Our last full day in Tuscany and there is no doubt that we want to spend more time here. We’ve covered a lot of ground but there is still so much we could do. Today our focus is on Siena, but as discussed in an earlier post we are being pulled toward spending more time at Villa Collina as well. Just being at Il Campanile has been an experience in itself, worth missing some of Tuscany’s more popular attractions.
We’ve had a few people ask us for more photos of Villa Collina, so they are posted below. Villa Collina challenging to photograph for several reasons: it’s on a steep hill, the hill is covered in thick woodlands, and the villa itself is very tall. I don’t think most of my photos do it justice for how cool it really is.
Siena is officially 31km from Villa Collina and about a 45 minute drive. Unlike many of the drives we have had this week, the roads to Siena are large and the least curvy. Barbara also provided us with excellent directions with photos of signs along the road all the way until the parking structure. Seriously, having a destination concierge is one of the best hospitality concepts I have experienced in years- not sure what I am going to do without Barbara on our next trip.
With limited time in Siena, we went straight to the main attractions, the Duomo and the Piazza del Campo.
Siena’s cathedral (Duomo), begun in the 12th century, is one of the great examples of Italian Romanesque–Gothic architecture. Its main façade was completed in 1380. It is unusual for a cathedral in that its axis runs north-south.
The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the town square, which houses the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, is another architectural treasure, and is famous for hosting the Palio horse race. The Palazzo Pubblico, itself a great work of architecture, houses yet another important art museum.
It would be a treat to come back during the Palio di Siena which happens twice per year. Ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colors circle the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is not uncommon for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is not unusual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys. Kind of sounds like a day traveling in Europe with three little kids.
A frequent site across Tuscany, laundry being dried on lines outside windows. At first you might think this detracts from the beauty of the city, but I find that it adds to the true character. We’ve been living in France for more than two months now without a clothes dryer, so I know my wife can relate to these people.
Barbara suggested Antica Osteria Da Divo for lunch, which is down a steep, narrow street very near the Duomo. The location of the restaurant dates back to the Etruscan times and is carved from tufa stone, the soft volcanic rock on which Siena is built. Sitting in these ancient rooms makes this culinary experience one to remember and the food was pretty awesome too.
Our lunch consisted of: Hand rolled Senese pasta, wild boar ragu, rosemary crouch bread; Ravioli stuffed with potatoes and beans, tomatoes concussed, Tuscan pesto and fresh asparagus; Egg lasagna au gratin with beef, fennel seeds, and Tuscan sausages ragu; and Risotto with flavored zucchini and zucchini flowers served in a form of demi-seasoned Pecorino (oh how I love Pecorino) cheese from Pienza. I purposely wrote this down on my iPhone because the meal was worth remembering and I wanted to make sure I could accurately share it.
I ate the hand rolled Senese pasta, wild boar ragu, and rosemary crouch bread. I had never had wild boar before today, but I will definitely have it again.
You can see the Etruscan niches in this photo, these rooms are actually beneath the Duomo.
After lunch we went back to the Duomo and out to explore the streets of Siena for a few more hours. Along the way, we gave into our son and finally bought him a plastic camera for 3 euro. That might have been the best 3 euro’s we’ve ever spent, he went all over Siena pretending like he was taking photographs and ultimately walking several more kilometers. The photo below, with him on the steps of the Duomo is one of my all time favorite photographs.
So much good shopping, so little time. Italian shoes….
“Dad, not that cheese, the Pecorino, the Pecorino from Pienza, seriously…”
In Siena we stocked up on more cheeses, several types of Italian salami, and gelato before hitting the road back to Villa Collina. We returned to a beautiful afternoon and managed to get a few hours in by the pool before the sun went down. It is hard to tell in these photos, but the pool area at Il Campanile is quite large and set in a private wooded area away from the villas. Not shown in the photo, but close by, is the tennis court, where our kids played while we were enjoying our solitude at the pool.
I failed to mention earlier that I was able to procure a fine Italian scarf while in Siena and was very anxious to wear it. I’ve since learned many more acceptable techniques for folding, knotting, and wearing the scarf more fashionably. I’m not sure what it is about France and Italy, but the guys here love their scarves or maybe it is just that American’s don’t know what they are missing?
Day after day and night after night we have been treated to unforgettable moments while in Tuscany. I’ve posted many photos here of sunrises and sunsets at Villa Collina, but none like our last night here. Again shooting from windows in the master bedroom at the top of Villa Collina, I captured these two photos minutes apart.
These two photos summarize our time in Tuscany and at Villa Collina in a very fitting way- natural beauty and unforgetable experiences one after another.
I truly want to thank Inspirato for such an unforgettable five days in Tuscany. Tomorrow we drive back to France and won’t have much time for sight seeing other than counting the 170+ tunnels and keeping track of how many bathroom/espresso stops we have to make. I don’t know when I will be back to Tuscany, but it won’t be soon enough. We have been so fortunate to visit this amazing part of the world and stay in such a unique environment at Villa Collina. If anyone reading these blogs has questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I can also put you in touch with the wonderful staff at Inspirato who can help you put together your full itinerary just as they did for us.