If you are in Siena for just one day and still want to enjoy this city as much as possible (in all senses), you will have to choose which places to visit without missing 2 or 3 mandatory stops.
There is a wealth of historical attractions in Siena, as it was a major merchant centre in Tuscany and historic antagonist of Florence. It is one of the few medieval jewels that have remained intact.
You'll notice it immediately while strolling past the shop windows of the city's main streets, such as Via dei Banchi di Sopra or Via di Città, as you head towards the town centre: Piazza del Campo.
Let's start right from Piazza del Campo.
It is the starting point for any tour of the city and also the centre of Sienese life, where the famous Palio takes place and where friends meet at the end of the day.
And as soon as you look at it, you'll understand why: it's one of the most beautiful squares in the world!
As the name suggests, the square was originally a green field that housed merchants' stalls and fairs. The vegetation has today given way to the characteristic Terra di Siena colour, due to the brick paving that covers the square. It is the shape, however, that is even more surprising: a sort of irregular and sloping shell, divided into 9 sectors, named after the Nine Lords who ruled the city during the Middle Ages.
There are two ways to best admire the square:
1) From the Torre del Mangia
2) From low down, lying on the ground
The Torre del Mangia, 88 metres high, takes its name from its first guardian, Giovanni di Duccio, known by all as the Mangiaguadagni (the "profit eater"). It seems, in fact, that he spent all his money in the inns of the area. It would never have been expected that such an important tower in Siena would take his name!
Another curiosity about the tower can be found in its foundations: legend has it that the 4 stones that support it contain lucky coins to protect against misfortunes, such as lightning and storms!
And what about the Palazzo Pubblico of Siena, the majestic building in the Gothic style that frames the square. Built during the Government of the Nine, which made Siena as amazing as we see it today, it contains the city's black and white coat of arms in the centre.
Piazza del Campo is beautiful with its elegant palaces all around, but there is something else you really can't miss and that is the Duomo of Siena.
A perfect synthesis of the Gothic-Romanesque style with its spires, pinnacles and animals that cover the façade, the Cathedral of Siena defines the skyline of the Tuscan city in all its splendour.
If you look carefully, you will notice that the dark bands covering the building are not black, but green!
Siena does not only offer the magic of a historic town or the beauty of its art, it also offers a rich culinary heritage for lovers of good food!
The hills, vineyards and woods that surround it offer the Sienese and tourists some of the most genuine and authentic products of Tuscan cuisine, such as extra virgin olive oil, red wine, Cinta Senese [breed of pig] or Cantuccini [almond biscuits] di Siena!
Let's start from the beginning, that is from the starter: at the restaurant, order Tuscan black crostini with a cream of mixed meat, cooked according to the traditional Sienese recipe.
Then move on to ribollita, the soup made of bread, vegetables and legumes. A poor, healthy dish, cooked by the housewives during the winter to warm up and comfort the stomach. A drizzle of olive oil is the perfect match. In the summer, opt for pici all'aglione, a sort of handmade spaghetti seasoned with a rich sauce with tomatoes and... garlic!
As a main dish you cannot miss the king of meats, namely the Cinta Senese, a local pig breed with a black coat crossed by a white stripe. A niche product, that was already bred by the Etruscans and is nowadays extremely prized. The recipes are varied, from finocchiona [cured meat with fennel seed and red wine] to the simplest steak: all delicious. On the other hand, this area is also well known for its game and the wild boar dishes are a real treat!
If you still have some space, it's time for dessert. Siena is often remembered for its desserts. It may be because it is the last dish on the menu that crowns the entire meal or maybe it is due to the scent of the ovens that lingers in the alleys of the city. Cantucci [almond biscuits], ricciarelli [almond biscuits], cavallucci [walnut and spice biscuits] and panforte [candied fruit and honey cake] are some of the specialities to savour!
Have a great tour and enjoy your meal!
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