your movie set!
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