Arrival in Siena (Italy)

We arrived in Siena around 4:30pm. The bus had to drop us off outside the city walls from where we walked to our hotel, only 15 minutes away. Siena is a medieval city. Many of its old buildings have been preserved and its streets are lined with reddish brick (sienna). There are very few automobiles to be seen, adding to its allure. Though it relies heavily on tourism, Siena feels more inviting than nearby Florence, a political rival in medieval times, by feeling more intimate and laid back, still a city of only 60,000 residents.

One of the great spectacles of sports takes place here twice each year in July and August—the Palio horse races. So, when we arrived, our tour missed the last race by less than a month. The track circles the Piazza del Campo, the large square in the middle of historic Siena, dominated by the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre de Mangia, the 330-foot tower that can be seen from anywhere in the city.

The main street outside our hotel was lined with restaurants, bakeries and expensive shops. We had a group dinner near the square at Ristorante Guidoriccio, having the entire restaurant to ourselves, it seemed. Tasty courses included pappa al pomodoro, porcini risotto, and penne with tomato sauce and sausages, with ample bottles of local red and white wines.

San Gigmignano (Italy)

Our tour made a brief stop in the town of San Gimignano, noted for the preservation of 14 medieval towers that have survived the ravages of war and other calamities. These efforts have earned it the designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Their original construction date to the 11th to 13th centuries. The town exudes a medieval atmosphere.

On our own, our time was limited to visiting the Museo Civico. In the town square, there were preparations for some sort of what appeared to be a formal wine-tasting event. Since San Gimignano is known for his vernaccia grape, maybe it was a showcase for the wine.