Here I go again with Siena. On the first day I spent some time with Martina one of the tourist guides of Guide FederAgit – Confesercenti and she took me to see some very lovely and off-the-beaten path areas in Siena center. Here 5 places and stories I really loved.
Siena off-the-beaten paths
- Vicolo degli orafi – when you enter this tiny and shady street is like going back directly to the Middle Ages. This used to be the pilgrims’ way inside the heart of Siena and even though today is a cul du sac it should be open on both sides. It used to be the street of goldsmiths as the name orafi suggests.
- Valle Verde – when Siena was enclosed in its massive walls decided to have green areas dedicated to agriculture. This was really clever because in case of attack the city would have been able to survive by producing its own food. Nowadays we can still spot a large green area dedicated to vegetables gardens and small farms. The Valle Verde is also crossed by the only straight street in Siena center that conducts to Orto de’ Pecci.
- Orto de’ Pecci – literally the “Pecci vegetable garden” is a tiny farm and vegetable garden with goats, geese, donkeys and chickens walking around. It’s the perfect place for some rest and some time with your children. Inside the garden there is also La Proposta restaurant, where you can taste vegetables from the garden and good local food. The Orto de’ Pecci used to be the garden and farmyard of Siena Mental Hospital, located just on top of the hill. Nowadays it’s managed by a social cooperative helping people with mental illness.
- Siena Mental Hospital area – in Italian manicomio, is not open to the public but some areas are open and deserves a visit. It’s located near Porta Romana in the area of the former convent of San Niccolò and you can walk through the old streets of the hospital, that was a city in the city of Siena. I loved the old sings of the shops like the shoemaker, still hanging outside, and the more contemporary graffiti on the walls.
- Santa Maria dei Servi Church – it’s one of the few Renaissance styled churches in Siena. Located inside the contrada of Valdimontone it preserves the famous Madonna del Bordone, i.e. Madonna of the pilgrims’ staff. This peculiar pane painting was done in 1261 by Coppo di Marcovaldo. He was a Florentine prisoner from the important Battle of Montaperti (1260) when the Republic of Siena won over the Republic of Florence (important event for the Sienese people and you’ll hear about it lots of times). He painted the Madonna as ransom for his freedom. Actually apart from being a venerated Sienese Madonna painted by a Florentine, it also represents an important work of art.
Of course the five points listed above are just my favorite out of the many visited with Martina. She is tour guide and together with 7 others is part of the FederAgit Guides in Siena. They organize guided tours to discover the real Siena that goes beyond the Palio. Every guided tour has a different theme and let you discover the thousands colors of the city together with its stories, legends and people.
During Summer from July to September they organize the “Scoperte del Giovedì“, i.e. Thursday Discoveries, and every Thursday you can join them into guided English tours to discover a new part of the city for only 8€ per person. During Fall and Winter they generally organize Sunday tours in and outside the city to discover the surroundings of Siena. What I liked is the passion they put in their tours, together with a deep knowledge of their city. Every tour is prepared after extensive researches in the city’s archives to dig out all its secrets.