the flyer of uno, nessuno, seicentomila

Understand a bit of Italian? This is the night to figure out how much regarding a topic that seems a bit removed but actually isn't at all.  Italy entered the first world war exactly a hundred years ago on the 24th of May 1915. 600'000 Italian soldiers died during the war. Many of them were 'Italians' born in Brasil or Argentina who traveled to Europe as young men to fight for a country they had never put foot on before. 150'000 of Italy's soldiers in the first world war had been born in Brazil, Argentina and other countries their parents had had to migrate to for a better future abroad. An important fact to consider when we read the daily headlines regarding todays incessantly growing immigration to Italy and Europe via Lybia. 

'La storia quasi vera del milite ignoto' is told by Emilio Franzina, the writer of the book with the same title, which tells the story of a young soldier born in Brasil to Italian parents of Venetian heritage. 

In case your Italian isn't quite there yet, just come for the musical interludes by the extremly talented four musicians and singer Sabrina Turri of Hotel Rif and for the beautiful ambiance in Siena's teatro dei Rozzi.  

MAY 24, 2015 - 9 pm. 
Teatro dei Rozzi, piazza Indipendenza 15, Siena. Entrance is for free. 

If you want to catch Hotel Rif on a lighter note visit Montalcino on Wednesday 27 for the band's sunset view concert in Sant'Angelo in Colle. 


Often left out for Siena's more prominent museums in piazza del Campo or near the cathedral, the Pinacoteca is nevertheless one of my favorite sights in town. A visit in the quiet palazzo is a must for lovers of the Sienese school of painting. But you don't have to be into early Renaissance art to enjoy the lay-back atmosphere in the museum, which will be near empty even on a Sunday afternoon in high season.

It may be a little more crowded during the late night opening for this Saturday's museum night. But the panorama views over the medieval town from the upper floors should make up for it. 

Masterworks of the 16th century in Siena's Pinacoteca museum

Works by Duccio, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers will guide you trough the 14th century, the golden years of painting in Siena, when the town was one of the foremost economic and artistic competitors of Florence. The works by Sano di Pietro and il Vecchietta are the local highlights of the 15th century, whilst Sodoma and Lorenzo Lotto represent the master painters of the 16th century in Siena. 


Pincacoteca nazionale di Siena, via San Pietro, 29. From 8pm to midnight (ticket office closes at 11.30 pm). Entrance is nearly free: 1 € per person (normally 4€ per person). 

Not in Siena? Check out all the national museums that will stay open for the museum night in the rest of Tuscany and Italy. 

For more art and culture in Palio town read this round up of Siena's best museums

WINTER LUNCH IN MONTERIGGIONI (and what to do in fortress town)

A winter view of Monteriggioni's Italian piazza

Close to the Firenze-Siena highway, tiny Monteriggioni is a beloved stop on the Tuscan tourist trail. However, most locals don't take the Monteriggioni exit for sightseeing but for a bite to eat at bar Orso. The roadside cafe not far from the highway exit is well known for its panini: generous Tuscan sandwiches filled with prosciutto, salami, Pecorino cheese or - my favorite - acciughe sotto pesto (anchovies marinated with parsley, garlic, chili pepper and extra virgin olive oil). 

However, on a sunny winter day skip bar Orso and drive up to Monteriggioni itself. The medieval stronghold is visible already from the highway and similar to San Gimignano has been a landmark along the former pilgrim route since medieval times (and hence also got its mention in Dante's Divine Comedy).

Monteriggioni's towers: visible from the Florence - Siena highway

The fourteen towers have been cut back and rebuilt through the centuries but the intact town wall is the real deal. The small town has several bars and restaurants. On a warm winter day a glass of Chianti Classico and a sandwich and platter with Tuscan cold cuts or cheeses from bar del Cerchio in piazza Roma will be perfect. Service isn't too welcoming and the selection of ingredients not as good as in bar Orso, but the outside sitting area in the beautiful square is perfect to soak up the winter sun and the beautiful outset of the square.

Simple but delicious: winter lunch in piazza Roma


If you explore Monteriggioni during high-season (from Easter to October) you may want to adapt the same tactics that I recommend for other small but overly popular tourist destinations like San Gimignano or Pienza. The car parking area close to the walls is bigger than the town itself, and Monteriggioni's vicinity to the highway turns it into a perfect stop-over for big tour groups. So come in the early morning for coffee in piazza or the late afternoon for an aperitif and stay for dinner. Like this you should be able to avoid most of the crowd.  


Two different sections of the the town walls can be climbed, but be warned the grating leading up to the walls is totally safe but totally doesn't feel like it. However, the views make up for the wobbly experience. Just don't wear your highest heels and hold on to that skirt. I'm sure the local youth spends long summer afternoons lazing underneath in hope of a Marilyn Monroe moment. 

the walkway along Monteriggioni's town walls

A combined ticket grants you access to Monteriggioni's museum too. Its a small sight but families will enjoy it since kids can try on some knights' gear or fiddle around with a sword. The chain mail has been especially popular with mine. 

Reproductions of medieval armors will make your 21st century teenagers yawn? Remind them of Monteriggioni's role in the Assasin's Creed videogames. I tried to look it up and don't understand any of it, but they'll probably know. 

Combined tickets cost 4 € (children up to twelve years for free). We were rather surprised by the low ticket prices (especially of the town's fancy car park - 2 € for the day), which makes of Monteriggioni an easy to reach and surprisingly low cost stop if you travel by car. 


Obviously if you travel on a budget avoid the retail opportunities in town. The ceramic shop on the main road (Via Maggio near piazza Roma, not that one really needs a map in Monteriggioni) sells a beautiful selection of Italian artisan pottery. Most of the hand made plates, cups  and bowls are produced in Tuscany or close by. They are not cheap but make for beautiful souvenirs.

Artisan pottery at a shop in Monteriggioni

A few doors further on in via Maggio is the Tuscan shoemaker Pratesi. The leatherwear producer can be found in Siena, Pienza and Montepulciano too. The shops are often filled to the brim and not every model will convince. However, with a bit of patience you may be able to find a nice pair of shoes without having to spend a fortune. 


Monteriggioni is home to one of Italy's most famous medieval festivals. Each summer the town is taken over by jugglers, jesters, fighting knights and dancing maids. Markets are hold, games are played and street musicians entertain the crowd. Kids will love it! MONTERIGGIONI MEDIEVALE.
The 25th edition of the festival will take place on the first two weekends in July 2015: Friday, Saturday and Sunday  July 3/4/5 and July 10/11/12. Tickets from 6 to 12 €. 

If medieval festivals aren't your thing you'll know by now, that winter is my favorite time of the year for a lunch in Monteriggioni; the huge car park will be almost empty and you'll have the town to yourself apart of a few Italian tourists on the weekend. 

Closed up building on Monteriggioni's piazza Roma


Most travelers may head to Siena or nearby Colle Val d'Elsa from here. But church lovers should drive (or walk like the pilgrims would have) to Abbadia Isola. The former monastery with its church dating back to the 13th century were yet another stop on the Via Francigena, the famous medieval road that connected Rome to France and Canterbury.

Monteriggioni's tourist office website has maps for self guided hikes in the area. Rather walk with a guide? If you are looking for half- or full day walking tours around Monteriggioni, send me an email and I'll put you in touch with a certified nature and walking guide for the province of Siena. 

The tourist office website also offers information on accommodation and last but not least an itinerary leading your youngsters to the sites featured in the Assasin's Creed game. 

The wobbly iron grating walkway along part of Monteriggioni's town walls

View from the town wall

Lunch at bar il Cerchio in the December sun

view onto Monteriggioni's piazza Roma from the walkway

One of Monteriggioni's two town gates.


Matera has won the title of European Capital of Culture and even though we're disappointed in Tuscany, this is a well deserved victory. From the start of the competition Matera has been an eye-catcher. The bottom-up approach of its bid was impressive and once the city council married the idea of Matera's candidature (it had initially been born by a private group of people), the committee was swift in connecting the young and creative local scene to European and international forces.

Young people putting up wooden chairs and tables in front of the Madonna di Provenzano church
Hang on there, this party isn't over yet! #Siena2019

In regard to digital involvement Matera was the benchmark for the other Italian candidate cities with its great website and busy interaction on every possible social media channel from day one of the competition. But what must have been most important to the jury, Matera put together a soundproof bid book called 'Open Future/Open City', which has already started to infuse the people of the Basilicata (once mainly known as Italy's poorest region) with a new, open-minded and positive attitude to their future.  

But Siena, Cagliari, Lecce, Perugia and Ravenna aren't planning to pack up yet. In fact the party has only started. The six Italian candidate cities have been working together on #Italy2019, a project that supports the further development of the ideas and topics from all the 20 bidding Italian cities. 

Dario Franceschini, Italy's minister of culture and tourism congratulated Matera on its win, but also specified that the recently established #artbonus act will provide the shortlisted cities with means to realize some of the proposed projects in their bid books. Whilst Steve Green, head of the jury made up of seven European and six Italian experts, reaffirmed during the press conference that the jurors had been truly impressed by the thoroughness of each single bid book put together by Italy's six candidate cities. Last but not least Tuscany's governor Enrico Rossi has already confirmed the 40 million Euro that the region of Tuscany was planning to invest into #Siena2019. 

So, keep creating Siena! Tuscany and Italy at large are in dire need of your fresh and inspiring energy, and #Siena2019's thought-through concepts which rethink one-way tourism and revitalize the country's cultural life and economic output. 


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