A Touch of Rustic Tuscan Charm

Tuscany in Italy

will charm your socks off. My last visit to the town of Siena in Tuscany was a lovely experience (obviously…who goes to Italy and doesn’t love it?!).

Yes, there is a very large and well-known basilica there, called the Siena Duomo, and lots of cute tourists shops; and don’t forget that Siena is also the place where the infamous Palio horse race takes place in the town’s piazza…but all of these super-tourist experiences aside, I loved Siena for the downright old-fashioned charm that it has maintained after all of these years.

A view of Siena's main piazza complete with medieval architecture.

Strolling through the alleyways off the beaten tourist drag is the best way to get a true taste of REAL Siena. You never know what you’ll see that all the other tourists have missed.

You don't have to stray from the main tourist area to see these original Tuscan balconies.

I stumbled upon a small park with a great lookout - this view was worth getting lost.

From the same lookout point, I could see this private outdoor space.

Hidden look out points will reveal glimpses of the town's true charm - there are no tourist signs for restaurants or boutiques here.

A perfect view - right up this steep alleyway street is the entrance to someone's apartment.

While wandering around aimlessly, I stumbled upon this adorable deli while trying to make my way back to the car (yes, getting lost in a small town is a great way to explore). Everything about this deli eatery screams Tuscan charm! The shallots hanging on the wall, the deli meat suspended from the ceiling, the fresh herbs ready for the chef…this is what Italy is all about. FOOD. :)

No fancy signage and only two patio tables indicates that this is a local restaurant that isn't concerned about catering to the tourist crowds.

A glimpse of the deli interior - please ignore the cardboard sign that says "NO FOTO". Oops..didn't see that at the time! Notice the simple wood furniture, the basic ceramic tile and the traditional deli counter stuffed to a maximum with cheeses, meats and olives.

I'm sure the food at this deli eatery is great - check out the fresh ingredients on display!

Bottles of vino wrapped in straw remind me of my grandfather - he makes his own wine and still uses bottles like this. So old school!

Fresh basil planted in an old tomato paste can. ADORABLE!

The other side of the building has two openings that are kept open for ventilation and decorated wth quintessential Italian decor.

A close up on one of the back doorways.

The beauty of this deli lies in its unpretentious decor – by no means is this an example of high-end Italian design, but that’s exactly why this place is so charming. The decor is utilitarian – those woven baskets are suspended from the ceiling inside because there’s no where else to store them, and yet, it contributes to the traditional small-town Italian design aesthetic that I love so much.

I feel bad for commenting on how UGLY the street lights in Siena are (click HERE to read all about it) but, I also feel like being honest about a place is always better than lying to yourself. And yes, the street lights are hideous, I don’t care how historical they are.They look stupid…but that is part of the charm too, now isn’t it??

Speaking of charm…I’m happy to announce that Passport To Design is the 2011 winner of the Lovelies Award! :) Thanks goes out to everyone who voted – this award is based entirely on readers’ votes and it warms my travel-hungry heart to know that YOU picked ME!

Click HERE to see a list of all the winners and the lovely prizes.

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  1. Love these pictures. The true beauty of Italy is found on those little winding streets, away from the tourist sites. The deli counter gave me a craving for a “panino con mortadella”!

  2. It’s so true, Nadia – I had my fair share of caprese panini while visiting Italy…and sadly, I did not get to sample a panino from this deli. I think I had just eaten a GIANT pizza ;) Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. In the main piazza of Siena is a gelateria called “Nannini”…owned and run by Gianna Nannini’s parents. Lovely article, Tania…makes me so nostalgic…nothing compares to the charm of Italian vie…the smell of espresso in the air and the sound of vespas everywhere!

  4. Touche`, Jordana :) The Italian backdrop is painfully romantic – I am so happy I got to visit again this past August 2010. It was just as beautiful as I had remembered back in 1999! Is Nannini directly in the piazza or just off to the side near the road that leads to the piazza from the main parking entrance? I had amazing peach and prosecco gelato there if we’re talking about the same place. YUM.

  5. Yay…congratulations on winning the Lovlies Award…well deseved.
    While I have never been to Siena, I have been to Firenza, Cortona, Montepulciano and have adored all the tiny streets, the doorways, freshflowers and herbs and even the clothes flying on a clothes line outside an upper window. Nothing quit like Tuscany.

  6. Well put, Maureen! Tuscany is perfection…clothes drying in the sun and all! Thanks for the congrats on the Lovelies!

  7. Oh you are bringing me back to the golden days! Well, it was only 6 weeks of golden days and I didn’t go to Siena, but I did spend some time in Italy and I loved it! As you said at the beginning of the post, how can you not??

  8. And congrats again on the award! Much deserved!

  9. Oh Shannon, you have such a special story about Italy ;) I can’t wait to share it with my readers when your Guest Post goes live :)

  10. Congrats on the award! Another great post from a place far away from my world! I feel like I dont need a real passport with this blog! I can only imagine what the food is like……. (far away gaze)

  11. Denise Ponte |

    “I’m happy to announce that Passport To Design is the 2011 winner of the Lovelies Award! ” Ekkkk!!! Congrats, sorry I have fallen behind in my reading. XOXO Congrats!!!

  12. Haha, thanks Denise :) I never win anything…this is exciting!

  13. Well my friend, there are things that people “win” because of luck, and you “winning” this contest has nothing to do with luck! Xo congrats!

  14. Aww thanks :) Passport To Design loves you!

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