A whole post dedicated to a town at night seems excessive, but Siena has been the highlight of my Italian vacation. Siena is advertised as a day trip destination from Florence. Most tourists here are exactly that! So I just wanted to show the day trippers what they are missing.
Siena in the day time is a pretty town, no doubt about that. It boasts of pretty streets, a huge cathedral complex, the best square in Italy, the Piazza del Campo. (Described in my Siena post before this one) All these sights are mobbed by hordes of tourists in the day time. If you arrive in Siena in the daytime you feel the crowds on the narrow streets, but I knew that almost all of them will disappear at sun down and leave me at peace with this beautiful Tuscan hill town.
Another advantage of staying the night is the Antica Residenza Cicogna, a beautiful B&B at unbelievable room rates. We had our dinner in the common area of the B&B which was take away pizza, cheese, wine. We had bought a cinnamon heavy panforte ( A typical Sienese cake similar to a fruitcake but a million times better!) to eat while lounging on the Piazza del Campo. The B&B also keeps complimentary tea, coffee , dessert wine and biscuits to be enjoyed as per the guests wish. I had a great black coffee to spruce me up before walking into the cold night.
We set out again to digest our meals & see Siena in all its lit up glory. The closest square to us was the Piazza Salimbeni, which looks just like any other square in the day but in the night, all lit up it looks completely transformed.
The streets of Siena are lit up using yellow street lights (similar to torches) giving it an old medieval look . As the crowds empty out the streets are wonderful to wander around peacefully and aimlessly (In sharp contrast of the frantic sightseeing of the day!)
As we walked on the next square was the Piazza Tolomei, with a small church as its focal point. Again the beautiful and thought out lighting, not very dark and not over the top, all in all very pleasing to the eye.
Our feet automatically led us to the Piazza del Campo. The humongous square which was the focal point of the town during the day was relatively empty at night. The cafes were sparsely filled. All this with the moon peeking out from behind the town hall and made it ideal for photography. We sat on the floor and enjoyed our panforte with the customary gelato. I am glad we did this on the first day as the floor was too wet on day 2 to sit and enjoy this uniquely Sienese experience.
After taking photos of the square from all possible angles we moved on to see the Duomo at night. As compared to daytime the Duomo square was completely deserted. The huge cathedral was all lit up in yellow light making it look completely different from day time. ( The deserted square even gave me courage to keep my SLR on a seat lining the square for a rare SLR timed selfie!)
At one point there were just 4 people enjoying the magnificent view of the cathedral all lit up! That to me is unbelievable since the same is never possible in Florence where the cathedral square is filled with tourists even at night. So this was really a privilege. We then went to the street where St Catherine Basilica can be viewed from a distance.
Even this plain jane church looks like a million bucks all lit up. The by now clear skies filled with stars and winding roads make the photo even more beautiful.
We then walked down to the church itself. This was in part to take photos of the church itself, but more importantly to try and take a long exposure shot of the Siena skyline. The skyline looked great in the day time so I hoped that it would look more beautiful all lit up. The clear skies and an almost full moon made it possible for me to capture this superb view in all its glory.
I was so engrossed with trying to take a good clear photo of the skyline that I almost forgot to click the huge brick structure right behind me. Thankfully the better half reminded me to do so before we climbed the hill back into the old town.
We randomly walked the streets of Siena licking a Gelato and just enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and glad that we had not followed the advice of a famous travel forum to stay in Florence only and do everything else as a day trip. We would have missed this beautiful hill town in all its flood lit medieval glory.
Each street in Siena is a time machine ride back into medieval times with just the zooming cars of residents reminding us periodically that these are indeed modern times! We would roam the streets the next night too. This time it was wetter after the morning downpour. Today was just about randomly taking photos of the streets and enjoying ourselves. It taught me that you don’t need to have block buster sights to make a city memorable, even though Siena has a handful of them! Roaming the streets of a beautiful town can be as memorable as a world class museum.
We couldn’t resist one final round of the wet Piazza del Campo on the second night before we returned to our B&B ready to move on from Siena for now. Siena will always have a special place in my heart. Venice may have its canals and Florence its art, but Siena has something beyond description that stays with you long after you have left the town. I feel like I left a small piece of me in Siena and hopefully I will be back someday to collect it.
Till my next post,