Flyer of the street food fair in Siena

You can find excellent Tuscan food in Siena, but in regard to international cuisine, the city o the Palio doesn't offer much to get excited about (apart from the laudable Ravioli Wang, a superb Chinese restaurant which just opened its second restaurant in town). 

But for three days this summer, Siena becomes a much more cosmopolite place thanks to the International Street Food fair. Located in and around Siena's fortress, the food fair starts on June 21 and ends at midnight of Sunday, June 23, 2019. Entrance to the fair is free and some of the food stalls may also be an ideal fit for people travelling on a shoe-string. 


Whatever the exact financial situation of the city of Siena and its famous nearly broke bank - the fact that free concerts are back on Piazza del Campo is a promising sign!

In the summer of 2012, Patti Smith sang 'People have the Power' on Piazza del Campo. The song and her fabulous concert in Siena feature in the book soundtrack - and hopefully also in the future film adaptation - of my memoir Across the Big Blue SeaBut while a spectacular full moon rose behind Torre del Mangia the night of Patti's concert, the city itself had just started its descent into a longlasting financial nightmare.

The Monte dei Paschi bank - founded in 1472 it is the world's oldest continually operating bank - turned from prodigy into Italy's problem child (more about this here), and with the bank's debacle, the free concerts on Piazza del Campo had lost their main sponsor. 

Nina may not be a world-star, but she's definitely one of the most talented and successful musicians in Italy's current pop scene. Sometimes called the Italian Amy Winehouse, Nina Zilli has trained as a soprano but is eclectic in taste. Her routes may be Italian, but her most successful songs show strong influences of Mowtown, R&B, and the 60s and 70s hits of Italian icon Mina. 

NINA ZILLI IN CONCERT - SIENA,  Piazza del Campo June 2, 2018
From 9.30 pm. Free entrance. 

With Riccardo Gibertini “Jeeba” (trumpet, trombone, keyboards), Antonio Vezzano “Heggy” (guitar), Nicola Roccamo “Nico” (drums), Lucio Enrico Fasino (bass), Riccardo Di Paola (keyboards) and Enzo Tribuzio “Dj Zak”.


Five years ago I interviewed American Newsweek journalist and NYT bestselling author Nina Burleigh about her work after her talk at the Siena Art Institute. Little did I know then that I'd write a book myself one day (and that Nina Burleigh would endorse it with the kindest and most thoughtful words).

I'm looking forward to discuss 'Across the Big Blue Sea' and migration (my own and the one of the people I worked with at our Tuscan refugee home) at the beautiful headquarters of the Siena Art Institute (which is based in the Tartuca neighbourhood, one of my favorite contrade in Siena).

ACROSS THE BIG BLUE SEA book presentation 
Siena Art Institue - May 8, 2018, 6 pm
via T. Pendola 37


Outdoor pool with artificial waterfall
Buddha Spa's Asian inspired outdoor pool

Southern Tuscany has a wide selection of natural hot springs (find my favourites ones here), but from time to time a spa day is a nice change from the usual wilderness dip.  

Near Siena, Buddha Spa by Clarins is the place to go. Named after an Asian sage, the thermal waters used to be visited by a local one too: Catherine of Siena, Italy's patron saint, who took her baths here in the Middle Ages. Things have changed quite a bit since then and nowadays guests have the choice between a spacious outdoor pool set in front of a waterfall, an indoor pool with two jacuzzis, Turkish bath and sauna. 

Set in a former farm building the spa isn't huge, but that's part of its charm. After all, a day of relaxation is much more enjoyable with less of a crowd. 

Buddha Spa is part of the Bagnaia Hilton hotel and uses Clarins products exclusively. Most resort guests use the spa to cure their sore muscles after getting their swing wrong on the nearby golf court (a challenging 18-holes designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr).

Entrance hall Buddha Spa near Siena


The friendly Buddha spa team provides everything from beauty treatments to massages. Healthy smoothies and a light lunch (with or without a bottle of prosecco!) are served in the relaxation room overlooking the outdoor pool. 

Day-spa from 25€ (discount available for regular visitors). You don't have to stay at the Hilton to use the spa, but best call call telephone: +39 0577 8187698 or email in advance to book a spot.  

The spa can also be rented for private occasions from 8pm to midnight (cost for a group of 6 people 500€).
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