The cold is sweeping the region and I feel like I could just wrap myself in a blanket whole day and sleep through until the sun shines brightly again. Well, there’s sunshine for a few hours but that doesn’t really equate to being warm. These days make me look back to the time that we went train-hopping Italian cities, despite the summer heat I enjoyed looking out the window, the lush green cascading down the hills, pine trees and vineyards with a single house in the middle looked as though paintings coming into real life. (see photo below)
Siena, the historic city, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, seems to be one I remember fondly. Those were lovely days spent going around the piazzas, admiring the museum displays, wine tasting, and even just idling at one of the more relaxing villas in Tuscany (see first photo) watching the clouds pass by.
So what do you do in medieval Siena? I bet there are a lot of those lists on the web already, but here are my personal choices.
- Wine Tour and Wine School
To fully enjoy Siena (and the rest of Italy), means to understand the wine culture and food preferences the region is known for. There’s a lot of bits and pieces you will learn as to why such food is made so in Tuscany. 😀 This tour will make it easier for one to choose what food to order in the coming days and what wine to pair with their food. You get to taste not only wine, there’s cheese, salami, olive oil, and truffle everything…all the essentials of an Italian kitchen.
- Chianti Sculpture Park
For those who love art (read:us), the Chianti Sculpture Park is an art haven. Florence is surely my favourite artsy city, but Chianti Park brings you to a collaboration of artists worldwide, it’s a waste if you miss it. Some of the installations in the Park include Kei Nakamura’s House in the woods (Japan), Federica Marangoni’s Murano Rainbow Crash (Italy), Yu Zhaoyang’s Town ostriches (China), and Piero Giadrossi’s Incomunicability (Italy). There’s also an ampitheatre that holds summer musical concerts and acoustic nights.
- Bike Around
Biking in any city, is a good way to sightsee and burn calories at the same time. 😀 There are e-bikes for rent, and tours you could sign up for, but if you are someone adept in using GPS or the good old map, then you’re good to go. Biking covers twice as much areas as when you go on walking tours. You can hop from basilica to basilica with ease, go about in the traffic congested areas without as much difficulty when you go by car, and the e-bikes make it convenient to go uphill, panoramic views are awesome fro uphill. It is also handy to note all the places you’d like to go back to, then walk or go there by car the next time.
- Cooking classes and Truffle hunting
Whether it’s 4 hours or 3 days, don’t opt out in trying your hand at cooking Tuscan favourites. You will learn how to prepare antipasti, knead your own pasta, and eat it too! 😉 We’ve always cooked pasta ready so this is a fun experience and eating something you yourself prepared is an awesome memory.Try also an adventurous trip a little bit outside of Siena to hunt for truffles! What’s best to eat in Siena but truffle-laden goodness. You will need an expert truffle hunter here so you’ll know how it’s done. Get to taste truffle products later on, too.
- Walk around the old city and piazzas
Soak in history as you walk around the old town, slither through the narrow streets and alleys, tiptoe on the cobble-stoned streets, and just be in awe at the architecture this medieval city was built upon. Maybe, you will understand why one of the colours was named burnt siena, after all. Amidst all the brownish facade, is the all white Doumo, Siena Cathedral. It might have been reduced in size from the original plan, but it still looks grand from all angels when I look at it.If you get the chance to climb up Torre del Mangia, please do so. It is a wonderful spot to take photos from.
Getting lost on purpose in Siena means discovering pretty shops of diverse bric-a-bracs. There are also restaurants you would discover here and there, and it’s not a sin if you try all the food each have to offer. Italy, after all, is a city that boasts not only its art, culture, history, its mostly proud of its wine and food too.