Visiting in Siena demands…

Come hungry and ready to walk or get home weighing a whole lot more than when you left!

The food is excellent—near the city center or far from it. The only difference is that if you wander a bit from the Piazza del Campo, you are apt to pay less. Overall, though, the prices are reasonable. Order the house wine every time and unless you are a major connoisseur (not us), you will not be disappointed.

There are restaurants that do as the small towns in Italy do and close from 2:00-7:00, so if there is a particular place where you want to eat, make sure you check the times. The only reservations we made were at our hotel (the Athena) and they proved unnecessary, however, this was April, not peak season. You might want to check if reservations are required.

Menus are universally posted outside and are generally in both Italian and English. Although English was not as widely spoken as I expected, we never had any problem communicating. It was fun to talk with one server from Greece and another from England/New Zealand.

Aside from Boar (which I don’t eat) I didn’t see a specialty dish like the Cinque Terre has anchovies, Parma has ham and cheese, Bologna Bolognese sauce. We didn’t have anything that wasn’t wonderful. It was all fresh and tasty. I believe I ate ravioli three times. It’s my favorite pasta—or wait—is tortelloni? I love those huge delicately folded pieces of pasta.

About that pasta

One of the things that always strikes me when eating pasta in Italy versus pasta in Pittsburgh is the lightness of it. We have one favorite truly-palette-pleasing place we go here, Girasole, and I’m honestly not sure they make it quite that light. Pasta can melt in your mouth—what’s outside does not overwhelm what’s inside.

The sauces are clearly made that day with fresh ingredients. We only had one lunch where my plate was smothered in sauce and since Alex’s dish was not, I think that is simply how they serve this dish. Usually, it’s enough just to coat the pasta.

Trattorias, Ristorantes, Pizzerias, Osterias, and Enotecas.

The ambiance of places ranges from quiet, to tourist (we avoid eating around the Piazza del Campo, despite the enjoyable view), to romantic (ViVace’s terrace is the best), to casual local. A favorite snack we had was at Cafe Ristorante 115 on the via Dei Rossi. We stopped in after touring San Francesco and shared a water, one glass of wine and Bruschetta. Brow-chet-ah. Not the Americanized: Broo-shet-ah. The proprietor spoke some English and was delightful and fun, explaining the arancini is a southern Italy dish and arancia means orange! Mid-afternoon, we were the only patrons of this dark, very British-seeming pub, and relaxed and people-watched the busy street outside.

The important thing to remember is to slow down, take your time, savor each bite—savor the company around you. Italy is the place where living in the moment is in the culture’s DNA, soak some of that in and try to take it home with you. We Americans really need more of that.

When you go, make sure to take your appetite!


Read: Italian Foods