Once again, it turns out that my knowledge of this Italian town comes from a film. That film being Quantum of Solace (in case you have forgotten it was the one that everybody thought was a bit meh and just an extended ending of Casino Royale). As I was reading up about the town I read about Palio di Siena, the bareback horse race that takes place around Il Campo, a piazza in the centre of Siena. Now cast your eyes back to the film and you may recall a scene in which Daniel Craig aka James Bond, has just lost the man he captured and is chasing him through the buildings around Il Campo. Then out they both pop into the centre of a square filled with racing horses and crowds of people.
Just sitting in the square you can imagine the hoards of people trying to get a glimpse of the race, in what in reality is quite a small space to have horses galloping round! Il Campo was for me what I was looking for on this trip to Italy. I appreciate that a large percentage of those there were tourists but I also believe that a lot of people sitting in the cafes watching the world go by or indeed sitting in the middle of the piazza, were locals enjoying this gorgeous space in the centre of their town. What I missed at Lake Garda, the cafes where I could have a coffee and people watch or just look at the view in front of me, I found in this square. I was there at varying times of the day and there were always people there, it was, for want of a better word, lovely.
The rest of Siena was equally lovely. I really noticed and appreciated the gothic architecture that filled the town, apparently Florence and Siena are in competition because of their differing architecture styles and although I thought they both had beautiful buildings, I think I prefer the gothic buildings that Siena has to offer.
I decided quite early on when I arrived in Siena that I wasn’t going to ‘do’ the churches or the galleries and that the two days I was there were going to be relaxing. That’s not to say that I didn’t go and see the Duomo but I’m afraid to say, I didn’t go in. Instead, I wandered around a local park and went on the hunt for cafes. Aside from the cafes in Il Campo, I found another cafe to while about the day. It was just past the university, which meant it was cheap – for just €3 I had a pot of tea and a cappuccino.
A quick note on tea – Italian’s don’t understand it. Either you are offered a slice of lemon with your English Breakfast tea bag, or when you ask for milk, you are presented with hot frothy milk, neither or which I want with my tea.
Continuing with the drinking theme, I noticed that Siena and I’m sure other Italian towns are filled with coffee bars. It seems that Italians don’t quite do coffee in the same way that I and I think others do coffee. They go into a bar and order an espresso, drink it standing up and leave in about two minutes. I meanwhile go into the bar, look sad because there is nowhere to sit, order my cappuccino and stand awkwardly for ten minutes drinking it, watching people come and leave before I’ve even taken my first sip. It doesn’t seem to be the leisurely activity that I am used to.
I would really like to go back to Siena, not only because I would like to explore the countryside surrounding it but because I think my time there was slightly tarnished by my hostel. It was the only hostel in Siena and a good fifteen minute bus ride to the centre. On paper and when I booked it, this didn’t present as an issue to me but, in reality, I spent most of my time waiting for buses and worrying about missing buses that it rather detracted from the fun I was meant to be having. The hostel itself was also rather empty and so my reasoning for booking a hostel as supposed to a B&B (so that I could meet other people) was void. I didn’t really see anyone, which actually made it rather creepy. I was also upgraded (normally a good thing but not a good thing when it comes to hostelling) to a room of my own, which added to the slight horror film vibe of the place. On a positive note, it did mean that I could stay up watching films in my room without annoying fellow travellers. Here’s what I saw:
Miss you already – made me cry a lot. Probably not the best film to watch on your own. Enjoyed it, I think…
Still Alice – I was clearly in a “let’s watch sad films kinda mood”. I didn’t cry but enjoyed it nonetheless. Was unsure of the ending.
Pride – love, love, love this film. Didn’t cry, but I’m pretty certain I did the first time I watched it.
Where I stayed: Siena Hostel – too far out, wouldn’t recommend. Pay a bit more to be in the centre.