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Siena, yet another Italian landscape that inspires awe…and another grappa (PhotoDisc)

Travelers hoping to skip Florence's summer crowds often make the hour-long drive for Siena, but if you really want to avoid standing-room-only scenarios, don't go during July and August when the famous Il Palio horse races take place. However, should you thirst for a bit of authentic Italian mayhem, by all means join the fray at the biannual events, where riders in medieval dress tear around the Renaissance cobblestone streets. The event is one of Europe's truly great displays of pageantry, with the throngs of people to go along with the festival mayhem.

Even amidst the galloping chaos, Siena will astound. But come while the crowds are thin and you'll quickly understand that this city was designed for quiet enjoyment. Siena is home to the Campo—one of the finest squares in Europe. Sit and enjoy all day long.

Like most towns and cities in the region, Siena is awash with such a dizzying amount architectural magnificence that one visit may not be enough. Marvel at Duccio's Maesta in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, and the churches of San Domenico (saintly relics), San Francesco (14th-century tombs and frescoes), and Santa Maria dei Servi (lovely views and medieval altarpieces). Take that all in, and you'll understand why the Campo is a place for well-deserved reflection over a gelato or mojo-boosting espresso.

Gastronomical delights in Siena can be had at the pretty Le Logge, located at via del Porrione 33, near the Campo (+39.057.748.013; closed Sundays), or the more traditional Ai Marsili, on the via del Castoro (+39.057.747.154; closed Mondays).

When it comes to hotels, it's best to book ahead; Siena may not always be packed out, but it's not as big as Florence. If you're watching the bank balance, the Tre Donzelle is a good option, with rooms from $60 (via delle Donzelle 5). Meanwhile, the Duomo is a good mid-range choice with rooms from around $170 (via Stalloreggi 38). If you're feeling reckless, the flashiest joint in town is the Palazzo Ravizza, where rooms start at around $230 including breakfast (Pian dei Mantellini 34).

Published: 13 May 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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