Upon our arrival to Siena, we were greeted by our “caterpillar” guide who quickly made us realize “Toto we’re not in Florence anymore”. A medieval, mountain town made up of 17 guilds each represented by its own animal was a serious change from the urban life of Florence. The town has a hunger games esque horse race between the districts twice per year in the main piazza. The jockeys try to gain an edge over rival district’s jockeys by keeping the jockey out too late the night before or even pushing them off the horse during the race. The caveat to the rules is only the horse has to finish the race, no matter if the jockey is injured or thrown off. The winning district receives a hand painted banner to hang in their museum. If you thought this town was big because of the number of districts and distinctness of each, think again. the hilly city is surrounded by only 4 miles of fortification wall.Despite the size of the town, per usual to most cities we visit, Siena stakes claim to a grand Duomo. The Duomo is a hodgepodge of architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Renaissance to Islamic. The Sienese use this Duomo as a place to celebrate Mary, mother of Jesus.
The second day in Siena, we headed out to back country for some singing and spirits. The trek through Tuscany to the San Antimo monastery was incredible. We sat in the chapel to hear the monks sing a capella verses during the service. Over the beautiful countryside, we had a lunch/wine tasting at the Poggio Rubino vineyard to try a 2010, 2008, and 2006 reserve rosso di montalcino. Bellies full, we ventured back down the mountain to our charming little Siena with an early wake-up call for Milan!