Carol Forster column: my love for Siena


Siena is a beautiful little city nestled in the hills of Tuscany below Florence.

Although on the tourist trail, it’s probably less frequented than Florence or Rome but nonetheless worthy of the same attentions.

Gorgeous Siena is like entering another era with its ancient towers and buildings, some dating back as far as the 11th century.

I lived here for a year during my degree, part of which was spent residing in an 11th century tower owned by eccentric English aristocrat, Lady R, with a very ‘interesting’ life!

I recall the strange experience of evenings spent walking around cobbled winter streets, surrounded by medieval history ; you felt an eerie sense of long gone times, whilst strolling past ancient facades.

Ghost stories abound here and you can see why; the buildings seem to whisper their secrets as you pass...

The city’s 13th century cathedral is simply breathtaking, with striking white and green-black marble striped effect.

The interior is a sumptuous feast for the eyes with works by both Donatello and Michelangelo. You literally look up to the stars here with its celestial themed ceiling.

Siena is famous for its horse race (The Palio) where different contrade compete for supremacy. For all its traditional splendour, it’s not my favourite thing here, having more empathy for the horses than the pomp and ceremony. I prefer its aesthetic appeal and atmosphere, which is fascinating.

The main piazza – ‘Piazza del Campo’– slopes down to ‘Il Palazzo Pubblico’ housing some important works of art such as ‘La Maesta’ by Simone Martini depicting the Madonna and child enthroned with angels and saints. Here you can also find Pietro Lorenzetti’s frescoes, including ‘The Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government’.

Attached to this impressive building, you’ll see the landmark ‘Torre del Mangia’, a 14th century tower with panoramic views of the city and rolling Tuscan hills beyond.

Living in Siena is surreal – a medieval dream punctuated by simple pleasures such as the most delicious ice-cream for miles. It would probably be unfair to give one example as there are so many delicious venues for ice-cream fanciers.