Tuscany is one of those regions in Italy that just has it all.
You have the beautiful nature of the maremma with green fields, vineyards and olives that go as far as the eye can see; beautiful and often remote beaches of the coast side with clear water and soft sand. You have some of the most beautiful Italian city, like Florence, Siena or Pisa with the bigger concentrations of art and culture. Tuscany was forged by artists like Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci and Botticelli, just to mention a few. It has been the cradle of Renaissance and home for Dante. You have many medieval villages in the middle of the countryside or up on the hills, like Monteriggioni.
You will find the best food borne by the fresh ingredients given by the nature and a strong culinary tradition. You will find the best Chianti or Montepulciano or ask for the house wine and you will be happy with your choice. People have the best accent ever and, even if they can get temperamental very easily, they are still the funniest.
I told you Tuscany has it all.
One of the main cities you shouldn’t miss while traveling the region is Siena.
In terms of accommodation, the best thing it to do is to stay outside the city. There are many guesthouses and agriturismi surrounded by nature, are often old restored houses and, if they have a restaurant, they will serve their own products. You can find many options on websites like this: http://www.agriturismo.it/en/farmhouse/tuscany/siena and is defebately something to try.
Siena is one of those medieval cities rich with history and art of which the historic center has been declared UNESCO World Heritage.
The story of Siena started during the etruscan time but the heyday of the city is reached in the beginning of the 1300s. Those are the years in which the city starts taking today’s shape as well with the finalization of Piazza del Campo and the buildings around that.
Piazza del campo is the main square of the city, with its shell shape it is and has been the heart of the city and the location for the famous horse race called palio. The palio takes place twice per year (July the 2 and August 16) and it is a competition between the 17 contrade, which are the districts of the city. Each contrada has a different flag and during the events the whole city becomes an explosion of colours.
Around the square you will find the Torre del Mangia, Palazzo comunale and the Civic Museum. Probably the most popular building in Siena is the Duomo. Built between 1215 and 1263, you can see influences from French Gothic, Romanesque and Classical architecture.
Visiting the Duomo is a unique experience and if you purchase an Opa pass you can visit the Duomo, Battistero, Cripta, Museo dell’Opera and Facciatone. The last one is a panoramic terrace with a view of the city and the countryside around it. The queue to buy tickets can be really long, so I suggest you book your ticket online so you will only need to pick it up from the ticket office and save precious time skipping the queue.
The monuments, churches and museums are many in Siena, from the Basilica di San Domenico to the Pinacoteca Nazionale, but don’t forget to explore the hidden alleys, the smalls shops with local products and especially don’t forget about the food, which is within the best that you can find!
The most typical thing that you have to try is the boar (cinghiale in Italian) and you will find it many ways: steak, stew, ham. My favourite are the pappardelle al cinghiale, which is a specific kind of pasta with boar ragu. They have a special breed of pigs called cinta senese, which is delicious. They do fiorentina, which is the best steak that you can immagine. There is liver pate, pappa al pomodoro, cantucci, which are dry almond biscuits that you normally dip in a strong sweet wine called vin santo.
Remember to try as much cheese and ham as possible: finocchiona (salami with fennel seeds), lardo, capocollo. There is really a lot to try and everything is characterized by simple and fresh products, like in the most of Italy.
If you are looking for a good place to eat I can suggest the Antica Osteria da Divo where the atmosphere is surreal: you will be eating inside a cave with finds from the etruscan time. The locations is excellent as well, just a few steps from the Duomo and of course the food delicious. Pappardelle con ragù di cinghiale e olive taggiasche, risotto with zucchini and basil, fiorentina… you will want to lick the plate, trust me. Good food, good location and a very special setting make the place more expensive but not that much considering what you get.
Another place that I loved, just outside the city, is Il Giuggiolo. This place is on the cheaper side, a bit more easy going, with a super friendly owner and again beautiful, tasty food.
If you are on a very tight budget, just go to a shop that sells typical products, by some bread and ham or salami, and you will still have a superb dining experience.
Those are my few advices to enjoy Siena, I hope you do.