I decided to go to Siena on a day trip by myself. It was a really great day, but interesting as well. I took the train there and when I got to the station I went across the street and into a mall. I was mapless and didn’t really know where I was going, but finally found a couple in the mall with a map and asked them for directions. Their english was minimal, but they explained to me that they had gotten this map in the train station for only 50 cents. So I made my way back to the train station, and asked about five people about the 50 cent map, but no one seemed to know what I was talking about. So instead I bought the cheapest map I could find which ended up being 6 Euros. This map was wrapped in cellophane with a big sticker that said “please don’t open the maps”. So, I make my purchase and get outside the train station, open my map and realize this thing is monstrous! It’s like a friggin’ wall hanging that stretches from arm to arm. I was mortified and I didn’t want to use it because first of all I couldn’t even find where I was because the map was so huge, and second of all, I might as well have worn a neon sign around my neck that said “tourist”.
When I’m in a country where I don’t know the language, I at least try to learn some important phrases. I was asking people “Dove si trova Piazza del Campo?” , and when they answered me in Italian, I realized that I don’t know Italian- I don’t know what they’re telling me in response. I eventually made the right turns and found my way to Piazza del Campo, which I loved because you walk down stairs into these archways that lead you to the beautiful brick piazza.
It’s built at a bit of a slant and twice a year there’s a festival that includes a bareback horse-race in the piazza; I would love to go back for that! There’s a fountain in the piazza and the city hall is in this piazza as well which has a huge bell tower (Torre del Mangia) that you can climb for 8 Euros!
Torre del Mangia is the second tallest secular medieval tower in Italy, and it’s totally worth the 8 Euros and trek up 400 stairs to reach the top. There are lots of windows for you to look out on the way up and when you get to the top you have one of the greatest views of Siena! It was totally worth it. I climbed on a Thursday, plus it’s November, so I only passed one person on my way up.
When you reach the top the view is absolutely amazing, and I was fortunate enough to be standing directly under the bell at noon, and it scared the crap out of me when it went off, but at the same time I’m really glad I was because it just added a little more to the experience.
(A Spectacular View of the Tuscan Landscape From the Top)
After climbing the tower I wandered around the streets of Siena for a while, going into shops, getting gelato, buying gifts for my family, and getting some lunch. Then I made my way in the early afternoon to the Duomo. They have a ticket package where you get into the Duomo Museum, the Duomo, the “Panorama” and the Baptistry all for 10 Euros. The Duomo was supposed to be built to be bigger than Saint Peter’s Basilica, but famine and financial problems prevented the building from being completed, and it instead made a piazza surrounded with beautiful black and white marble pillars.
So, I bought the ticket and went into the Museum, which was really amazing, except once again you can’t take photographs in unfortunately, so I don’t get to share the amazing artwork I saw there, but you get to the Panorama from the museum and I can show you the view from up there:
(Left is walking into the piazza, this arch is what would’ve been part of the church, and right is a view from the “Panorama” of the bell tower I climbed earlier that day.)
After I left the museum I went into the Duomo. It is absolutely stunning. There are black and white striped marble columns, beautiful paintings and sculptures by Michaelangelo and others, and a library with a collection of exquisite medieval bibles. The floors are inlaid with amazing depictions of Bible stories… They’re absolutely amazing. Instead of me describing the Duomo, I’ll actually show you with pictures:
After the Duomo I went into the Baptistry which, again was filled with a ton of amazing artwork which, again, I’ll let these pictures describe.
After the Baptistry, I wandered around a tiny bit more, but I had a train to catch, so I didn’t see anything else, really. However, when you walk around anywhere in Italy, you see about six million amazing things, but I’m only going to share two from my walk back to the train station, which was much less eventful than my walk at the beginning of the day.
For more on my Italian adventures you can read about them here: