Medieval brick buildings, winding alleyways, gelato, chilling out, vegan food in the supermarket(!), making new friends, a room with a view, thunderstorms and some hot sunshine
In essence the above pretty much sums up my time in beautiful Siena! It was a time to relax, enjoy three nights in my own room (with an amazing view!) centrally located by the Duomo and a few hundred years from Piazza del Campo and all the cafes, restaurants, bars, shops you could ever need and everything within the central was within a 10-15 mins walk. Apart from the train station. And this is the most important thing I could possibly share with you, if you ever plan to visit Siena by train: avoid the hassle of trying to navigate the buses or facing a VERY long UPHILL walk into town by jumping in a a taxi. Will cost you around 7 Euros. Wish I had done it. And I didn’t even have to face the main hill into town as there are about 10 escalators from the shopping mall to get you up the majority of the hill but it’s still a good 15-20 walk over cobble streets with wheelie luggage/backpacks…..
Anyway, after the long slog and arriving sweaty and knackered, I quickly fell in love with Siena. It’s a peaceful town where there isn’t so much to do that you’re rushing to fit everything in. It’s all within walkable distance and lots of beautiful side streets to explore. That said, I left wishing I could stay longer as I had by then settled into the Italian way of life and learned to slow down, be present and enjoy things. For instance, instead of heading off into the countryside to enjoy an expensive wine tasting tour (although I’m sure they are fantastic) find a place in central Siena where you can get expert guidance and taste the wines all in the company of the locals, for around a very affordable 12 euros, I believe. I fancied doing this but in the end didn’t work with my plans but it sounds lovely and was recommended which is always a good thing.
In fact my plans were so loose my daily schedule worked itself out for me. It seemed to go like this.. I woke when my body was ready, did a little yoga to unravel and straighten out the sleepy joints and knots, had a milky coffee and edited photos, caught up on the blog (well, nearly!) had some lunch (homemade sandwiches) before heading out with the camera later in the afternoon when the sun was hot but lower, so the colours would be clear and bold, then eating a bit later in the evening with perhaps a little time taking some night time shots too. It felt so safe there and I only had to roll out the front door of the beautiful period building I was staying in (Airb&b) to find something enchanting to shoot.
Siena was, however, way rowdier at night than I expected, which was a surprise. I didn’t know quite what to think as it sounded to me like an Italian version of a bunch of drunken Brits abroad! Quite funny really. You can see the difference in Siena by Day and by Night in the following short videos (had to record it!) I took from my bedroom window:
This also caused me a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as, up until I heard all the fun going on out there, I had been quite content to stay in, cook up some gnocchi and drink some just-about-drinkable white wine. Luckily on the second day I got chatting to one of the other guests staying in the Air&b who suggested we go out for some dinner that evening which made a nice change from dining alone.
Turns out she is also a keen yoga practitioner and interested in doing the Yoga Teacher Training Course in India as well, plus she’s been to India a few times and got me all excited about heading there soon with her stories, tips and advice. Always nice to meet kindred spirits. There were actually three of us sharing the apartment and we were all like-minded, which worked wonderfully. We all left on Saturday; Pamela, who I went to dinner with (from London but has an Australian accent from living there for some years) headed for the Tuscany hills at a singing workshop (lucky lady!) and Nicky, from the Netherlands, decided to extend her stay for another week’s worth of Italian lessons at a local college (also a lucky lady!). It was sad to say goodbye as these were the first two I had really spent any time with, but, as with travelling, comes the time to part ways and continue our journeys.
Aside from making lovely new friends I had a slight issue with finding vegan food out and around town, especially as the only two vegan restaurants in town seem to no longer exist. So for those of you interested in getting fed as a vegan in Siena, go to Conrad City at Piazza Giacomo Matteotti. It’s cheaper than the central supermarkets and has a good stock of vegan cheeses, chilled burgers/falafels, breads, biscuits etc. Particularly good if you have access to a kitchen/cooking facilities!
The other thing I rather liked was a major thunder and lightning storm on our last night! I decided to get back out of bed and try to photograph it (with that window view, of course!) and was glad I did. Not sure the photos do it justice, but was amazing to watch the sky light up all the houses in a purply-pinky-blue hue. I tried to time a long exposure with the next flash of lightening. Wasn’t too difficult as the storm was very close, if not over us, and lightening was coming fast and regularly.
By the way, the storm seemed to follow me to Rome as the next day I arrived there and by evening the same thing happened; a major thunder and lightning storm for much of the night. Unfortunately I got caught out in it when heading back to the hostel, and didn’t fancy going back out to photograph it. Nah. From the comfort of the bedroom maybe, but not out in the very wet streets!
So if you ever have the chance to go, I totally recommend it. If you want an easy-going, chilled time in Italy, with great food and drink options, some culture and a town that has history and beauty popping up in literally all of its streets and alleyways, you can’t go wrong in Siena. I think 3-4 nights is good, for extra time such as a day/afternoon at a pool or tip into the countryside, I’d recommend 5 days. But if you prefer to whizz around all the sights and move on, 1-2 nights would be plenty.
So, until next time lovely Siena….