As I understand it, there are some who say that Siena rivals Florence in beauty and splendor, and does so in part because it is smaller. I will not dispute those folks except to say that we didn't give it that chance. To begin with, it was the first stop in a day bus trip into the larger Tuscany region, and we only had a few hours. Additionally, our arrival was accompanied by steady and significant rainfall. The first item on our agenda was a walking tour. Well, as you can imagine, at this point in the adventure, we did not care for Siena much. Luckily, our main tour guide was kind enough to break from the group - leaving them with the local guide - to lead those of us that were unprepared to purchase umbrellas, which helped a little.
I believe somewhere along the way we saw one of the oldest banks in Europe. I am not sure about that though. What I am sure about is that probably at the same time that was happening I was realizing how clutch it would have been to pack an extra pair of socks. Then we made our way out of the rain and into the Duomo. Not to be confused with the Duomo. See why Florence and Siena are such rivals? Actually Duomo simply means Cathedral, and for whatever reason certain Italian cities don't specify beyond that and probably don't have to because of the splendor of these churches. Especially Florence (but I'm not allowed to say that because right now we are talking about Siena). In any case, if there was ever a magnificent place to come in out of the rain, it was inside this building; domes, pillars, artwork, mosaic floors and all:
And wouldn't you know, when we came out of this beautiful cathedral, the sun was creeping out behind the clouds. The facade of the cathedral was equally breathtaking.
Also in Siena is the unique Piazza del Campo; a town square shaped like a shell. Among other things, this is the site of the famous Palio: an insane horse race right in the middle of everything. I won't try to explain. Take 10 minutes to watch this feature video on ESPN, or skip to the 9:00 minute mark to see the insanity.
All in all, I would like to come back to Siena. Our trip was too quick and too wet. But we were in Tuscany, on our way to a Chianti winery for lunch, so complaining was not really in the cards.
Onward to the Tuscan countryside, a winery lunch, and San Gimignano (the Medieval Manhattan).