“These boots were made for walking” in Siena

Il Campo

For some reason I am much more aware of fashion when in Siena than in other parts of the world.  I don’t know if it’s the allure of Il Campo, the passeggiata on via Banchi di Sopra or maybe just my heighten awareness of people.  Regardless the cause, I know I do a lot more people watching when in Siena than in any other place.

Last week I made a whirlwind trip to Italy to lay the groundwork for a new itinerary linking Rome and Tuscany.   In four days, I traced the route that my “real tour” would experience in eight days.  It was a bit grueling, especially driving from Rome to Volterra on that first day, but with a few stops for an espresso at the Autogrill I survived.

We arrived in Siena on night three of my “tour.”  During the past three days, my tour guide friends, Andy and MaryAda, had been meticulously combing every detail of this new itinerary.  Ditching the rental car and checking into Hotel Chiusarelli was such a relief!  No more driving… just walking the medieval streets of Siena. 

We went directly to Il Campo, the weather was great so we grabbed a seat at one of the outdoor cafes and ordered lunch.  One of the first things I noticed being here “off-season” was the lack of tourists.  The huge square was scattered with just a few pods of people enjoying the sun and a picnic lunch.  For early January, this warm weather is very uncommon and it seemed that many local folks were out to make the most of it. 

Nancy on the "Secert Balcony"

Sitting there in the sun enjoying my pasta our conversation turned to the Palio, the famous horse race that occurs on this very square twice in the summer.  As I described the event to my friends, I began pointing out the various brackets on the exterior walls around the square meant to attach rickety old wooden bleachers for the thousands who arrive in town for the horse race.  In my description I pointed out what I think is the perfect balcony perch for taking in this magnificent square during the Palio or anytime during the year.  You can only access this balcony by way of the bar, discreetly tucked into the building below and if you are not looking for it, you’ll miss it. 

After lunch, we went our own way and decided to meet up later for dinner.  I poked around Siena’s various contrada neighborhoods hoping to run across some previously undiscovered (for me) little gem of a bar, restaurant or shop.  I found many of them, but most importantly, I experienced Siena with only the locals in town.  As I said, this was so unlike the heavy tourist traffic in the spring and summer months.  Finally I picked out a place in the market square to return to for dinner. 

By now it was late afternoon, as I walked across Il Campo the long shadow from the bell tower stretched nearly all the way across the square.  Leaving the sun, the temperature dropped ten degrees as I entered the main pedestrian streets known as via Banchi di Sopra.  Suddenly I was among more people than I had seen all day!  It was as if all of Siena had suddenly come out to take a stroll and visit with one another.  I had walked right into the daily ritual known in Italy as the passeggiata,  or the slow walk.

I dug out my camera and began snapping photos because I realized every woman was wearing some version of knee-high boots.   There were all styles and colors ranging from swanky black leather to more casual thigh-high suede leather ones with fringe.  I’ve included a few of the photos I snapped just so you can get an idea.    

Tall boots, tennis shoes and faux-fur jackets

Tall boots, tennis shoes and faux-fur jackets

She’s on a shopping mission!


Boot Store

Big Boots & Little Kids

All decked out

White Tennis Shoes

Also, notice the men… many are wearing stylish shiny quilted jackets with faux-fur collars… something you’d never catch any guy in the USA wearing.  Also, notice the white tennis shoes and jeans sported by the guys.  That struck me as odd, because I’ve always preached not to wear white running/tennis shoes because that screams “American tourist” to everyone.  Well these shoes were not exactly our version of tennis shoes, but pretty darn close. 

So, foot fashions are changing… be on the lookout for tall boots and designer tennis shoes coming to a shopping mall near you… and don’t forget to pick up your faux-fur collared men’s jackets!

Ciao from Siena!

P.S.  Click here for another one of my “fashion” epiphanies in Siena.
2 more entries about hanging out on Il Campo:
Fashion in Siena
Camping out on Il Campo!

About the Author
David McGuffin established David McGuffin's Exploring Europe, Inc. in 2001 to formally offer European tours. Since then, he has taken several thousand satisfied customers on memorable and educational tours to Europe.
  1. Debra Kolkka Reply

    You should go to Forte dei Marmi, on the coast near Viareggio for the best passeggiata. People really dress up here for their evening stroll. It is so much fun to watch.

  2. Susan Reply

    I have been to Siena with David and it was around the time of Palio so the entire square was covered with dirt for the race. I didn’t get to go to the secret balcony- maybe next trip! I do remember watching all of the flag troupes of the different neighborhoods practicing for the parade that would take place before the Palio- it was really cool! We also watched the Palio from a bar window in Voltera the next night.

  3. Nancy Reply

    Guess you better read Davids blog – who knows you may find your picture in one of them. Sienna is one of my favorite places in Italy and the secret balcony was just found last summer. What a great view to look down on Il Campo. I even found a very cool looking beer bottle which came along with me the rest of the trip until final packing – it had to be left behind.

    • davidmcguffin Reply

      I’m going back to that balcony in a few weeks. I’ll send you a photo.

  4. Maria Vicens Reply

    Hi David!
    It has been a long time since I left Ridgeview High. I have to agree with you. You can see a lot more people wearing jeans in Europe in general. I just came back from Spain and everyone is wearing them. I also went to Italy about a year ago and, same thing. I have news: my husband Jose and I are going to be transferred to Italy in October of this year. We will be in Naples for two years. We have no children left at home so it’s a perfect time.
    Keep in touch

  5. Sally Reply

    It was hotter than hot the day we were there, but it was sooooo beautiful It was right before the big horse race … now what was that called?

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