Siena is the largest of the mountain towns in Tuscany. These mountain towns were built high on hills and are surrounded by tall walls. These fortifications came in handy when they found it necessary to dump hot oil on the invaders from neighboring towns fighting for dominance of the region and control of trade. I never thought I would be reading articles on the unification of Italy on my own and with interest…. The main attraction in Siena is the huge brick courtyard, Il Campo. Here the tradition is for young lovers to chase away the flocks of pigeons and have a picnic on the hot bricks… hummm we skipped that part.
Siena is the least attractive and quaint of these mountain towns. Others have great views of the Tuscany valley from their perimeter, but in Siena we only encountered grand views after climbing the 400+ steps in the bell tower. The age of the buildings, stone streets and great restaurants are all very interesting, especially if this a tourist’s first visit to a mountain town. But one wanders around the Siena streets with no view other than the surrounding buildings, one gray street after another. Despite many hours of walking, I never found the beautiful vistas that were so easily found in the more quaint mountain towns like Montalcino, Pienza and Montepulciano. Just stumbling into one of these other mountain towns for lunch we had among the best views I have ever seen. On the other hand, Siena has more high-end shops that interest some, just like any large town would have.
Our visit to Siena also got off to a bad start when we learned the unit we rented did not have access to the terrace with great views advertised with multiple photos in the VRBO web site (Vacation Rentals By Owner). These were photos of the owners’ private terrace. As we spent 30 years in a downtown Chicago condo, we are used to city noises. That did not prepare us for the noise we would soon encounter. We had two nights of workers tossing around metal support tent pipes until 2:00am, setting up a large tent for about 200 people in an adjacent church plaza. The next three nights were filled with loud music blasting until midnight. Following that the Italians, who love to sing, would continue to sing endlessly until about 4:00am. They even sang “Hurray for the Red, White and Blue” for us. This was not the peaceful bird chirping nights we encountered in San Quirico d’Orcia.