I’m combining these two places (Siena and Villa d’Este) together because they were both quick day trips, and we only spent a few hours at each place, but they still deserve their moment to shine on the blog.
Before heading out to Siena, we ate lunch at a restaurant in Florence called Osteria Santo Spirito and both got gnocchi (their most popular dish) and it was beyond delicious. And they left us some cherries with the bill which was nice. Highly recommend! On the way to this restaurant, Vicki was walking really fast, and I fell behind because I was taking pictures. As I was trying to catch up, an Italian woman looked a bit lost and then saw me and went “Ah! Buongiorno!” She walked over to me and asked me a question, but I truly have no idea what she said. I tried to explain that I don’t speak Italian and said sorry–she looked disappointed and we went our separate ways.
Next, we took a train to Siena which seemed like a more modern city of Tuscany. There were many, many clothing stores and lots of people walking around in suits. It didn’t seem as tourist-heavy as some of the other places we’d visited. However, it was also raining that day (or at least for much of the early afternoon) so that may have been part of why there weren’t many tourists out. I don’t think I heard any English there, everyone spoke in Italian.
The number one thing to do in Siena is to visit Piazza del Campo. It’s basically a wide open area in the city with a lot of history, and there’s a big fountain there.
There was also a beautiful cathedral (Duomo di Siena) but we didn’t go inside this one.
We also saw this thing called the Fontebranda which is a medieval fountain that was used for drinking water.
But my favorite part of Siena, by far, were these duck lampposts. They’re so cute and unique.
After we saw those things, I kind of lead Vicki around to things that caught my interest, and she reluctantly followed me down some totally empty alleyways when I got a hunch that a lovely view was up ahead. I turned a corner and bam! Hunch confirmed. See photos below.
Once we arrived in Rome, we took a trip to Villa d’Este. I can’t recall how I found out about Villa d’Este, but I’m glad I did. It’s a hidden gem that wasn’t super crowded by other tourists. We took a train to Tivoli (which seemed like a very traditional Italian city), walked over a bridge to get to the main part of town, and then found our way through a giant wedding party to arrive at Villa d’Este.
This place was full of grandeur and brought to mind old times of wealthy decadence and aristocratic sophistication. The building was nice and full of artwork, and I really enjoyed the windows that looked out over the villa.
The views here were just spectacular.
The grounds outside were the real shining point of the villa. In particular, this large fountain was a standout. Also this was definitely the oldest (and most unique) water fountain that I’ve ever drank from.
I also really liked these fountains that looked like people screaming and water was pouring out of their mouths. I’m not sure what the history of these fountains are, and I don’t know if I want to find out. Nevertheless, they were an intriguing part of the property.
We caught a train back to Rome (the station was on the other side of this river), and I had a dinner of cacio e pepe and fiori di zucca (zucchini flowers) at Al Tinello d’Abruzzo near the Roma Tiburtina station.