This is Part II of my family’s trip to Tuscany last July. To see Part I, on Cortona and Villa Loggio winery, see my post “Tuscany Part I: Cortona & Villa Loggio”. This post will cover the city of Siena and the town of Montepulciano, both in the province of Siena, and two of Tuscany’s most visited places.
My brother-in-law, who was on our trip with us, is Italian and has always said that Siena is his favorite city in Italy and a must visit. Upon arrival I could see why – famous for its gothic architecture, it is practically unchanged since medieval times. Walking around, it truly did feel like time had stopped in this old world city. Covering the expanse of three hills, Siena is made up of many steep streets, so be prepared for some up and downhill walking. Since it is a city and therefore larger and more to see, it is a bit of a challenge with the kids. But it is still doable, and with some breaks, including Siena’s marvelous gelato shops, the kids did just fine. In fact, they had a great day.
There were two main sites we wanted to make sure to see: the Piazza del Campo and the Duomo. We headed first for the Campo, the center of the city – and I should also mention famous worldwide for its Palio horse race, which is held twice a year during the summer (we weren’t there to see them though). What we did see, however, was a huge central square, filled with people and restaurants all around, buzzing with energy. Built in the 12th century, the Campo is made up of bricks all patterned in nine different sections, representing each member of the medieval government of Nine. It is a beautifully unique, large gathering spot, and the kids ran around for quite a while. We ate lunch at one of the many restaurants surrounding the square – a no name place but good enough- pizza, bruschetta, salad, etc. After a good hour and a half of Campo action, we headed to Siena’s famous and magnificent cathedral, the Duomo.
Just west of the Campo, it is said that the Duomo, completed in the 14th century, is one of the most striking gothic cathedrals in all of Italy. Indeed it is – the façade is made up of multicolor marbles, and the interior, well, it’s stunning. The floors are all comprised of inlaid marble, but the most notable part is the glorious gilded dome. Even the kids were taken aback, and we all stopped to gaze up at it for as long as we could before we had to give our spot up to someone else.
We walked around the cathedral some more, and then around some more outside, before heading back to our car. It was a fun trip, but also hot that day, and with all of the steep streets, the kids were exhausted by the time we left. Regardless, I would still recommend going, as it is one of the more unique cities in Italy, with its gothic and medieval cityscape.
A few days later we decided to plan our day trip to Montepulciano, another medieval town perched high up on a hill at almost 2,000 feet altitude. Famous worldwide for its wine, Vino Nobile, the town is a major producer of both wine and food. Vino Nobile is so popular that many restaurants, bars and shops offer tastings of it. No matter where you wind up to dine, we’ve been told you can’t really go wrong.
We had lunch at an adorable restaurant called Osteria Del Borgo (address: villa Ricci, 5) on the patio looking out over the hills and countryside. The food was amazing. Sounds simple, but my vegetable soup over toasted bread – a signature dish- was crazy good, as was the pasta with truffles. Truffles..say no more. The bruschetta had the freshest of tomatoes on it, and even my girls’ butter pasta was somehow insanely good and they kept asking for more. Afterwards, at the insistence, of the kids, we went to the Museo della Tortura . Yes, a museum about torture. Think torture tools, contraptions, weapons, all used throughout history, and evidently fascinating to the kids. I had no interest so waited in the lobby. Good thing I did because about 5 minutes later my youngest daughter came out red in the face and screaming bloody murder! She did not like what she saw. It was ok in the end, because I took her shopping – one of her favorite past times – and all was well. We strolled the main street of this idyllic town and it was perfect for both of us. When the rest came out of the museum, we walked around, and the town reminded us a lot of the town of Cortona – quaint, charming, with rambling streets and beautiful vistas. Cars aren’t allowed in the center of Montepulciano, so be prepared for lots of walking, but like Cortona, it is small enough that it never seems overwhelming for the kids. They loved cruising around on the narrow, twisty streets, waiting to see what the next corner would bring.
That’s how all of Tuscany felt to us – what is around the next corner? – a beautifully fun place to explore with your kids. Always something new to discover in an incredible setting, it is the perfect place to bring your family for culture, food, history and, always, adventuring.