Shopping in Siena is Surprisingly Good:
Siena may not be known as a shopping destination, however those who want to shop will be surprised at what this medieval hill town has to offer. Not only are there souvenir shops, arts and crafts, food and wine, but there are also small trendy boutiques selling anything from sweaters and jackets to leather goods, fashion wear and accessories.
Arts and Crafts
The Tuscan region is a centre for arts and crafts and when you visit the Siena Duomo, you’ll see the skills that the Sienese craftsmen possess, even with their medieval equipment. Walk through the streets of Siena and you’ll come across old shops where the weavers, potters, leather craftsmen and sculptors work their craft using traditional techniques that have been passed down through the ages. These small workshops can be found in streets such as via di Città, via Banchi di Sopra, via Montanini, via Stalloreggi and in the streets around the cathedral.
As early as the first millennium, the Sienese realized that the clays from the hills around Siena make good material for pottery and since that time the potters of Siena have been producing earthenware and pottery. In the 14th century when Siena enjoyed wealth and power, there was a flourishing market from earthenware and pottery. If you’re looking for a vase, tableware or jug for your limoncello or vin santo, you’ll find some colourful pieces in Siena, or maybe just a Campane di Santa Lucia (Bells of Saint Lucia) a terracotta good luck charm hand-painted with the colours of your favourite contrada.
The Palio is big business in Siena and restoration and embroidering of flags is another ancient craft in Siena that’s passed down through the ages. In the workshops you can buy handmade silk embroidered flags or lamps and tapestries. Other Palio souvenirs that you can buy include t-shirts with your favourite contrada emblem, caps and scarves. I should have bought one of the t-shirts with their cute contrada emblems, but if you do buy and wear one there, be warned not to stray into a rival contrada.
If you like some of the art that you’ve seen around town, there are art workshops such as the Bottega dell’Arta on Via Stalloreggi where the artists specialize in handmade reproductions of 12th to 15th-century artwork, using original techniques.
Medieval the buildings may be, but Siena’s main streets such as via di Città and via Banchi di Sopra are lined with small elegant and fashionable boutiques selling shoes, bags, clothing and fashion accessories.
Familiar names like Max Mara, Benetton and Mötivi are on via Banchi di Sopra, whereas on Piazza Matteotti you can find Timberland and Stefanel. In boutiques such as Liberty on via Banchi di Sopra and GHN on via Banchi di Sotto you’ll find labels such as Diesel, Levi’s, Miss Sixty, Armani Jeans, Dockers, Tale Two, Fornarina, Ralph Lauren Jeans. You’ll also find a number of jewelry and watch shops here.
Food and Wine
Tuscany is of course famous for its fine food and wine and all around town there are many shops selling fine foods and Tuscan specialities.
Siena is famous for its Siena cake or Panforte and I dashed into the first shop we came across to stock up on panforte. But I needn’t have been in such a hurry as all around town there are shops selling panforte.
If you want some really good quality Tuscan wines, the Cantina del Brunello at via della Sapienza 66 has a great selection of fine wines. We happened upon this wine cellar on our way back to Piazza San Domenico and Federico Pieri, the owner, impressed us with his knowledge of Tuscan wines, especially the Brunello di Montalcino. Since chatting to Frederico, we were a little more circumspect about the ‘discount‘ Brunello that we saw in the many autogrills that we stopped at around Italy.