It’s no surprise to anyone who has read my blog for any length of time how much I love Siena. Having spent a year living and studying in the city, it definitely holds a special place in my heart.
After leaving Elba early on Monday morning, Ryan and I travelled up to Siena to get ready for three days of Palio. It was a long train journey up there, and whilst I slept for the majority of it thanks to some excellent travel sick tablets, they completely knock me out!
When we eventually got to Siena, many hours later, we made our way to our hotel, on the perimeter of the city. Pretty much every time we go to Siena we stay at Hotel Alma Domus. It’s in a fantastic location just inside the city walls, an excellent price and includes breakfast. A walk into the centre and Piazza del Campo takes just 10 minutes, I really couldn’t recommend it more. I think from the last time we stayed there they have done the rooms up, so it was really nice inside.
Once we unpacked and got freshened up we walked down into to Piazza del Campo to grab a massive slice of pizza, a beer and meet up with two of my friends who were also in Siena for the Palio. I honestly had forgotten just how good the piazza in Siena is – wow! So, so, so, delicious.
We stayed in Piazza catching up on what we’d all been up to and waiting for the prova. The prova is a practice horse race round Piazza, to get the horses and the jockeys used to what to expect on the day, and to see how the horses run. Some people say that it can be a good indicator of who may win on the day, but I really don’t think so.
After the prova we walked down to one of my all time favourite bars in Siena, Bella Vista. Bella Vista is famous for one thing, their mojitos. It was great to see the same barmen working there as when I used to go a couple of years ago, and although the location has changed, the atmosphere and drinks most definitely have not. We enjoyed a couple of mojitos, some crisps, chatted a lot and had a great evening.
After a lie in Tuesday morning, we got ready for arguably the most exciting day of the holiday, for me at least – Il Palio!!! We went for breakfast at one of my favourite little cafes tucked down a little side street off the high street. A fruit juice and pastry later, Ryan and I set off to do some sight seeing. I took him around all my favourite places and interesting sights, we did an awful lot of walking!
After a long shady pit stop for lunch and a bit more of a wonder Ryan and I made our way back to Piazza to get a good spot ready for the race. We stocked up on some delicious refreshing granita and got ready for the long haul. It was a hot day, and it felt like it took hours for the shade to come down over us. The atmosphere in Piazza was contagious, everyone getting excited about what was to come of the three round 90 second race. Mid afternoon the parade started and the excitement in Piazza raised a notch.
Having sat on the edge last year with a proper seat with my Grandma, it was different again to watch the parade from within the Piazza. You definitely get to appreciate more of the costumes and effort that goes into the long parade a bit more sat on the edge, unless you’re super tall to see over the crowd from the centre. Even so I really enjoyed seeing the flag throwing, which is very impressive. I’m always impressed by the costumes and how the men manage in them all day, they look so hot and sweaty!
Once the horses got onto the course it felt like forever for them to be lined up properly in the order for the race to start. Everyone was getting hot, tired and impatient. However, as soon as the horses took off for the race, the atmosphere became electric. The crowd were going crazy cheering these horses round the course, and as long as it took to start was as quick as it took to finish. 90 sweet, short, exciting seconds for the Oca to be crowned winner.
The Oca winning was particularly special for me, because that’s the contrada I used to live in. Our hotel was above the Oca contrada centre too, so I warned Ryan that with the excitement of them winning, it was unlikely we’d get a good nights sleep – I was right!!
Dinner on Tuesday night I took Ryan to my another one of my favourites – Pomodorino. Arguably the best pizza in Siena, I have been telling Ryan about this place for years, so I couldn’t wait to take him there! I think Ryan agreed at just how good the pizza there is. Wine and pizza later, Ryan and I took a long walk around the city soaking up the atmosphere of the city and the winning contrada celebrating.
On the Wednesday Ryan and I woke up early and tired from the little sleep we had from all the celebrating. We had a mooch around the city and then went back to the hotel for a long nap and some relaxing book reading. The holiday felt like such a whirlwind the break to just do nothing that day was definitely needed!
On Wednesday evening we went to another one of my favourite restaurants, which again I had been raving about to Ryan – Nonna Gina. I have been going on to Ryan for forever about the stuffed gnocchi that Nonna Gina does, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Neither did the fantastically priced caraffes of red wine, which we kept ordering more and more of, and neither did the plate of meats and cheeses we had for our antipasti.
Bellies full and a long walk back to the hotel later, we hoped for a good nights sleep before the next stop on our holiday – Florence.