During my study abroad trip ISA had scheduled a couple day trips for us students and the first one was to Siena. We were supposed to visit Verona but unfortunately there were some minor earthquakes in the area and so we went to Siena instead. I don’t feel that this was a bad switch at all.
Siena and Florence had a historical rivalry. Siena tried to build their cathedral to be taller that the Duomo in Florence. However, the cathedral is built on a hill and started to sink thus they had to stop.
My favorite part about Siena is that it is separated into seventeen contrada and each has its own symbol and flags. These sections don’t affect the everyday life of Siena. What they do affect is the running of the Palio.
The Palio is on my bucket list. It is a horse race, run twice a year with ten horses per race, one per each contrada. Ten a drawn for the first race in July. In the second race in August the remaining seven contrada run along with three random drawn from the other ten that had already run. The outside of the main square of Siena is made into a track. The horses are ridden bareback and they and their riders make three laps around the piazza. Riders are dressed in the colors of their contrada. The spectators are packed into the center of the square and on all the available balconies with a view of the race.
The city is decorated with the colors of the various contradas. Nothing over the top, just little pops of color here and there, decorated lighting and colored shields. The city is beautiful and bright and full of history.
I really enjoyed Siena. I had some fantastic risotto sitting on a little side street patio. It was gorgonzola risotto with thin slice pears and a balsamic glaze. Glorious, I tried to recreate it at home, but it wasn’t the same – I used too gorgonzola.
If you ever make it to Italy, go visit Siena. If you ever go to the Palio, please send me pictures. I hope that you have a great Wednesday. Save travels.