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Siena is another Tuscan hillside city that was founded by the Etruscans (just like San Gimignano). It was less than an hour’s drive from the Torraccia di Chuisi and finding parking was very easy. The minute we got out of the car and started exploring, I knew I was going to love it. Isn’t it strange sometimes when you are in a place, and you really like it, for no other reason than a feeling? That was what it was like for me in Siena. I found it to be aesthetically beautiful – cobblestone streets, lots and lots of hills, red shingled rooftops and a most majestic Gothic cathedral.

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As we were wandering around Siena we were wondering why there were so many statues of Lupa, the Roman she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. This is the story behind the founding of Rome and is a highly recognizable symbol of Rome. But apparently, according to Wikipedia Siena was named after Senius, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. Mystery solved. But since Siena was not along the major Roman roads and trading routes, it wasn’t really a major player during Roman times. Its prosperity did not come really until the invasion of the Lombards of Northern Europe in the 4th century. When they surrendered to Charlemagne in 774, the Franks then married all the Sienese nobility. This is when Siena became known as a major money lending center. By 1200 the huge cathedral or Duomo was constructed, as well as the Piazza del Campo.

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Siena is probably best known for the Palio, a horse race which take place twice a year, during the summer, on the Campo. The Sienese have kept the medieval tradition of having various Contrade, wards or districts within the city walls. Each ward is represented by an animal and the rivalry between wards really come out during the Palio. I read about the Palio for the first time in the book Too Much Tuscan Sun by Dario Castagno
Since reading the book, and Dario’s descriptions not only about the Palio, but also the history of Siena and other areas of Tuscany, I knew I wanted to visit Siena someday.

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We spent the first part of our visit just wandering around the Campo and taking lots of pictures of the Duomo. This amazing building was perfect fodder for my budding interest in photography. What really struck me about the Duomo was how much detail, art and craftsmanship was involved.

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I was also overwhelmed by the amounts of marble that covered not only the building in stripes, but also the stairs and walkways surrounding it on all sides. You could literally spend a day just taking photos of this one building.

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After this we went in search of a restaurant that Bruno and Grazia had recommended to us. It took us a while to find it, and when we did, we saw that it was closed…on Saturdays…huh. So we just decided to check out some of the back streets to find a restaurant off the beaten path. We came across a cute place, Trattoria Papei that had a nice menu of Tuscan regional cuisine and good prices. So we decided to go for it. The interior was very cute, cozy and warm with brick walls and ceilings, exposed beams and lots of windows to let the beautiful sunshine in. It was cold the day we were in Siena, so cold it even snowed a little. So we were looking again for some warming food. First we ordered a bottle of the house wine…something we learned you just do when in Italy. For food I decided on a Ribollita con Pane – a delicious vegetable and bread stew, swimming in olive oil. The perfect comfort food on a snowy day. I look at the pictures we took of it, and still drool. Roberto loves Scallopini of Veal and so he opted for that – it came with a mound of deliciously sautéed mushrooms. It was an extremely enjoyable lunch full of good wine, food and conversation.

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After lunch, we decided to do what the rest of Siena was doing, and go sit on the Campo and watch the clouds roll by. It was a great thing to do, because even though it was a cold day, the bricks that make up the Campo were nice and warm (maybe it was the wine?), and really helped take away the chill. After some time spent there, we decided we were ready for something sweet. We were both too chilly for gelato (which is crazy, I know) so we decided to head to a pasticceria in search of a nice pastry to have with coffee. We found this GIGANTIC pasticceria, and ordered our goodies. I went for a bignè di crema alla nocciola and Roberto got his favorite Italian pastry of all times, a diplomatico. I also got a macchiato…I love anything hazelnut and so I really enjoyed my hazelnut filled donut. It was a nice sweet end to eating in Siena.

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The rest of the day we spent walking through the many neighborhoods of Siena, taking lots of pictures, because just like San Gimignano, it was impossible to get a bad shot! We really enjoyed our day in Siena, and it is most certainly a place I would love to spend more time in.