On to my favorite city of our trip! After the bridges of Venice and the hustle and bustle of Florence, it was nice to stay in Siena. We took the train from Florence to Siena, and it was really quick – only about an hour and a half away.
Siena is much smaller than Florence, with a population of about 50,000 people. We stayed at the Hotel Athena, a really lovely hotel with a great rooftop bar. Again, the location was really perfect!
The focal point of the city is the Piazza del Campo, about a 15 minute walk from where we were staying. Once we got settled into our hotel, we walked down to the Campo for some lunch. We found a great little place to have a bite, Al Mangia, were seated, and then completely ignored by our server. I don’t know if it was because they were short staffed or what, but after waiting for quite a while we decided to just leave, and that is when she came over to get our order. And I’m so glad we stayed! Even though we were eating a somewhat light lunch, Susan order the most delicious pasta (which looked like a pouch) stuffed with gorgonzola in a butter sauce. It was divine and I dream about it – it was that good!
The whole reason we were eating light for lunch is because we had booked a traditional dinner in a local home for that evening. Our hostess was Patrizia, and she didn’t speak English, so her best friend Jeanette, who was originally from Canada, was our interpreter. They were so cute together! And Jeanette has a story like many English-speaking people we met – they came to Italy either during or right after college, and never left. Jeanette has been in Italy for 40 years.
Patrizia first gave us a class in traditional pasta making. She made it seem so simple and like something I could actually do.
After that was our meal. We started off with appetizers of bruschetta with Italian meats and cheeses. We then moved on to the actual dinner, with our starter being Pappa al Pomodoro (Tuscan bread soup). This soup can be served either warm or cold – and she served it cold to us. It was really good and fresh 😋
Our second dish was Sugo Pinto (Pasta with “Fake” Sauce). This is basically a meat sauce without the meat, since in the past most people could not afford the meat to put into the sauce. Really good and filling!
Our meat course was a pork loin that had been braised in white wine and herbs, then chilled overnight. It was very tender and good. And the potatoes! Have I mentioned their roast potatoes yet? They are to DIE FOR! And Patrizia served some as a side – I was in heaven!
We ended the meal with homemade biscotti and Vin Santo. And Patrizia shared her homemade limoncello with us – Salute!
We were so happy that Patrizia had opened her home and made us feel so welcomed- we felt like old friends once the meal was done. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me.
The next day was our all-day Tuscany wine tour of the Montalcino wine region, home to the delicious Brunello di Montalcino. Franco Fadda was our tour guide, and I highly recommend him for any Tuscany wine tours – he was fantastic!
Franco picked us up at our hotel a little after 9:00 am to start our wine adventure. Our first stop was at La Fornace, a family owned and run winery. Brother and sister Fabio and Laura do everything – amazing wines and hospitality!
Our next stop was Collemattoni Winery, slightly bigger production that La Furnace but still small. We had some delicious wines and a surprisingly scrumptious rosè.
Franco took us to lunch at Trattoria Il Pozzo in Sant’Angelo – the food and wine were outstanding!
Our last winery of the day was Villa I Cipressi, another small, family-run winery. They are also known for their honey. The wine again was outstanding, and the host was very nice (looking 😜)!
On the way back to our hotel Franco took us to Bagno Vignoni, a village in Tuscany with thermal hot springs. I think I could spend a couple of days here for sure!
Franco had us for over 10 hours that day, and we saw a lot. Tuscany is just gorgeous, and the people who are in the wine business are doing what they love, but we all experience the same issues – whether we live in the U.S. or Italy. It was great to spend the day with Franco and his friends 😊
Our last day in Siena and we were going to do what Susan loves the most – roaming around the town. But first we wanted to go see the gothic Siena Cathedral. I love churches – not as much as Susan 😄 – but I love the symmetry, art, and opulence. This church did not disappoint! There are beautiful mosaics on the floor, and many art pieces from the Italian Renaissance masters.
Afterwards we had lunch at Antica Osteria Da Divo which is located near the Cathedral. The restaurant is basically under the Cathedral from what I understand, and the halls and caves date from the Middle Ages to the Etruscan Period – crazy! The food was outstanding (actually all the food in Italy has been outstanding!), and the ambience is one I will never forget.
Once we had filled our stomachs, Susan went “roaming” and Tim, Sarah, and I went to the Piazza del Campo, where a chocolate fair had been set up all week. We walked through the stalls, had some hot chocolate and truffles, and was in heaven!
For dinner that night Susan and I both suggested Osteria Nonna Gina – it was a cute restaurant located really close to the Hotel Athena that we had walked by several times. The menu was hand-written in Italian, but thank goodness Susan could interpret most of it for us. The meal was outstanding – and cheap! We shared two appetizers, each got an entree, and had a bottle of wine for 80 Euros – you can’t beat that!
We took the bus to Rome the next day – but I will never forget Siena and hope to return there many times. Ciao for now!