The Siena time machine!
Siena has to be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen! Arriving in Siena was like stepping into a time-machine then exiting it into this amazing place where the streets are cobbled, the town is still surrounded by a fortressed wall, everyone still walks everywhere, there are no cars, no pollution, only the smells of delicious food and the gorgeous rolling Tuscan hills on every side… I’d half expected a horse drawn cart to clip-clop around the corner carrying hay!
Yet, the awesome thing is, Siena still has everything you need. You can totally lose yourself in the winding medieval streets, the unspoilt views over the countryside, and the relaxed pace of life, but then pop into the internet café on the corner to chat on gmail with friends at home. I could spend an afternoon soaking up the sunshine out on the roof terrace of the historic building of the Italian school where I studied, wander out to meet a friend for a slice of Panforte made from a centuries old recipe and then grab a coca-cola and watch a game of football on television at one of the local bars. Ha ha, just like John Mortimer wrote in the novel Summer’s Lease; Siena has “all the delights of the Middle Ages without the stink and the fear of plague.”!
Once I got to Siena I realized that one of the things it was most famous for was the Il Palio – its crazy horse race through the heart of the town, the Piazza del Campo. This frenzied race has been taking place for over 300 years and no rules apart from one; a jockey cannot interfere with another rider’s reins. Absolutely ANYTHING else goes! I was so disappointed to have left Siena two weeks before the first Il Palio of the year. I hear that the events and parties to prepare for the Il Palio pageant are incredible and that the celebrating that takes place afterwards is the biggest event of the year! Next time I visit Siena, I will be SURE to plan my timing a little better!
Because, truthfully I am 100% certain I will be returning to Siena. It was such a beautiful, unique setting for me to learn Italian, I fell in love with it. It is a wonderfully small place, I loved the opportunity it gave me to become ‘a regular’ at certain cafes and grocery stores and have local people say hi and chit chat with me in Italian. Not to mention the great, friendly atmosphere it provided for everyone at the school. I can’t wait to get back there!