Wednesday, May 31, 2017

My Italian Vacation, Part III: Siena

A Tuscan sunset from my hotel window.

The last stop on our Italian vacation in April was Siena. I'd never been there and a well-traveled friend had told me it was by far his favorite place in Italy. It's only about an hour's train ride from Florence so that was the final stop on our trip.

I found great online reviews for the Palazzo Ravizza hotel, and since it was the end of the trip I splurged on a room with a view. It was actually two rooms with a sitting room and amazing views. I especially loved the decorated ceilings. It was like sleeping in a cathedral, but cozier. 

Ceiling of our sitting room.

Ceiling over the bed.

The second floor of the hotel had a beautiful common room with a grand piano. One night I was reading my book here, and another guest treated me to an impromptu private piano concert! It lasted over an hour, until the staff had to ask him to stop because some silly guests wanted to sleep. This isn't my photo, but I had to add it because it was one of the highlights of the trip (if this is your photo, please let me know so I can give you credit or find another one). 

Our room had amazing views and a beautiful terrace. The first night I sat outside with a little snack. I had a book with me but the view was so stunning I just sat and admired it. 

Siena is a beautiful walled Medieval city and the streets are very narrow and winding. It's also hilly so some of the streets are really steep. 

Yes, those are cars driving amid the pedestrians. All the streets are one-way you have to have a permit to be able to drive inside the city. I don't think tourists are allowed to drive there, with good reason. Amazingly, they do have buses which are tiny. Sadly, I was never able to snap a photo of one in time.

After walking through the winding streets I suddenly found a big open space, the Piazza del Campo which is the main square. 

That's building is the Palazzo Publico, the city hall. The "square" in front is actually a semi-circle, and it's on a slope so it's a little like an amphitheater.

I didn't actually go inside any of the buildings this time. After almost a week of sightseeing I was happy to just walk around and enjoy the architecture. 

I can't remember what this building is but this courtyard reminded me of Game of Thrones. I kept looking over my shoulder for Lannisters. 

Another square has the Siena Cathedral, which is big and gaudy.

Outside the cathedral is this mysterious wall which leads nowhere. You can climb to the top, but I was a little worn out from all the climbing in Florence so I passed on this one.

Another thing I noticed was that Siena has pig images everywhere. This one was carved into the doorstep of a restaurant where we had lunch. Guess what was on the menu? 

This shop sold nothing but pork products. 

If you are looking for seafood on a menu in Siena, you are out of luck. Seriously, I didn't see fish on a single menu, except maybe anchovies on pizza.

Naturally, the food in Siena was amazing. This was paparadelle, wide pasta with a braised pork and tomato sauce. 

A lot of the restaurants in Siena are in 14th century buildings which feel like wine cellars with bricks and vaulted ceilings. We loved this restaurant and ate there the first night and the last. That's my daughter hiding behind her menu.

Her favorite thing to eat in Tuscany was pici, handmade noodles like thick spaghetti, a local specialty. I think she ate them every day. These were served cacio e pepe -- butter, parmesan, and black pepper. 

At the same restaurant we had an appetizer which was basically a truffled potato cake with cheese. Those slices on top are white truffles. I averaged about 15,000 steps a day in Italy so I needed those carbs, right?

Every day we had amazing sunsets. I can't believe I actually took this photo on my phone. 

So that was Italy! It was a wonderful vacation and I'd love to go back -- I want to drive around Tuscany and visit all the little towns, and I also want to visit Cinque Terre, Amalfi, and Capri. Bloggers, have you visited Italy? Which other Italian places belong on my wish list?


  1. WOW!! : D

    (No, I've never been to Italy, but all of my family is from Italy: Naples, Calabria, and Sicily.)

    1. It was stunningly beautiful. I didn't even care so much about tourist attractions, I just walked around and looked at things. You could have an amazing time in Italy just looking at the outsides of places.

  2. Wow, that last image especially is gorgeous!

    1. Thanks! I was amazed at how well my photos turned out -- it's just my iPhone but the quality is pretty good.

  3. Such beautiful photographs! I've never been to Italy but I'm seriously tempted to make it a destination soon, with Siena definitely on the list.

  4. Your pictures have me wanting to re-read Enchanted April! They are beautiful.

  5. Next trip to Italy will definitely include Siena - I love your photos and descriptions, especially the hotel. What a find! The super narrow streets are amazing--good thing permits are needed to drive there. So glad that you're taking advantage of every opportunity to explore Europe. Love these travelogues.

  6. That was one lovely hotel you were staying in!
    I can definitely recommend Lucca if you're going to Italy again. It's about half an hour from Pisa. It's not very famous I think, but I actually liked it better than Pisa, less overrun by tourist (of which I was one myself, hehe), more 'real' somehow.

  7. Siena was one of my favorite places too, and we were able to go to the Palio which was extremely fun. I think Montepulciano was another of our favorites, also Carerra.

  8. Thank you for sharing your beautiful trip with us. We are going to italy and stopping in Siena next year. I am actually looking at the Palazzo Ravizza as well. I am finding it difficult to choose a room, but I love that you had a terrace. I hope it is as nice as it looks online. Can't wait to see Siena and the interesting "contrades" that make up the town. :)


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