The hilltop city of Siena [wikipedia.org] is a few hours by train from Florence. I suspect the bus trip would have been better but we had more days than we could use on our rail pass so we took the train. From the train station we walked the 2 kilometers or so to the top of the hill and into the center of the medieval and renaissance town.
The center of Siena, Il Campo [wikipedia.org] sight of the famous Palio di Siena [wikipedia.org] a twice yearly crazy horse race between representatives of the various wards of the city for bragging rights. By the time we got to Il Campo it was time for lunch so we pulled out our friendly Lonely Planet Italy guide [lonelyplanet.com] and looked for a good place to eat.
The first place we tried was only open for dinner in the off season. The second place was closed completely for the off season. The third was an empty shop. The fourth we never found. So after an hour of back and forth around the city center and it’s steep hills and steps we decided to just go back to Il Campo and eat at one of the many places there. The food was not bad but it was a bit frustrating after looking forward to the highly recommended menus of the places in the guide
An unfortunate side effect of our hour looking for food was that we could not enter one of the major sites I wanted to see in Siena; the Palazzo Pubblico [wikipedia.org] or town hall and it’s museum and the Torre del Mangia [wikipedia.org] the 102 meter high bell tower dominating the Campo. Problem was these sights close an hour before sunset in the off season, sunset was around 4:30 when we were there and it’s was just after 3:30 when we got there. The only thing we could do was go the the Siena Cathedral [wikipedia.org].
The cathedral is one of the most beautiful in Italy. The exterior is similar to the cathedrals in both Florence [confusion.cc] and Pisa [confusion.cc]. The inside is much more amazing; whereas the inside of the cathedral in Florence is, aside from the painted dome, sparse, Siena’s Duomo is beautiful. Filled with mosaic floors and fresco-ed alters.
By the time we finished touring around the cathedral it was dark outside and we did not do much more in Siena. A cup of coffee in a small cafe and one more stop at il Campo before taking a bus back to the train station and heading back to Florence for the night. I hope we can go back and visit the sights we missed some day, Siena was one of the most beautiful places we visited in Italy.
You can see the a few more photos in the Siena, Italy, November 2007 photoset on Flickr [flickr.com].