SHOPPING in SIENA
Italy is known throughout the world for its flair for fashion and design, and you can visit some of the most unique and memorable shops during your stay in Siena. You can find boutiques for clothing, shoes, gourmet food products, wine, housewares, framed art, artigianal paper, bookshops, and many other specialty items.
Siena is filled with one of a kind boutiques and shops at every corner, but you'll want to stroll along three main pedestrian streets for sure: Via di Citta, Banchi di Sopra and Via Dei Montanini. Styles range from trendy to classic. You'll find a gelateria, pizza shop or bar between every few shops , so you can stop for gelato breaks between browsing.
Just window shopping in Siena can be enjoyable. Italians often stroll along the main streets, admiring the window displays and designs. Shopping in Siena is a great pleasure, and for the most part, Italian shopkeepers and sales help are extremely professional and polished - offering their advice on how to wear certain styles, what styles or colors suit you, or what the latest trends are. You can expect a high standard of personalized sales help, and shop owners who often do the buying personally.
You can shop for bargains in July and Febrary, the two times of the year when most shops reduce prices from 20% to 50% or more. Prices of items are reduced in the summer, in order to make room for the new fall and winter collections. They are reduced in February to make room for Spring collections.
Besides shops, there is an open air market held at the La Lizza (at the Fortezza) every Wednesday from 8 AM to around 1 PM. You can find stylish clothing, housewares or "do as the Italians do," and shop for fruits, vegetables and Italian cheeses.
The best antiques shop in town is the Antichità Monna Agnese (tel. 0577-282-288), with a main branch at Via di Città 60 and another across the street at no. 45 that specializes in jewelry. There is also an outdoor antique market on the third Sunday every month at Piazza del Mercato.
BOOKS & PAPER
Feltrinelli, with store entrances at Via Banchi di Sopra 52 and 64-66 (tel. 0577-271-104 or 0577-44-009). For art and coffee-table books, often at a discount, hit Arte & Libri, Via di Città 111 (tel. 0577-221-325). If you enjoy browsing used books and old Italian postcards, you can check out Libreria Siena e Dintorni, a small second hand shop, tucked away on Via Provenzano Salvani, 8-10. You can find authentic Sienese and Florentine paper in Siena's fine paper shops.
The Siena branch of Florence's Il Papiro, Via di Città 37 (tel. 0577-284-241), carries fine stationery, marbelized paper products, and handcrafted journals. For more hand-made specialty papers, photo albums, recipe journals original paper designs from the Libreria Piccolomini Siena's Duomo, stop in La Stamperia, located at Via delle Terme, 80 (tel. 0577-280-443). Many foreigners have their business cards made here, as the printing and paper selection are of a high quality, and the work is done at better prices than back home.
CERAMICS & HOUSEWARES
The work of Ceramiche Artistiche Santa Caterina, with showrooms at Via di Città 51, 74, and 76 (tel. 0577-283-098) and a workshop outside town at Via P.A. Mattioli 12 (tel. 0577-45-006), are of good quality. Maestro Marcello Neri trained at Siena's art school and in the ceramics workshops of Montelupo Fiorentino, Tuscany's foremost ceramics center, before taking over this studio in 1961, aided by his talented wife, Franca Franci, and now their adult son, Fabio, also an art school grad. Look especially for their wares painted in "Sienese style" using only black, white, and terra di Siena reddish brown (what we call burnt sienna) with designs inspired by the oldest pavement panels in the Duomo. Most of the ceramics found in the shops of Via di Città, are of a souvenir quality.
Muzzi Sergio, Via dei Termini 97 (tel. 0577-40-439), is a friendly designer housewares shop, perfect for that set of grappa glasses or Alessi kitchen gadget.
CLOTHING, SHOES AND LEATHER
Italy's high fashion designers such as Armani, Gucci, Versace, Burberry, Missoni -- and some more affordable labels too, can be found at Cortecci, Via Banchi di Sopra 27 (tel. 0577-280-096; www.corteccisiena.it). There's also a branch on Il Campo at 30-31 (tel. 0577-280-984).
Ginger is a boutique with trendy Italian styled separates for women. If you follow the steps behind the Duomo, you will soon arrive on Via del Pellegrini, where Ginger is located. Something bought at Ginger is always remembered, but be prepared to spend a pretty penny.
For something a bit more unique, drop by Fioretta Bacci and her pair of giant looms taking up most of the room at Tessuti a Mano, Via San Pietro 7 (tel. 0577-282-200). Fioreta weaves all her incredible scarves, shawls, and sweaters by hand.
Fabrics and linens, both as raw materials and made into sheets, curtains, or embroidered hand towels, are the stock in trade of Debora Loreni's Antiche Dimore, Via di Città< 115 (tel. 0577-45-337). Signora Bruna Brizi Fontani is a bundle of energy and full of stories in her little embroidery and needlepoint store, Siena Ricama, Via di Città 61 (tel. 0577-288-339). She spends so much time chatting with visitors in her workroom and shopit is hard to believe she can finish the wonderful lampshades and other objects -- every one stitched by Fontani herself. They're inspired by medieval Sienese art: the Duomo floor, illuminated manuscripts, the frescoes of the Lorenzetti brothers, and anything else that catches her fancy from art history books and local museums.
FOOD, WINE & SWEETS
Those with a passion for la cucina italiana will not want to miss a stop in the Antica Drogheria Manganelli, Via di Città 71-73 (tel. 0577-280-002), since 1879 making its own panforte (one of the few left) and delicious soft ricciarelli almond cookies. It also carries the tops in Tuscan products, like vinegar from Castello di Volpaia and cured meats from Greve in Chianti's Falorni butchers.
For less touristy (and cheaper) pickings of traditional regional foods, head to one of the spots where many Sienese come to stock up. La Terra di Siena, Via G. Dupré 32 (tel. 0577-223-528), looks like a bargain basement-type place with stacks of regional products like Sienese cookies and area wines, honeys, cheeses, and meats, but it actually carries quality merchandise (at great prices).
The supermarket-like Consorzio Agrario Siena, Via Piangiani 9 (tel. 0577-2301), has been a farmer's co-op since 1901; it offers a nice selection of meats, cheeses, pasta, cookies by Tuscan producers.
Siena is famous for its delectable variety of cakes and cookies made with recipes dating from medieval times. Sienese sweets include cavallucci (sweet spice biscuits), panforte (once enjoyed as a traditional holiday dessert, has now become a year-round pleasure for visitors to Siena), made with honey, hazelnuts, almonds, and a secret blend of spices which includes cinammon and nutmeg), ricciarelli (almond-paste cookies), and castagnaccio (baked in the fall and winter - a batter of chestnut flour, topped with pine nuts and rosemary).
For a taste of some of Siena's best pastries, head for Pasticceria Bini behind the left flank of the Duomo at Via dei Fusari 9-13 (tel. 0577-280-207), where since 1943 they've filled the neighborhood with the aroma of Siena's dolci. They still make their delicious sweets on-site -- you can watch them at work through the next window down the street. Be sure to try the Forno Le Campane on Via di Citta' also.
Pasticceria Nannini is Siena's oldest pasticceria, and has a main branch on Via Banchi di Sopra 22-24.