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Europe Week Ten: Tuscany + Siena

Photo by Tom Rankin.

Photo by Tom Rankin.

The first post in my series of very late blog posts from Europe. 

A few weeks after our class trip down South, we wandered up North, into Tuscany and the Veneto. It was the beginning of November, and fall was officially upon us. Vibrant golden leaves and nostalgic breezes welcomed us everywhere we went. Our first day in Tuscany, we visited the small towns of Chiusi, Pienza, Bagno Vignoni, and San Quirico d'Orcia. Driving through the most panoramic road in Italy, Val D'Orcia, was like moving through an oil painting. At one point, we pulled over on the side of the road and frolicked on the endless hills. Tuscany is too beautiful for words. 

The beautiful wine country, vineyards, fall colors and trees along windy roads, thermal baths, and elderly people...the small towns in Tuscany were such a pleasure to experience. We drove into Siena that night and enjoyed one of the best meals I've had in Europe. Wild boar sausage is the tastiest, most amazing thing in the world, and the wine kept us warm on the walk back to our hotel.

SIENA

I woke up to sun illuminating the neighboring brick buildings fiery red.  Siena's famous bricks covered just about every building in sight. We left our hotel and made our way around the windy roads to meet with our professor for a walk around town. The tourists were few and the fall foliage was gorgeous. The hilly landscape was mildly difficult to climb, but they offered magnificent views of the countryside. What I love most is the charm of a medieval town without the crowds. The countryside connects to the town so flawlessly, bringing gardens within city walls. 

The Piazza del Campo is the big historic center piazza in Siena. It's sloped towards Palazzo Pubblico and the tower, and welcoming to everyone who comes to sit down and enjoy the outdoors. It's well-maintained, free of cars, and also home to Palio, a biannual horse race in Siena. The Palio divides Siena into contradas, competing districts within the city. Medieval flags and animal mascots for each of these contradas are found throughout Siena, all part of an old, and very charming, sports rivalry.

The weather that day was absolutely perfect. Throughout the day, the sun stayed low in the sky and illuminated the terra cotta buildings with fiery intensity.  We walked to a grassy hillside to lay down and enjoy the view out into the countryside. It was one of those places you could sit at for hours, under the Tuscan sun. There's nothing like it.