Around Porta Tufi . . .

What was last time ? Orto Botanico of course!

So here is such a small suggestion from my side. If you are there, you shouldn’t miss occasion to check area around Porta Tufi that is located on Strada dei Tufi. There is so beautiful! Especially in Orti dei Tolomei.

Porta Tufi was built in 1325-1326 with the last walls and is attributed to Agnolo di Ventura. Brick, has an embattled cornice hanging arches resting on Guelph and three round-arched openings.

I like so much this place, so green and so calm. And what is more . . . with such priceless views!

Now let me show below you with big pleasure some photos from today’s walk.

Siena è così bella ! 🙂

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Orto Botanico dell’Università di Siena

DSC03011Maybe after sightseeing all attractions in Siena that are mostly crowded, you will need small rest in peaceful place. Such a place I can recommend you with pleasure! That will be for sure our Orto Botanico – a botanical garden that is opened daily without charge (from Monday to Friday from 08.00 to 15.00; on Saturday from 08.00 to 12.30; closed on Sunday).

It is situated within the medieval walls of the city, making it a border to the south, more precisely in the side of the valley of S. Augustine.
This whole place in slope, made of winding paths , small pools , rock caves and a spongy medieval source, is an oasis of peace and tranquility.

The Botanical Museum of the Department of Life Sciences was established in 2007, according to the Statute of the Department of Environmental Sciences “G. Sarfatti “and includes: Herbarium and Botanical Garden, founded in 1856.
However it’s history dating back to 1588 when the University of Siena began to raise medicinal herbs. In 1856 the garden moved to its present location, that is Via P. A. Mattioli, 4.

Just here you will find rectangular flower beds, along with old specimens of exotic and local plants. A farm area grows fruit, olive trees and vines of the main Chianti grapes.
Also here are exposed indigenous and exotic plants for educational, informational and scientific.
To help the visitor to the recognition of plants accommodated is facilitated by special labels – white and yellow for the native plants to exotic ones – who bear the scientific name and common name and provide any information about the family to which they belong and the areal distribution .

If you reach this place you will ascertain how priceless is there. And how much it can offer you! To get some rest, relax and forget about reality. You will be for sure fascinated with the beautiful views of Tuscany area. And what is more . . . you will be lucky because separated from daily rush and crowd. Here almost no people! Why is like that . . . maybe because local people are at work at this time and tourists don’t know about it !
Ok, so maybe a small break in Orto Botanico? 🙂 Just only look below. . .

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Loggia della Mercanzia


As I mentioned in another post ( all roads in Siena lead to Piazza del Campo. And for sure also your when you are here and follow via Banchi di Sopra or via Banchi di Sotto. The second one is a shorter route than the other, but has a special charm. That is because it surrounds part of the’ shell ‘of the Piazza del Campo. And this you can see from the small city alleys. Just here on the back of Piazza del Campo, you will find an elegant Loggia della Mercanzia, another symbol of the beauty of Siena (now it is a seat of del Circolo degli Uniti). This interesting place was designed by Sano di Matteo and built between 1417 and 1428.

The lodge consists of three arches. Certainly will attract your attention five statues placed here in the middle of the fifteenth century: S. Savino Federighi, S. Peter Vecchietta, S. Ansano, S. Victor, S. Paul Vecchietta.

Under the loggia you should note the two beautiful pallets: one, Federighi, and the other of Urban da Cortona. They are clearly visible in both secular scenes (beautiful Hercules and Omphale forming the arms of the right and Sphinxes with the same function in the left).You can’t also miss frescoes that adorn this masterpiece (by Pastorino of Pastorini and Lorenzo Brazzi).

What is more The Circolo degli is now hosted nalle Logge is the oldest exclusive club of noble Italian history and perhaps the EU. It was founded November 13, 1657.

So I want to wish you a nice sightseeing as always. However today I will not write you don’t miss this place because I am sure you will not miss when you will be going to spend some time in the heart of Siena – on Piazza del Campo!

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Today in another way . . . Dante Alighieri Siena !

At the end of December wrote to me Christine Maher ( She has been last summer in Siena for 3 weeks to study Italian at Dante Alighieri. About her memories from that time she wrote on her blog. In her mail she asked me to write here ( a reviewing what it is like to travel in Tuscany (specifically in Siena) and study Italian.  Couldn’t answer ”no” of course 🙂 So  below I want to publish Christine Maher’s photos and  text.

”A Review of Scuola Dante Alighieri in Siena 

IMG_0658Looking to take a trip to Italy? Have you always wanted to learn Italian? Consider going to language school. Siena is an excellent place to study. It is small enough to be walker friendly yet large enough to have all the amenities of a major metropolitan area. Siena offers visitors the quintessential Tuscan “la bella vita.” At the same time, it is home to many universities which makes it quite a student-friendly and contemporary town. Last summer I spent 3 weeks studying intensive Italian at Siena’s Dante Alighieri School.

I am an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher in Philadelphia. I chose to go to Italy for 2 main reasons: to improve my Italian and to better understand what it is like to be a second language learner. Choosing a language school was a daunting task. Taking a long trip overseas is a big deal. It’s not someone I could afford to do every year so I wanted to make the most of it. Having more time meant I had to stretch my budget further. Doing a google search I discovered there are literally thousands of options in every city or town in Italy. Dante Alighieri received great reviews online as well as personal recommendations by my teachers at the America Italy Society in Philadelphia.

After going through the planning process and the experience, I have 5 reasons why language school in Siena, particularly Dante Alighieri could be a great travel option.

IMG_06531) It’s surprisingly budget friendly

The price of language schools can vary wildly. One week at Dante Alighieri starts at 165 Euros for 15 hours a week (roughly $225) but I have seen prices twice or even three times that amount at other schools. As for living arrangements, there are several options and the 2 most popular are apartments (private or shared), or a stay with a host family. I had my own private room in an apartment I shared with one other Italian university student for 20 Euros a night (about $27.00). For roughly the price of a nightly stay at a hostel I had my own bedroom, bathroom and shared kitchen.

For 3 weeks of language school plus 3 weeks in an apartment I spent 960 Euros (I took the 20 hour a week intensive courses so they were 180 Euros). (about $1,300).

A 10 day tour to Europe is normally anywhere from 2,200 to 3,000. I spent the same amount of money for 3 weeks of classes, my flight and the apartment.

2) It’s easy to make friends

Just like a group tour, studying at a language school gives you a built in circle of friends. People who go to language school come from many different continents, a wide variety of age groups, and have different reasons for learning Italian. Some are there just because they love the language. Others are there because their company sent them for work purposes. Whatever the reason, everyone shares a love of the culture and language.

3)It gives you some structure but also plenty of freedom

In language school your mornings are occupied by classes and if you want to get the most out of your time studying, you have to spend time doing homework. If you love Italian the time flies because the classes are enjoyable. Homework can be completed in a bar drinking your favorite espresso beverage or at the school lounge. Spend your afternoons and evenings exploring museums, watching movies under the stars, or having drinks or dinner with your classmates.

On the weekends there are plenty of places to visit via bus or train like Rome, Florence, Perugia, Assisi or Pisa, and countless hill towns within a few hours. If you want to opt out of crowded cities there are busses to the beach or vineyards for wine tasting.

4) ”Non sono una turista, sono una studentessa” 

You get to live like a local in an apartment or a home stay which means you get to really experience living in a place (not just visiting).

At Dante Alighieri, the teachers encourage you to practice your Italian by telling the locals, “Non sono una turista, sono una studentessa.” (I am not a tourist, I am a student). Siena is full of tourists and the locals are used to speaking English to cater to an American crowd (or as several admitted, because they enjoy practicing English.) The thing is, going to language school allows you to be more than a tourist. You are a resident looking for an authentic experience who can converse with the locals. Give it just a week and the bar tender will know how you like your coffee, the pizza guy will enjoy your daily chats about foreign politics, and you will be asked directions by tourists in Italian. You can shop for local food, cook your own meals and save money by not having to eat out. Your Italian will improve rapidly because you will be getting the balance of structured class instruction with the freedom to use your Italian in a natural environment.

5) Dante Alighieri is a great school!

Since I am a second language teacher, I know about what makes a language class work. At Dante Alighieri the teachers take a very interactive approach. They are great at explaining new concepts while allowing the students many opportunities to read, write, listen and speak. The teachers are professional, encouraging, and always well-prepared. The lessons are fun and there is plenty of variety. The school sponsors plenty of extra events outside of class like wine tastings, movies and lectures. They are free or low cost. The building is beautiful and centrally located with colorful, clean rooms and just a 5 minute walk from the Piazza Il Campo.IMG_0821 (1)

As always there are possible Drawbacks.

1) You certainly can come to Dante Alighieri (or any language school) with no prior experience in the language you are studying. This is probably not the best use of your time however, unless you can spend at least 6 weeks there. That way you will really feel like you have made progress and reach a new level. If you would like to study a language in another country and you only have a couple of weeks, you should probably have a basic knowledge of the language before you arrive.

2) Most people can’t take more than 1 or 2 consecutive vacation weeks. Flights are expensive making it difficult to take the trip often. If your time is limited you might want to see as many places as possible. Following the same morning schedule may not be for you


If you are excited by the idea of studying Italian in Italy, you will probably enjoy language school. If you want to stay in an ideal city that is not too large yet has plenty of opportunities for culture and cuisine, Siena is a great place. Scuola Dante Alighieri will provide you a wonderful learning experience.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact Christine at cam2540@gmail. Also here is the link for Scuola Dante Alighieri:

Happy Language Learning!”

Footsteps of St. Catherine . . .

When I want to show you my city . . . it is impossible not to mention about St Catherine that the monument is located at the foot of Fortezza Medicea. She was born (on 25 March 1347) and lived in Siena. The house where Catherine grew up is still in existence. About her life and her vision of Christ you can read everywhere. Here I want to tell you about places that are connected with her. St Catherine died in Rome, on 29 April 1380, at the age of thirty-three. Till this day her Sarcophagus you will find in the Basilica of Santa Maria above Minerva in Rome. St Catherine was canonized on 29 June 1461 by Pope Pius II.

Coming back to Siena . . . for sure the most important (if you consider St Catherine) is The Basilica of San Domenico (also known as Basilica Cateriniana). This stately and unique church that represent gothic style contains several relics of St. Catherine. Here is located her head that was inserted in a gilt bust of bronze (St. Catherine Chapel). Also here you will find her thumb like also some items related to her life.

A few steps further from Basilica is House of St. Catherine of Siena that was transformed in 1466 into a sanctuary. And here some precious works, documents and records of the saint.

Attention for sure draws Oratorio del Crocefisso and the wooden Crucifix that was brought to Siena in 1565. It is believed that from this Crucifix the saint have received the stigmata in the Church of Santa Cristina in Pisa, in 1375.

Inside the Basilica of San Domenico like also the House of St. Catherine of Siena (entrance is free) you can’t take pictures. However maybe it is better because you can discover it alone! It is for sure more exciting! Let me show you only outside ! :). At the end I want to mention that inevitable is walk the streets of beautiful Contrada dell’Oca (the winner of Palio in July 2013). You will be fascinated with views all around! Trust me! The only problem. . .or maybe a pleasure you will have to climb a bit from time to time ! But absolutely it is worth it!!

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Great masterpiece . . .Il GRANDE Duomo!

For me it is definitely next to The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence and la Sagrada Família in Barcelona, the most precious work of art that I saw ever. The only thing that comes to your mind, when you stand in front of Siena’s Cathedral is delight.

This architectural masterpiece largely built in the years 1215-1264 and is dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. One of the creators of this spectacular building was Italian sculptor Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni designed the miraculous facade.

Siena’s Cathedral that represents medieval style has the form of a Latin cross with a slightly projecting transept, a dome and a bell tower. Predominant colors are white and black – symbolic colors of Siena (black and white horses of Senius and Aschius – legendary city’s founders).

Certainly main attention draws the facade that according to me makes very unique impression. It is absolutely impossible to stop staring at it. And thoughts can break away from reality for a while.

The facade consists of four parts  (west, east, north, and south). The most magnificent is decisively west part with three portals and the main entrance to Cathedral.

If you decide to enter inside you will be also delighted. The beautiful floor of the Cathedral is made of strips of white and black marble that makes an admirable view. Can you imagine that about forty artists made their contribution in the work of this masterpiece?! With reference to the words of Giorgio Vasari (an Italian painter, architect, writer) floor of the Siena’s Cathedral is “the most beautiful, largest and most magnificent floor that ever was made”. I can only confirm these words. The most important monuments inside is certainly a marble pulpit by Nicola Pisano.

Unfortunately you have to pay for entrance. But trust me it is worth because Cathedral’s inside is priceless.  I saw it many times. But for sure unforgettable will always be for me my entrance on 16th August 2013 after Condrada dell’Onda victory in Palio. What an amazing memory!!

You have also the possibility to see the baptistery that is located underneath the eastern bays of the choir of the Cathedral. Prices and opening hours you can find below

Since 15th July 2013 till 6th January 2014 you can also enter Complex of Santa Maria della Scala – Piazza Duomo to see Steve McCurry’s exhibition “Viaggio interno all’Uomo”(

And at the end . . . certainly very interesting is historical fact that in 1339 began work of building a new nave. The plan was to transform the Cathedral into the transept. Thanks to this Siena’s Cathedral could be the largest Christian church in the world.  But unfortunately epidemic of bubonic plague dashed the plan. At present in the unfinished walls of the new nave is the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana.

For me Siena’s Cathedral  is a real treasure. It is inconceivable to skip it! Just only look . . .  

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Motorino !

Italy . . . there are many Italian characteristics  features . . . (no I don’t want to write about pasta or pizza today). For sure one of them is a scooter – means of transport very popular also here in Siena. All around you can hear and see it! Local people are choosing scooter instead of car as well as (like our friends) even when they have 2 cars they buy also a scooter. You will ask why?

Reasons can be more . . . but for sure it’s faster and cheaper possibility to get to work, school etc. And as I can notice every second weekend a scooter is the best means of transport to get to stadium and participate in soccer match. Just only think, you can avoid traffic jam, you can always find a place to park and immediately life becomes easier . . .

So if you are here or anywhere in Italy, stay alert . . . because scooters are everywhere! Just look below!

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Ogni mercoledi. . . . !

I know that today is Saturday, but why not something about another day . . .

Every time when I enter history center of Siena and I see people with full bags, it means only one thing . . . it’s Wednesday !

Every Wednesday (all year round) we have here . . .  il MERCATO (a market). The thing adored by local people (of course nothing can compete with Palio).  It takes place underlying my favorite Fortezza Medicea. So as you can easy guess I am there very often. Markets are very popular in Tuscany. Of course I don’t want to undermine the uniqueness of leather market in Florence that I highly recommend to you. But there you are able to find only leather products.

On the other hand market in Siena gives you an opportunity to buy everything what you need. Because it’s a genuine market as well as the one of  the largest in Tuscany! You can find here totally everything inter alia fruits, vegetables, kitchen stuff, bedclothes, flowers, animals, and a lots of clothes (not exactly in my style). For me il mercato is a right place where I always find beautiful flowers, good local food and a place where I found our canary.

Only here time chasing deals, you can bargain with the seller and take the opportunity to buy something in real good price. Certainly you will notice that for local people il mercato is a great occasion of course for shopping but also for. . . spontaneous meeting, chat and gossip with friends.

So when you have a chance to be in Siena on Wednesday between 7 am and 2 pm you can’t forget about il mercato . . . absolutely you can’t!

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All roads in Siena lead . . .

The answer can be only one. . . to Piazza del Campo! It is the main public area of the  history center. The heart of  Siena, that is located at the junction of three hills. For me the most glamorous square that I have ever seen.

Here we can’t avoid a bit of history I guess. You should know, that history center of Siena is embodiment of a medieval city. The city of Siena was built around Piazza del Campo – that developed before the thirteenth century.  Until 1270, the space of the future square was used for fairs and markets. Just precisely here population of Siena was gathering to attend events, tournaments and races. And like this is till today . . .Piazza del Campo is a stage of the most important citizens’ events and well-known all over the world PALIO of Siena (that takes place twice a year, on the 2nd July and on the 16th August).

Surely immediately you will notice the characteristic shape. Piazza del Campo has shell shape. The question is why . . . To learn the answer we have to move back to history. Such a shape was necessary to protect city in case of flood.

The style of buildings is another characteristic feature. Houses and palaces follow one another in rows along the main streets. That creates an unique urban space. The paving is made of red bricks. It all makes fabulous impression, like a fairy tale.

Certainly stands out the building of the Palazzo Pubblico (the seat of the communal government) and it’s gothic style of triple-arched windows. Inside in Museo Civico ( you can admire precious frescoes. Ticket costs 8EUR  (without booking), 7,50 EUR (with booking).

There you have also a chance to enter Torre la Mangia ( Ticket costs 8 EUR. But if you decide to see Museo Civico and Torre la Mangia you will pay 13 EUR. The height of the tower is 87 meters and this you have to overcome on foot.

For sure, when you are on Piazza del Campo your attention will draw a masterpiece of 1419 by Jacopo della Quercia – the Fonte Gaia (“Fountain of Joy”). The fountain was built as an endpoint of the system of conduits bringing water to the city’s centre.  The fountain has a shape of a rectangular basin that is adorned on three sides with many bas-reliefs with the Madonna surrounded by the Classical and the Christian Virtues.

All around you can enjoy your meal and drink in one of the many restaurants. But I personally recommend you . . . sit on the paving, relax and admire the fabulous view.

And at the end one very important information. . .The historic center of Siena, in 1995, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

So now look below . . . and then come to visit this so special and picturesque place to ascertain that all roads in Siena lead to Piazza del Campo . . . at any time.

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