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.