Located in the heart of central Tuscany, Siena is a city well worth seeing if you are visiting Florence, Pisa, or any part of the Tuscan region.
About an hour and a half south of Florence, it makes for an easy day trip. There are many sights to see, including the Duomo, the town square of Il Campo, and the view from the tower of Torre del Mangia (which we did not have the chance to see).
Compared to other places in Tuscany, Siena is definitely a large city and its streets are lined with a lot of bigger stores, restaurants, cafes, and throngs of tourists (unless you are there early in the morning). Siena still maintains its Italian charm through its beautiful architecture. To see the more traditional side of Tuscany, however, I highly recommend visiting the smaller wine towns/villages such as Montepulciano, Montalcino or Pienza.
Palio di Siena
The famous Palio di Siena horse race is held in the huge town square (Il Campo) twice each year in July and August. The locals take this race very seriously and there are 17 contradas, or districts within the city, that compete with each other. The race itself only lasts about a minute but the festivities last a few days before and after, with tensions running high in each participating contrada. During one of our visits on the week of the race, we even got to see Mel Gibson strolling through town with his family!
Every Wednesday morning, there is a large city market near the fortress. The tents are filled with Italian clothes, shoes, accessories, and lots of other random oddities at budget prices.
One of Siena's local delicacies is a chewy dessert called Panforte. Made of fruit and nuts, it is sold in almost every bakery and store in town and comes in different varieties based on the nuts you want the most of (almond, hazelnut, walnut).
This physical existence is so intensely delicious with all of its vibrant colors, fresh smells, and soothing sounds. Yet the magnetic source of aliveness pulsating underneath and beyond all these forms is yumminess itself. While I am as much a piece of nature as a cloud, a cuddly cat, or a pinetree swaying in the wind, the glimpses of the self beyond the self offer the most refreshing break from it all. I am still learning to be human, coming from a multi-faceted nameless vast space, from that which is freedom and love itself, into a reality that we have molded into something solid. Some days I remember this and fully enjoy the process of learning and growth while others I may be in a trance as if I could somehow fail. But I cannot and neither can you. If the feeling of being fully alive in the present moment is our target, we are in luck because the net of existence is so wide that we cannot miss.