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€).

Ambrogio Lorenzetti's frescoes and paintings

From toddlers to octogenarians, when in Siena I schlepp everybody to see Ambrogio Lorenzetti's 'Buon Governo'. The long title of the painting is 'The Allegory of Good and Bad Government in the City and the Countryside' and it is exactly that - namely an accurate depiction of daily life in medieval Siena. The detailed and elegant fresco cycle is a rarity not just in regard to Lorenzetti's style and technique, but mainly due to its subject matter. In the 14th century, paintings and frescoes focus on stories and characters from the old and new testament and not on the day-to-day tasks of builders and farmers. 

Medieval Siena depicted on the fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Medieval Siena depicted on one of the walls of Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco cycle in the Palazzo Pubblico (©Wikipedia)

And this is exactly why it's so much fun to spend some time in front of the fresco cycle in the civic museum in Siena's Palazzo Pubblico. Whether its kids - or meat lovers - looking for the famous Cinta Senese pig or my Tuscan native lecturing our visitors about the scaffolding used by builders in the Late Middle Ages, it's hard to find anybody who won't enjoy Ambrogio's medieval 'comic strip'. 

To honor the master of the Buon Governo, the Santa Maria della Scala museum has organized a show that brings together Ambrogio Lorenzetti's masterpieces. Most of them are scattered all over the world and on loan from places like London's National Gallery. The subjects of these paintings are more traditional in nature and hence depicting religious scenes - and not mundane medieval builders! - but once you've fallen in love with the Buon Governo you'll like Lorenzetti's Maestà too.  

SANTA MARIA DELLA SCALA - Ambrogio Lorenzetti until April 8, 2018

Full price: € 9.00 
Teenagers from 12 - 18: € 7.00 (children under 12 are free)

Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (no admission after 4.30)

Friday: 10.00 am to 7.00 pm (no admission after 6.30 pm)
Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (no admission after 7.30 pm)


Siena is a fabulous place to visit in winter when culturally minded travelers will get the city's museums all to themselves.

But the same travelers may also note that Siena's cultural calendar isn't much to boast about during the darker months of the year. Hence, an international dance festival taking place in the middle of winter in the beautiful Teatro dei Rinnovati is more than a welcome surprise! 

MOVE OFF 2018 - January 31 to February 2

  • January 31: "It's between us"- Just Us Dance Theater (UK) and  "di angeli, di dei, di uomini"- Freies Tanz Ensemble (Germany). 
  • February 1: "Between"- MOMURO MOVEMENT LAB (Corea) and "Reflect"- Albanian Dancetheater Company (Albania). 
  • February 2: "DIS-CRIMINE"- MOTUS (Italia). 
Teatro Comunale dei Rinnovati, piazza del Campo, palazzo Pubblico: 9.15pm.  
Tickets 8 € (reduced 5€). The theater's ticket booth opens at 6pm.


An e-bike in front of the gate of a Tuscan villa
Villa Catignano: one of the many beautiful places an e-bike can get you to from Siena

A few years ago, I interviewed an American writer, who during her month-long stay in Siena whizzed through the city on a bicycle. This was an unusual sight - vespas are the two-wheelers of choice in Siena's hilly town center, not bikes like in mostly flat Florence. 

But the invention of e-bikes is about to change this. The city of Siena has installed an electric bike sharing program which is functioning well. However, it's mostly aimed at locals and residents, as its set-up is a little complicated for visitors who only stay a couple of days in town. Hence, for tourists, the best bike rental options in Siena are with the privately owned shops which supply bycicles of every size and type for a day or two or an entire week. 

Riding through the hills of the chianti
Giulia from cycling through the hills of Siena

Siena Bike Shop rents out racing bycicles, hybrid and e-bikes and is a great option if you plan to explore the beautiful countryside that surrounds the city. We recently did a day tour with friends following the route proposed by shop owner Massimiliano (he can supply a GPS if necessary). The tour took us from Siena through countryside roads lined by olive groves, vineyards and - of course - cypress trees. A stopover at the Chianti Sculpture Park is a great option for a picnic in the shade, or head to one of the many good restaurants in Vagliagli or Pianella. 

It was our first experience on an e-bike, but we'll be definitely back for more (and I'll remember to bring some proper cycling pants next time!). 


Where: in via Aretina, 35, just outside the town walls near porta Pispini). Best make a reservation in advance if you visit Siena in high-season (from Easter to October). 

Prices: E-bike and race bike rental 40€ per day. Hybrid and mountain bike rental 25€ per day. Lower rates apply for consecutive days - see price list here. 

Good to Know: Siena Bike Shop can drop off and pick up the bikes at your hotel or B&B in town for an extra 20€. 

Itineraries: Massimiliano is crazy about cycling and has great advice for road, mountain bike and e-bike tours around Siena and Tuscany for both pros or total amateurs (like me).

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