We picked up a car in Florence and drove to Siena.  The ride was absolutely breathtaking.  I also love driving on the foreign roads.  Drive fast on the left, slow on the right and let people pass when they want to.  It is quite fun.  I am the designated driver in our family.

Boiled_beefEn route, we stopped in the small town of Greve and found a spot for lunch.  Funny enough, the restaurant which was open was Nerbone from Florence which we had eaten at in the Mercato.  A chain? Boiled beef, the specialty was our lunch.  Served on the side with a variety of sauces, onions, etc.  PanatonesWe also stopped in the local bakery for a few sweets to munch on in the car. 

We stayed in Siena.  This time of the year is truly dead but it was the day before and after Xmas and figured we could have some downtime being in the countryside.  Downtime is not an occurring theme in our house so it was a little frustrating.  Regardless, we all really did enjoy the beauty and tranquility of the town.

WindowWe stayed at the Grand Hotel Continental right in the middle of Siena, literally.  You aren't allowed to drive your car into that area unless you are staying at the hotel.  Also, Italians really don't care about cars on the rode.  It is fascinating.  In Rome, nobody even moves when a car comes down the street.  So, getting to the hotel wasn't easy but the location was perfect.  Finding a hotel open at this time of the year isn't easy either.  We had great big rooms and wonderful views.  The picture is from out our window. 

Clocktower_viewThat night we just relaxed at the hotel.  We got up the next morning and took the "kids" tour of Siena.  Fred had found a walking map and we followed it.  The main piazza is tough to miss.  We stopped there last and walked up the Bell Tower.  400 steps.  The views were incredible. 

We lunched in the piazza. Hanging_in_the_piazza The weather was so warm.  We just enjoyed the sun. 

That night we had dinner at La Taverna San Guiseppe.  The food was delicious and the people couldn't have been nicer.  We spent some time talking with the chef and his staff when we left.  We had a variety of meats from the region to begin and bundles of mozzarella, eggplant and ham wrapped up and roasted and local grilled vegetables.  Grilled lamb chops with grilled artichokes was my pick Kitchen_in_sienaof the night.  Fred again opted for the wild board with pasta.  All good.  The dessert was chocolate cakes.  They gave us some goodies on the way out too. 

The next day was Xmas.  The city was dead.  Nothing was open but everyone was out just walking around the streets.  We were going to do a big lunch but opted instead for the espressos and cappuccinos with fresh squeezed orange juice and some croissants in the piazza.  We decided to drive around the region, listen to some tunes (the kids are great dj's - gotta love the ipods) and check out the area.  It was sort of strange driving on the roads and being literally the only car out there. 

Lake_townWe began in the small town Bagno Vignoni which has a supposed warm water spa in the middle of town.  Pretty town.  If 20 people live there, that'd be a lot.  The water didn't appear to be so warm since there wasn't any steam but it was worth taking a spin through town.

Next stop was Pienza.  Famous for making Pecorino cheese.  I really liked this town.  High up on a magnificent hill.  Lots of small shopsPecorino_cheese_town full of cheeses, salamis and breads.  Unfortunately, all closed.  They were burning a small bonfire in the middle of town in front of the church which was really quaint.  Luckily there was one place open and we bought a bunch of stuff to munch on for later.  I'd love to come back there and stay one night or just have dinner.  There was just a nice feel to the place.  Another picture of a view, this one from Pienza.

The next morning we were raring to go.  We had breakfast the local pastry shop, Ninnini's.  Great coffee and pastries.  We also bought a big panatone for the ride.  The kids were addicted to panatone.  And off we drove to Rome.

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Joanne Wilson Joanne Wilson loves food, books, and music. She lives in New York City. Her husband Fred and children Jessica, Emily, and Josh are bloggers too. More »

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