Riding along the walls of Siena
A cycle route that starts from the surroundings of the Fortress and returns after nearly 17 kilometres out-of-town, mostly along the walls that surround and enclose the historic centre of Siena; a tour that completes and integrates the historic centre, covering all the gates.
Getting out of the city from Porta Camollia, you arrive with a downhill leg beneath one of the hills on which Siena stands, and then go up to Porta San Marco through Via Massetana, a twisting, pine-lined road, towards the countryside that skims and creeps into the centre.
It will be worth stopping and lingering before entering through the gate to the only leg of the route that passes through the centre. Catch your breath and enjoy the panoramic view ranging from the deep green of the Montagnola to the sea, the Sienese Clays and the Val d’Orcia, with the small isolated cone of Radicofani and the profile of the Monte Amiata volcano reaching a distant horizon on the border with Lazio. That space still appears to be vast today, and once seemed to be infinite. For centuries, pilgrims, merchants and wayfarers travelled the Via Francigena, exchanging not only goods, but also languages and cultures, stories and experiences.
Between Porta San Marco to Porta Tufi, through which you return to the centre, there are only valleys with vegetable gardens and fields hiding secrets, such as the Fonte delle Monache (Fountain of the Nuns) with its entrance from Via delle Sperandie in the area that also comprises the botanical gardens, whose entrance to the path goes down towards Porta Tufi.
Going outside the walls once more, after a further descent between fields and farms, you return to the busiest roads under the city. Then, go uphill in the direction of Porta Romana, which can be admired from outside in all its grandeur, before turning towards Porta Pispini and following the course of the walls that run along the trail up to Porta Ovile, offering a magnificent view over some parts of the city: profiles of towers, bell towers, domes and battlements.
Ascending from Ovile you go back to the starting point, right in the centre, and you can choose to conclude your tour with a stopover at the Fortress, a visit to a museum, or indulging in local products to refresh and reward yourself after the tiring ride.
Many authors have written about Siena and its harmonious beauty throughout history, and it is difficult to invent new words to describe its charm, especially if you are not a poet. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
José Saramago, a Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize winner, fell in love with the city and dedicated words to the town, describing it with brushstrokes of deep emotion and passion:
‘And here is Siena, the beloved, the city where my heart is truly pleased’. ‘The three hills on which it is built make it a town where there are no two identical roads, all of them are bound to no geometry. ‘This wonderful colour, the colour of the burnished body, is also the colour of the cornbread crust, this wonderful colour goes from stones to the road and roofs, softens the sunlight and wipes away anxieties and fears from your face.
‘There is nothing more beautiful than this town’. Piazza del Campo ‘a sloping and curved square like a shell that the builders did not want to pave and it remained so, as if it were a lap’.
‘I look at the old palaces of Siena, ancient houses where I want to live one day, with a window of my own, overlooking the coloured clay roof tiles, over the green shutters of the windows, as if in an attempt to decipher where this secret that Siena murmurs and that I will continue to hear, although I do not understand it, until the end of my life.