I’ve been wanting to come to Siena for such a long time that I was very excited to set off on this short break yesterday morning. I’ve ‘missed’ Siena so many times when I’ve been fairly close but not quite close enough. I thought about making a day trip from Florence last year – which many people do – but once in Florence there was too much to do and see there in 5 days and I didn’t want to spend hours in a day travelling for a quick look at Siena. I wanted to come, stay and see it properly. And I’m so glad I did. After less than a day here, I know it’s somewhere I want to spend a few days not just a few hours.
I flew to Pisa with British Airways and from there took a train to Siena, via Empoli, just south of Florence. You can’t get a direct train. From Pisa airport you need to take the Pisamover shuttle (€2.70), which runs very frequently, to Pisa Centrale. I’d booked my return ticket online (€21). The total journey time was 1hr 42mins. From Siena railway station I took a taxi to my hotel (€9.50).
I usually book a hotel with BA (which is easy and you make a saving booking flight + hotel together) but I couldn’t find a hotel I could both afford and was central. I’m sure it would be lovely to stay on the outskirts for a longer trip but on a short city break I like to be very central. I found Antica Residenza Cicogna B&B, right in the heart of old Siena, in a Daily Telegraph article. As soon as I made contact with them and looked at their website (www.anticaresidenzacicogna.it) I knew this was where I wanted to stay. It’s a small place with just 5 double rooms and 2 suites. My room (double for single use) is €78 a night including breakfast.
The reception is open only in the morning but I confirmed the time of my arrival in the afternoon by WhatsApp and thus Ilaria (one of the family who own it) came to let me in and show me my room and explain everything. Although the family aren’t always here there are contact numbers for 24 hours a day. Ilaria showed me the sitting area where there are complimentary drinks and biscuits available so you can always make a hot drink at any time.
I didn’t hang around in the room long and set off almost immediately to take a look at the city. The famous Piazza del Campo is only 5-minute walk away so the location of the B&B couldn’t be better.
The Campo is as magnificent as it’s always looked in photos.
I’m here just a week before the famous Il Palio – a spectacular horse race that’s run in the Campo on 2 July and 16 August. Ten of Siena’s 17 contrade (town districts) compete for the coveted silk palio – banner. The various districts were already out showing their support for their ‘team’ and my walk around the city was punctuated by drumming and banner waving and a lot of excitement.
I walked to the cathedral, near the Campo and it looked stunning in the afternoon sun. I didn’t go in though and decided to buy a Acropoli Pass the next morning which for €20 will give me access to all the main sights for 3 days.
The historic centre is a maze of narrow roads and alleyways. Taxis are allowed to drive here but there are severe restrictions to other traffic (other than Vespas!) so it’s not a good place to come with a car.
I seem to be making a habit of travelling to cities built in hilly country which means one is constantly climbing up or down steep paths but at least I needn’t worry about putting on weight from all the good eating!
I went back to the B&B for a while and then set off again at about 6pm to enjoy an aperitivo before dinner. The Campo was busy with tourists but I still couldn’t resist taking a table at a bar-Caffe where I could enjoy the view.
My glass of prosecco (€5) came with usual Italian aperitivo complimentary snack – in this case little slices of tomato topped focaccia and a small bowl of pappa al pomodoro (tomato & bread soup).
I’d booked a table at Trattoria La Tellina, just down the road from the B&B and recommended by them. I had a lovely meal but more about that another time.
After eating I took a walk back to th Campo. It was a beautiful evening and now quieter in the side streets.
The Campo of course was still busy!
The Caffe where I’d had my aperitivo was bustling and – Italian style – had a big TV showing the football World Cup (even though the national side surprisingly didn’t make it through to the finals this time).
It was all so beautiful and I was happy just wandering slowly for a while, occasionally stopping and just watching and enjoying the view and lively atmosphere.
Then it was time for bed – especially after my 5am start! – and the B&B looked wonderfully welcoming when I got back.
What a lovely start to my trip. I’d only been in Siena a few hours but felt I was already getting to know it – and like it a lot!