Siena: Tuscan Hills, A Preserved Head, and Cyndi Lauper


Nothing screams, “I’m in Tuscany!” like the city of Siena.  The scene that came into view from our room at Albergo Bernini really brought us back in time.  P1050781This inn is a real find with a homey feel and two great terraces for the evening wine ritual. P1050826 Although there’s plenty to do in Siena, part of the magic is just being on the streets and becoming part of the daily life.  A must is the nightly passeggiata, when locals and visitors alike do the slow stroll through the winding city streets. P1050830 My favorite part of this ritual was watching a group of elderly men leaning on “their window”.  This cast of extras from the Sopranos oversaw all of the goings on of the intersection.  And the stunt double for Paulie Walnuts was less than amused when Russell moseyed over and took his place leaning next to one of the guys.  img_1466Talk about upsetting the pecking order, but a great way to weave yourself into the fabric of the city.

Some highlights of a trip to Siena include the food, the Duomo, and Il Campo.  We ate so well in Siena that months later I am still trying to shed those pounds!  From the incredible salad and pizza (with my new favorite topping: porcini mushrooms) from Il Pomodorino to the “epic” (my waiter’s words) osso buco P1050860and bistecca alla Fiorentina P1050861from Antica Trattoria Papei, there is no shortage of impressive eateries with food as awe-inspiring as the views.

Once your taste buds are satisfied, head over to the Duomo, P1050820one of the most ornate in Italy.  In fact, the level of décor inside this cathedral could almost trigger a seizure.  There is no area left untouched.  P1050842During your visit you may even be witness to a local procession passing through from one of the 17 districts of Siena. P1050852 And don’t forget the gift shop with a setting that would be a museum itself in any other city!P1050857

On a side note, don’t end your church visit with the Duomo—be sure to check out San Domenico which houses the relics of Saint Catherine of Siena.  On the right side of the nave you can see not only her thumb, but her entire head!  You’ll thank me later.

The final part of Siena that will suck you in is Il Campo, the piazzaP1050803This landmark slopes downward, amphitheater-style toward the city hall and its beautiful, and unreinforced, tower reaching almost 300 feet.  Great people-watching abounds here.  On our last evening we saw a band setting up there and after seeing a musician tuning his bass, I was looking forward to returning later and hearing what I assumed might be jazz.  You know what they say about the word “assume”…

After dinner as we strolled back into the piazza, I was shocked to hear the band belting out the Cyndi Lauper classic “Time After Time”.  This tune was followed by “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette and “With or Without You” by U2.  It wasn’t the perfect ending to our day that I was imagining, but as I looked around at all the Italians singing along to these English songs, I had to chuckle.  All of the past efforts of walled cities like Siena to keep out invaders and now international influence had surged all the way to the center of the city.  Isn’t it ironic…