Siena 2018: A Morning Walk in the Botanical Gardens & Visiting the Duomo


After the rain and thunderstorms yesterday, it was lovely to wake to sun and the promise of a fine day. I’m quite an early bird so I was out and ready to explore before 9. Siena is busy with large groups of tourists during the day as it’s a popular destination for a day trip from places like Florence. So to get out before the crowds descend is a real treat. I’d no particular plan other than to wander but first – having had just fruit and yoghurt in the B&B – I needed a coffee stop. I’d passed Caffe Fiorella near the Campo a few times and having read it served some of the best coffee in Siena, had – of course! – to try it.

It’s just a ‘hole in the wall’ place. Apart from a couple of stools it’s a stand-only setup. And because it was early I was definitely standing with locals and not tourists (though of course I am a tourist myself!).

I saw they had some of the wonderful budini di riso I discovered in Florence last year so I couldn’t resist ordering one to have with my cappuccino (€2.30 for both). They were both excellent.

Then I started wandering. First along the top edge of the Campo and up via di Citta towards the Duomo, but instead of turning into the Piazza del Duomo, I turned left instead into via S. Pietro. I eventually passed through an old city gate and found myself facing a small park. My phone told me I was in the university area.

Across the other side of the park was a great view (Siena is full of great views; everywhere there is some kind of amazing view).

I realised I must be near the Botanical Gardens, which are part of the university and I’d planned to visit. Indeed, it was just a short walk further on. And, as luck would have it, I’d arrived exactly on time for summer time opening at 9.30am.


I paid €2.50 to go in. The woman at the desk was so friendly and we chatted for a short time. Then I started walking.


I’d been given a laminated guide (to return at the end) but really I was just happy wandering slowly.

It was beautiful, with stunnning views in places of the countryside beyond the city. It was so peaceful; so tranquil and just a delight to be there. I passed only one other visitor in the whole time and we exchanged a short ‘hello’.


I wasn’t in there much more than half an hour though one could just sit on one of the benches and relax for some time if you liked. However, it was early in the day and there was plenty more to see and do so I decided to move on.

I made my way back to the Campo along Via Giovanni Dupre. All roads lead to beauty in Siena; these typical narrow streets are such a pleasure to walk through.


After a short time back at the B&B, I decided to visit the Museo Civico, which is the large building fronting the Campo with the tower.

The museum has some wonderful 14th century frescoes that I’d been told I must see. They are wonderful and very beautiful but photos aren’t allowed.

What I could photograph was the view from the top of the building, at the back, overlooking Piazza del Mercato.

It was just so gorgeous this view of the Tuscan countryside beyond the city. I stood there for quite a while just taking it in and enjoying the simple pleasure of being such a beautiful place.

I still hadn’t been inside the Duomo – the cathedral – said to be one of Italy’s greatest Gothic churches. I’d seen a little while waiting for the Porta del Cielo tour yesterday but my Acropoli ticket only allows one visit to each place so I decided to go back another time. There’s often a long queue to get in but it was midday and nearing lunchtime so I wondered if it might be quieter. And it was!

It is really stunning inside.


There are some wonderful floor panels, which are well worth seeing too.

When I emerged it was lunchtime. I’d thought about going back to the place I’d had morning coffee for one of their delicious looking rolls or sandwiches as I didn’t want to eat much, preferring to have a main meal in the evening. There are lots of bakeries and places selling snacks – focaccia, pizza and the local ciaccino, a kind of filled thin focaccia. But I’d walked too far to want to stand up to eat. I needed to sit down! So I headed to Caffe Nannini on the Campo where I’ve been for aperitivo. I ordered an antipasto dish and a small beer. It was perfect. But also left room for gelato. I couldn’t believe it was my third day in Siena and I hadn’t yet had a gelato.

I headed to Grom which I’d passed a few times. Originating from Turin, it’s an excellent chain. I had the special ‘mango torta’ and gianduiotti (chocolate & hazelnut) and it was superb.


Then it was definitely time for a rest and quiet time back at the B&B before the evening and supper.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

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