Florence. Venice. Rome. The normal Italy itinerary ticks off those cities and skips over the rest that the country has to offer. If your lucky enough to be traveling to Italy, make sure to spend at least a day exploring what was once Florence’s rival city: Siena.
Best known in popular culture as the Crayola color “burnt Siena” (check out the buildings pictured above for the inspiration for that crayon), Siena may be my favorite city in Italy. It has all the history, beauty, and culture of Florence-minus the claustrophobic summer crowds.
The city’s concentric circle design makes it perfect for wandering. It’s easy to get lost but you won’t mind the confusion! Interesting shops and cute cafes are your reward for straying off the tourist path. If you take a taxi into the city, ask your driver to take you to some secret photo spots and you’ll gain access to views that aren’t listed in the guidebooks.
When your feet are sore from exploring, post up at Bar Il Palio on the famous traffic free town square, Il Campo. Twice a year, the plaza hosts the centuries old Palio horse race where members of the city’s 17 contradas (neighborhoods) compete in a 90 second bareback race for glory…and bragging rights. If you’re in town on a normal day, the main spectacle is people watching. So grab an aperol spritz and admire the the unchanged beauty of Siena.