We spent two days in Siena, Italy.
It was the off season during holy week, so there weren’t a lot of people around, but enough that it didn’t look like a ghost town. We arrived late in the day, and by the time we found our hotel and got settled in, it was after dark, and we were famished.
The restaurants around the square were full, so we wandered the side streets until we found a place called Nonna Gina. It was small, and when we entered, the owner told us he didn’t have any room upstairs, but we were welcome to have dinner downstairs with the family and the workers. We didn’t hesitate, and were soon seated in a cozy room with small tables and lots of chatter.
We asked for whatever wine the family was drinking which was terrific. And so was the home made bread we nibbled on while we waited to order our meals. The owner came over and said because they were so busy they were just about out of everything at this late hour. My wife ordered a basic spaghetti with house tomato sauce, and I ordered truffle ravioli.
I have to admit that I am not a foodie, and I have an uneducated palate. My wife likes to tell the story of when she came to my apartment the first time, all I had in the fridge was corn dogs, mustard, and beer.
Well, when I first bit into the ravioli containing fresh local truffles in olive oil and spices, it was like a chorus of heavenly angels singing in my ears. I had never tasted anything like that before. We went back to Nonna Gina the next night, but truffle ravioli was not available. If we ever go back, I will certainly try to find it again.
Here are fun things you should do in Siena, thanks to Travel+Leisure.
By Melanie Lieberman
Some of the most incredible cities can be found in Italy—but Rome and Florence aren’t the only two worth seeing. The next time you visit Italy, take a trip to Siena—a picturesque town in Tuscany known for its medieval architecture and iconic cathedral. So what to do in Siena, one of the best cities in Europe?
Start by admiring (and, of course, taking photos of) the most recognizable sights in Siena.
There’s the Piazza del Campo—the shell-shaped public square in the city center—and the namesake Roman Catholic Duomo, best known for its stripes of white and greenish-black marble. If you take the time to step inside, you’ll find masterpieces by 40 Italian artists. But you can easily get lost in the winding streets, where every turn leads to another medieval structure or a belfry plucked straight out of the Italian Renaissance. Is it any wonder Siena is considered one of the most romantic cities in the world?
Afterward, grab a glass of local Brunello di Montalcino wine, from the hills just south of Siena. Vineyards of the complex, distinct Sangiovese grapes are found in the greatest concentration in this region. Tour the Poggio Rubino winery, which is spread across nearly 40 acres of land. Visitors can participate in wine tastings and learn about the traditions of winemaking in the region.
If you’re shopping for souvenirs or keepsakes, your best options include the Wednesday market (where vendors sell everything from clothes to housewares) and Siena Tartufi—an emporium of truffles, honeys, oils, spreads, and cheeses.
Other Siena attractions include the Museo Civico, which houses paintings and sculptures in rooms decorated with impressive frescoes, and the Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena—a comprehensive collection of Gothic and Renaissance paintings.
You may want to plan a trip to Siena around the Palio Horse Race, one of the most fun things to do in Siena. Twice a year, this sporting competition that dates back to the 6th century transforms the quiet town into a raucous scene. The race may last only 90 seconds, but the ceremonies, horse blessings, and parades go on all day long.
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