After Rome, Florence was a bit of a disappointment. Don't get me wrong, it is a wonderful place. And the art you can see is just amazing (it probably deserves another post all together). But it isn't an open and public city like Rome is. Almost everything worth seeing in Florence is inside. Or has been put inside (except the Piazza della Signora). So after Firenze, Siena was like a breath of fresh air. Getting out of the bus once you have reached Siena, is almost like stepping out of a time machine and finding yourself in a strangely medieval city.
From the 13th to the 15th centuries Florence and Siena were economic and military rivals in the Tuscan region. Numerous battles were fought between the two city states but Florence eventually had the upper hand and Siena was incorporated into Florentine territory and administration. No longer the important city state it once was , the city in a way, remained in limbo, locked in the middle ages. Built over three hills, the city is like a maze of concentric circles with the Piazza del Campo at its heart. The fan shaped square has to be one of the most beautiful in the world. It is here that Siena's famous horse race, the bi-annual Palio is held.
The Duomo is the other major landmark of the city. Along with St. Marks in Venice, the Duomo was my favourite out of all the churches I visited in Italy. The exterior of the Duomo in Florence, with Giotto's campanile by its side, takes your breath away and just standing in St. Peter's square is overwhelming, but on the inside both were a bit of a let down. The Duomo is Siena, has a most interesting exterior. When I first saw it's pictures I wondered what I would make of it in when I finally saw it - after all, it does have a strange black and white striped pattern. In reality it somehow manages to look absolutely beautiful and regal. The interiors are just as stunning and have some fabulous artwork.
There's so much more to see and do in Siena, but I suspect I have rambled on enough already. But I do need to mention Panforte. The terribly rich and delicious speciality of the town. The cake is a traditional Christmas dish and was being sold everywhere when I was there. The Italians really do have great desserts.
Anyway, I could go on and on about Siena, but I could never do the place justice. So, if you are ever in Italy - just go there!