What Contrada is?
Every Sienese lives the life of his Contrada (district), which still plays a civil role in organizing its members' free time. There are seventeen districts in the town of Siena with precise territorial organizations (the marks are visible everywhere in the town) which gather together the citizens of the same neighbourhood. For twelve months of the year the life of the Contrada is in fervour, but during the days before the Palio the atmosphere becomes really explosive.
The names of Contrade are curioius and symbolic;
Terzo di Citta: Aquila, Chiocciola, Onda, Pantera, Selva, Tartuca
Terzo di Camollia: Bruco, Drago, Giraffa, Istrice, Lupa, Oca
Terzo di San Martino: Civetta, Leocorno, Nicchio, Torre, Valdimontone.
Bathed in bright lights and flanked with three beautifully-preserved palazzi with an interesting centerpiece - a sculpture of a stern-looking man (Sallustion Bandini), Piazza Salimbeni is an easy refuge for tired tourists (the hilly centro storico area had long been declared vehicle-free). The well-maintained, more-affluent-than-usual aura of the place is best explained by the fact that Palazzo Salimbeni, the lovely Gothic building at the center and the piazza's namesake, is the headquarters of Siena's flagship bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena.
Framing Palazzo Salimbeni in the center are two fine palazzi - Palazzo Tantucci and Palazzo Spannocchi. The latter is more interesting with 29 carved busts staring down at you - many "embellished" with bird droppings.
Italian food as it's supposed to be!
When we arrived in Siena, it was raining heavily. So no nice sight seeing, the famous square was just a sad grey sight so we decided to have lunch first. My colleagues knew of this restaurant, and what a good decision it was! I don't speak Italian, so I couldn't understand the list of dishes the owner told us. Well, I recognised the word "ravioli" so I decided to have it as a starter. It was delicious! Homemade ravioli filled with green vegetables and cheese. For the main course again we got the owner at our table, reciting the current menu. No idea what he said, but I asked for lamb, which he understood. This was so delicious! Everyone at my table was really happy with their meal. We didn't try desert, as we also wanted to see something of Siena as well!
Piazza del Campo
All the roads in Siena lead to the Campo. Twice a year (July 2 and August 16) the piazza is converted into a hippodrome.
It is not merely a show for the tourists, it is a real contest among the districts of the city, the winner takes home the Palio (an official banner) and becomes a hero. How long has this been going on for? Gee, a mere 700 years or so.
Duomo Santa Maria Assunta
A truly spectacular cathedral in white and black marble, with marble floors in various colours divided in 56 fields depicting sacred scenes. These fields are usually covered to protect the colours, except in September, when they can be admired in their full glory. Furthermore lots of beautiful frescoes and a breathtaking ceiling.