Is Siena overrated?

Apr 20th, 2006, 08:08 AM
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Is Siena overrated?

We took the bus from Florence to Siena and, based on the comments of Rick Steves and others, were prepared to be wowed. We weren't.

It's not that we thought it was awful, but really, it's not much more than a picturesque square surrounded by quaint streets. Worth about 3 hours of your time, in my estimation. Is there something else that we missed.
j_999_9 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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I've never seen it "rated". What in the world were you expecting? I can't imagine that Rick would have over played the city.
sandi_travelnut is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:19 AM
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Imagine it. To quote his book: "Everyone on our staff just
l-o-o-o-o-v-e-s Siena."
j_999_9 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:26 AM
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I guess you didn't get a chance to see details and hear about them - things like why the church sits where it is and what its original plans called for, about the history and rivalry with Florence that explains a lot of what you see, and on and on.

If you just blow into the main square (well, as non-square as it is), look around, say Been Here Done That and blow out - sure you have no reason to be overly impressed.

Pity, you missed out, there's a lot more to it.

WallyKringen is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:32 AM
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So true.
i_am_kane is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:38 AM
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The inside of Duomo in Siena was my favorite of all over those we saw in Florence, Rome, Milano and Venice. I guess it comes down to personal taste. Walking down the hill and seeing the vegetable and fruit outside the little shops, sitting on the steps of the square, etc. was lovely. Sorry, we agree with Rick and others. We had 3 hours and wished we could have had a day or two.
Geckolips is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:39 AM
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Siena is probably my favorite medium sized city in Europe. Did you see much of the floor at the Duomo, did you climb up the bell tower (not the one on the Campo), and look down over the roofs of Siena & the Campo, did you wander through the small streets??

Were you there on a Sunday or Monday morning, or at noon when most of the shops are closed?

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:40 AM
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Very interesting question. Fifteen years ago when I first stayed in Siena, I was delighted by everything - the Campo is one of the most beautiful in Italy, the cathedral was beautiful, the view of the Tuscan countryside from the top of the Duomo Museum was breathtaking - especially at sunset, the narrow streets quaint and charming and the food delicious. We returned in October and had a very different impression. The campo was covered by a trade fair sponsored by Opel with blaring music and giant balloon people, the Duomo was being restored and wascovered by a scrim, there were hoards of tourists in the quaint streets and it was raining. It was a huge disappointment but I chalk it up to the circumstances. I still remember Siena the way I saw it the first visit.
mamc is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:41 AM
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Did you not go into the cathedral? The Pinacoteca Nazionale?

Or, most gob-smacking of all, Santa Maria della Scala? Ahead even of the Cabinet War Rooms or the Musee d'Orsay as the most spectacular addition to Europe's sights in the past 20 years. Worth a day just by itself.
CotswoldScouser is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 08:53 AM
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I can't imagine anything greater than finding a city in Europe with "a picturesque square surrounded by quaint streets". That's enough to make me ecstatic. But we found much more in Siena as well. I think what I liked best about it was that it seemed so alive and a real working city -- unlike the tourist attraction of the city center of Florence, for example.

But if you don't like picturesque streets to explore, I guess I can understand how you didn't care for it. I could spend days poking around there.
Apr 20th, 2006, 09:18 AM
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O.K. ,I'll be the only other one listed as not l-0-0-0-ving Siena. I do like it, but I'd choose Lucca over it any day.I,however, have not spent any real time there (e.g. stayed for a few days).I think that this would change my opinion.IMHO, the larger the town,generally the longer you need to stay to truly experience it.
jabez is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 09:42 AM
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We spent some days staying in both Lucca and Siena. Siena at night after the crowds leave gets very dark and medieval. The store openings are small as it is and they virtually disappear at night. In Lucca we got a little bored after a couple days and started visiting the surrounding villas.

To state the obvious, tastes vary. That picturesque square is considered one of Europe's best and most beautiful outdoor living rooms.
Mimar is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 10:01 AM
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Siena is a place where it just great to wander its crooked streets. My daughter did a semester there last year and we visited a few times. She showed us a terrific Chinese restaurant about a block behind the Campo. I know that the idea of eating Chinese food in Italy borders on sacreligious but we had one of the best meals that we ever had in Italy - Chinese with an Italian influence. Siena is also an excellent jumping off point for day trips to the hills.
basingstoke1 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 10:03 AM
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j_999_9: I'm curious - what cities and towns DO you like, and why?

My first memory of Siena is my favorite. Walking from the car park up the hill toward the Campo on a Sunday morning, with the smells of a hundred Sunday suppers coming wafting from the windows, and walking under the laundry hanging above us... reveling in the Campo, and wandering the (as you say) quaint streets, happening upon a trattoria where we feasted on their version of Sunday supper, with courses we hadn't ordered suddenly showing up on our table...and that was before really exploring the town.

Oh well, to each his own, but Siena holds a special place for us.
laughingd2 is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 10:23 AM
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I'm of a similar mind as the OP - I quite liked Siena but wasn't wowed by it at all. Just didn't think it was particularly amazing.
I'll be back in Tuscany this May though, so I'll have the opportunity to visit again with my husband, who's never been there. Perhaps I'll like it better the second time.
hanl is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 11:19 AM
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I have to add that Siena was not my favorite town but I loved the duomo and the campo. If I were to read that someone or groups of people loved a city, I would know that it is not a given that my tastes are exactly like theirs.
sandi_travelnut is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 11:25 AM
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My mom and i got to Siena and didn't want to leave. But we did, moving on to Venice, which we disliked enough to cancel our last night and move on to Verona. Basically, now when we talk about our trip it is "before Siena" and "after Siena." Sort of like "before we knew what the best place in the world was" and "after we hit the hill down." I loved Verona, but Siena was our favorite of favorites and sometimes we sit around and talk about how we want to go back and just not come home. It was the best as far as I am concerned, and not just for the square, but for the entire place, food, people and all.
laclaire is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 11:31 AM
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I guess it depends what you expect (who's rating it, anyway?). My friends and I really liked it: we had excellent food, loved all the sights, got right off the train and met a girl from Calabria studying law at the University, very friendly. Met several more nice people while we were there.

Hmm, I guess I'm saying I don't think it's overrated at all.
Leely is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 12:02 PM
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I don't understand the global concept of "overrated" and "worth it." Doesn't it depend upon what you like and expect?

For me, Siena was "worth" a couple of multi-day visits, and I'd go back again. I'm a big fan and former student of Italian Renaissance art, so not only was there the Palazzo Pubblico, the Duomo floor, the Pinacoteca, etc., there was the Oratorio di San Bernardino, the Museo dell'Opera Del Duomo, where Duccio's Maesta is the big star, the State Archives, where an empolyee accompanied me while I looked at the painted covers of the city's Renaissance account books, and much more... Not to mention the time I was there when the winning contrada from that summer's Palio was having its autumn victory dinner in the streets. So if you really meant "Is there something else that we missed?" other than rhetorically, yes, there is, but it may not be something that you're interested in. Nothing wrong with that.

On the other hand, I was less than thrilled with being almost literally run over by hordes being disgorged from tour buses at the parking lot on the edge of town.

This kind of brings up one of my problems with Rick Steves. Those books are so prescriptive: you must go here and spend so many hours, then go to the next place on his list. Not much room there for personal preferences or interests.
KT is offline  
Apr 20th, 2006, 12:19 PM
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OK, to answer a few questions, I liked Lucca better -- just seemed more quaint to me, though I can't exactly put my finger on why.

As for what other cities I'd seen on the same trip: Florence, San G., the aforementioned Lucca, Monterosso and Porto Venere. All of which I liked.

BTW, don't take it personal if you liked Siena and I didn't. (And c'mon, if you take the use of "overrated" literally, as if someone is keeping score, we need to have talk about language and idioms.)

Maybe what spoiled it for me is (a) the area was really overrun (no, they weren't actually "running") with tourists on the day we went and (b) we wandered into a few small restaurants and shops where the workers seemed really grouchy because of the crowds. One backstreet restaurant owner got really upset when my wife took a picture of the food display in the window. We exchanged unpleasantries in Italian, and maybe that just soured the day. Who knows?

I may give Siena another try some day, and some of you seem to have goof suggestions about what to concentrate on if I decide to go back.

Another BTW: I was aware of the Siena-Florence rivalry and some of the history involved, but to me the story didn't have the interest that surrounds some other parts of Italy, like Sicily. Guess it's all in what interests you.
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