After Florence, we drove southeast for a little over an hour to Siena, the medieval town. When we arrived in Siena, we had to park the car well outside the city due to the ZTL (see the Sorrento post for info on the ZTL). We dropped the car off at the car park and the owner drove us into the city centre where our hotel was located.
Italian architecture dreams fulfilled
Being born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, I’ve seen lots of Italian architecture and design. The modern stuff is beautiful and aligns with what we saw in Italy, but the traditional Italian architecture in Canada feels rather contrived. One of the goals I had when visiting Italy was to stay in a historic building with real Italian architecture and design with all that entails.
When we pulled up at the unassuming entrance to the Relais degli Angeli, we thought this was not going to meet our expectations of experiencing traditional Italian architecture. Well, never judge a book by its cover! The hotel turned out to be stunning and exactly what we had wanted. Part of it was because we booked the Diamanté room and part because this building was a castle at one point in the past.
It’s a very small hotel with only a few rooms with a front desk that feels more like a personal concierge service than a typical hotel front desk. The hotel turned out to be the perfect place to stay in Tuscany. We loved every aspect of it, the architecture, design, location, breakfast spread, service, and the feeling of effortless and unassuming luxury.
All of the over-the-top Italian architecture and design in Vancouver was quickly forgiven when being able to experience staying in an authentic historic building in Italy. Throughout Siena, we would experience this delicate balance between opulence, beauty and practicality.
Siena is more than it first appears
As we walked out of our hotel and onto one of the many narrow alleys in Siena, our first impressions were of a quiet and quaint town, a place to relax and unwind with few people around. Well, that lasted about 10 minutes because as we rounded the corner, we started to see more and more people, and then eventually saw a storefront that looked familiar.
It was a Fendi store! As we entered the main road, it became apparent that Siena was a lot more active than we thought. The shopping street has most of the major Italian brands and lots of local boutique stores, including clothing, leather goods, antiques, and loads of wonderful restaurants.
This actually turned out to be a positive because it allowed us to enjoy quiet time when we wanted, and the ability to go out to shop, dine and drink when we felt like it. We really enjoyed Siena and used it as a launch pad for our drives around Tuscany, which will be the topic of the next post.
Like the other cities we visited in Italy, the food was generally very good everywhere, from small stand up pizza places, through to formal fine dining restaurants. Two restaurants that we really enjoyed were Mugolone for its food, and Osteria da Divo for the food and what is perhaps one of the most unique and beautiful interiors of any restaurant in the world.
We loved Siena and would love to go back there again. There are a number of beautiful and unique wineries and medieval towns within driving distance of Siena which we explored over a few days, which I’ll cover in the next post. I’d highly recommend staying in Siena, and especially if you can get the Diamanté suite at the Relais degli Angeli.
Next stop is Tuscany
Next up on our trip will be a few days spent driving around Tuscany with Siena as our base.