Written by Katherine Johnson, (University of Virginia) Student Correspondent CET Siena Spring 2017
If you ever see a fortress, don’t underestimate all there is to it. Thanks to the Fortezza Medicea in Siena, I’ve gone on beautiful runs at sunrise, people-watched in the evening, and learned more about Italian wine than ever before. It’s hard to believe one can do all of these things in the same place (since wine and running most certainly do not go together), but its 100% true – and I’ll tell you how.
The Medici Fortress is a fort that was built in the 16th century after Florence defeated Siena for the last time. It was demilitarized at the end of the 18th century, restored in the 20th, and finally transformed into a public park. Throughout the day, you can find people of all ages walking with friends, running, or sitting on the benches and indentations in the walls. It’s a hangout spot for teenagers, a trail for runners, and calming place to stroll with your child, dog, or friends. For me, it is my favorite place to go for a run. Not only is it the most flat surface in all of Siena, but also who doesn’t like people-watching while trying not to pass out from running? Not only that, but it has a breathtaking view of the city and the rolling hills of Tuscany beyond Siena’s walls.
And that’s just the top of the fortress. Inside Fortezza Medicea, you can find an Enoteca (an Italian wine shop), the home of the Siena Jazz foundation, and occasionally an art exhibit, festival, or concert. Part our CET activities included a wine tasting inside the fortress, and believe me, 10/10 would recommend. Inside are several rooms with hundreds of bottles of wine, along with small tables for tastings and a bar area. Even further inside, a spiral staircase leads far down below – I could not believe how huge it was when the outside of the fortress is already so tall! We were led into aisles and aisles of spacious lounge areas surrounded by shelves of wine that were separated and labeled by region. Paintings of grapes and vineyards aligned the time-honored walls, my favorite was of a woman sleeping in thousands of grapes. Our wine tasting was held upstairs at the elite tables with white linen tablecloths, and I silently wished I had prepared myself more for the excitement of my first wine tasting. We were given three types (white, rosé, and red) from three different regions, along with a plate of cheeses and salamis. If I could have stayed there all night, I would have, although I did manage to take an empty bottle with me as a souvenir.
Like all of Italy, the best gems are hidden in the most unexpected of places. Until I had read where our wine tasting was to be held, I had never imagined all that the Fortezza Medicea had to offer. So, if you ever see a fortress and have the chance to explore, make sure to check underground for a surprise.