We had arrived in Siena by car and our hotel was on the outskirts of town. So not wanting to worry about parking we caught a taxi into the Centre of Siena, or should I say the Piazza del Campo regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, to immerse ourselves in history.
This Piazza is the location that the horse race II Palio, is held twice yearly on 2 July and 16 August. 10 horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent 10 of the 17 city wards. The Palio held on July 2 is named Palio di Provenzano, in honour of the Madonna of Provenzano who has a church in Siena. The Palio held on August 16 is named Palio dell’Assunta in honour of the Assumption of Mary.
Exploring the magnificent Duomo, the cathedral constructed of white and green-black marble in alternating stripes, we ended up walking up a set of circular stairs to a small viewing area with amazing views all over the city and countryside. A bit scary for my liking and I was staying close to the enclosed section!
It was time to head back to our hotel and an aperitif. Could we find a taxi? We walked and walked for what seemed like hours. It was starting to drizzle and not a taxi in sight or an aperitif for that matter! Then around a corner we spied a long driveway to a small hotel and off we headed. 100 metres up the driveway was the place we should have stayed; Hotel Palazzo di Valli a restored villa surrounded by olive trees and wonderful views.
‘Welcome’ came a voice from around the corner, Lorenzo the Manager greeted us warmly and before we knew it we were sitting on the terrace each with a chilled glass of Prosecco Champagne.
No questions about do you want to book in, or we don’t serve non-paying guests. His hospitality was amazing and he booked us into his favourite local restaurant for dinner that night. Discussing our drive to Montalcino the next day Lorenzo suggested we drive via Crete Senesi and the Abby of Monte Oliveto Maggiore that took us through the green Tuscan hills and valleys you see in coffee table books!
Sharing stories over another Prosecco, Lorenzo told us his daughter was doing her gap year in Australia and loving the country. He also has a number of Australians who are repeat clients and I can see why; when I go back to Siena it will be to stay in one of the 11 rooms at Hotel Palazzo di Valli.
I can honestly say Lorenzo’s hospitality had the Prosecco touch that he epitomised the Italian approach that running a business is a joy, not a job!
Hotel Palazzo di Valli
Via E.S. Piccolomini,
135 – 53100 Siena
Tel. +39 0577 226102 – Fax +39 0577 288220