Travel to Siena, Tuscany in Italy With a Small Dog
If what you are looking for are medieval alleys and a town seeped in history then Siena is the place for you. Travel to Siena with a small dog is SO worth it.
We left Florence in the morning and arrived less than two hours later at the train station at the bottom of the hill upon which Siena is built. This is an important distinction since it does mean that there is a good 20 min walk up the hill to get to the top where the road leads to the old town.
Luckily there are escalators to bring you to the top if you are not able to walk up yourself. Small dogs must be carried on these. Large dogs may not use them and must use the stairs.
When you arrive at the top, there is no sign to indicate where to go to reach the Piazza del Campo – the center square around which the town is built. You must turn left and eventually you will find signs that mark the way. Feel free to ask the locals for directions you can tell they are use to it.
Piazza del Campo: The buildings around the square are a symbol of the cities golden age, when the rich took on a major civic program and actually cared for those less fortunate. Each of the nine “slices of pie” of the square was a symbol for the council of nine – those that were responsible for the government of the medieval city. At the apex of the slices you find the Palazzo Pubblico – not a palace at all but the city hall. It still is to this day and the staterooms are open for visitors but not open to dogs. The bell tower is the second highest in Italy at 102 meters (330 feet). There are 505 steps to the top where you are greeted by an amazing view of Tuscany.
On July 2nd there is a huge festival in the square. A bareback horse race; we saw some photos of it and it looks like a lot of crazy fun with lots of heavy pageantry and costumes and food and wine. Funny enough the race is only about 90 seconds long! Thousands cram the piazza and watch. If you want to be there for this you have to book a room years in advance we were told.
But on with our own adventure!
After having some lunch on the piazza, we made our way to the beautiful Fonte Gaia. This public fountain has been providing fresh drinking water since the 14th century. We all had a sip, even me! The fountain is stunning, carved by a master named Jacopo della Quercia in 1409-19. The one there now is a copy, the original removed to protect it from the elements. The statues are beautiful. You will find Adam and Eve, the Madonna and Child and all the Virtues. My favourite thing was the statues of dogs spouting water from their mouths from which the pigeons drank! That would not happen in real life! The fountain is peaceful and people are naturally drawn to it.
With your back to Fonte Gaia – right across from it – to the right of the Torre del Mangia (the bell tower) is what we found to be the best gelato during our entire trip. The Dark Chocolate Truffle was so good – Mom almost went back for seconds. The Rum raisin was also divine and everyone loved what he or she had. We cannot remember the name of this gelateria but do not miss it!
We then took to the streets. The shopping is very good, the streets lovely as they wind and climb up and down and you quickly fall in love with the feel of this old town. Make sure you have comfortable shoes. This is no time for vanity – leave the high heels in the suitcase.
Siena Duomo: Frankly this was the most impressive building we saw on our trip. The exterior is spectacular, and at the center of the central point you will find a sun symbol. This was used in an attempt to end bloodshed from the rivalry of all the clans with all their own banner. Uniting everyone under the “sun” a symbol of the rising Christ. I am not sure it worked but … at least they tried.
Near the unfinished nave you will find the kiosks that sell the tickets to allow you in the Duomo and other parts. With only a few hours available to us, the bipeds chose to just visit the Duomo and skip the museum and the climb to the top of the unfinished walls.
I was snuck inside. Yep you read correctly!! Dogs are NOT allowed in the Duomo (or any place of worship)… but I am small, quiet and know when to hide in my sling. I was snuck in. All I can say is … prepare to have your mind blown away.
The word the bipeds kept using was “exquisite”. From the black and white marble pillars, to the intricate and stunning inlaid marble floors, to the pulpit panels that alone warrant the entry … but nothing … nothing prepares you for the cheer magnificence of the Piccolomini Library. The 1509 frescoes are achingly beautiful and haunting and the collection of ancient, original (and first) music manuscripts with the gold leaf and ornate décor will have you standing in awe.
After a final moment in the Duomo … we exited and walked back to the side where we had originally entered and bought tickets. An accordion musician was playing the most moving music… but we walked on and chose to loose ourselves a little longer in the old streets before our final walk back to the train station.
In review: A MUST SEE. Siena will not disappoint! It is dog friendly, but do remember that you may need to take turns for things such as museums and churches where sadly dogs are not allowed. We enjoyed it so much we admitted that spending 2 days there would have been lovely!