I had such a lovely time in Siena last week and my stay was enhanced by the warm welcome I received at Antica Residenza Cicogna. I often book a hotel through British Airways, as I usually fly with them, and invariably get a good deal. But they didn’t have a hotel that appealed on their list – they were either too far out of the centre of Siena or too expensive. If you’re only going for a short break, I think it’s nice to be as central as you can; to stay right in the heart of the city. A bit of online research led me to Antica Residenza Cicogna. It looked lovely and its location, just a short walk – barely 5 minutes – away from the Piazza del Campo, the main hub of the city, was perfect.
The Residenza is a B&B in a medieval house with 5 double rooms and 2 suites. It’s run by a family. Elisa is a descendent of the Cicogna family who owned the house for 200 years, until World War II. Then, after it went through years of various uses, Elisa decided to refurbish it and ‘bring it back to life’ as a B&B. The rooms were totally refurbished and have antique furniture and frescoes in some rooms. It opened in 2004.
Run on a small scale, the Reception is only open in the morning from 8.00am until 1.00pm. However, it’s easy to arrange arrival or departure at other times. I flew from London in the morning to Pisa and then took a train to Siena (1hr 42mins), so wasn’t due to arrive until mid-afternoon. I booked my train tickets online and so was able to give them my arrival time at the station. They recommended I took a taxi for about €10 to bring me to the door of the B&B in the centre, which was definitely the nice and easy option after a long journey. If you’re driving, it’s more of a problem as the Residenza is within a limited traffic area; the police need to be informed and there are parking areas, some requiring payment, but a little way from the B&B.
I had mobile numbers to call in case of a delay or problem on my journey, but it was an easy set-up and I was greeted on arrival, shown my room and everything was explained to me. I was also given a sheet of paper with useful information – emergency numbers to contact the family ‘out of hours’; password for the wifi; restaurant recommendations, ranging from ‘low’ to ‘medium-high’ prices. There were suggestions of what to see, what not to miss, and a recommendation that you buy an Acropoli Pass that will take you into the main sights at a discounted rate.
There are no ‘staff’ around at night either, but again there are numbers to call in case of an emergency and even a phone provided. It gave a sense of staying somewhere that was a cross between a hotel and a rented apartment and I liked that informal and relaxed feel. But of course there was the nice backup of the owners always being on easy call in you needed anything. I was given a code to get in and out of the front door and warned to always keep my room key with me.
The reception area immediately gives a sense of the place, with its warm colours and furnishings. My room was up a couple of flights of stairs – a short walk between the two. I was given the Corte Room – corte is courtyard – and it did indeed look down into a small courtyard. It wasn’t especially pretty but it was quiet. It was a fairly small room (possibly their smallest) and had a very small and narrow shower room, but it’s also difficult in these very old houses to fit in modern luxuries like bathrooms! But everything was clean and put together with care and thought and a nice personal touch. I paid just €78 a night for a double room for single use, including a buffet breakfast. I thought it was excellent value.
There was a ‘refreshment’ area where you could help yourself to complimentary tea or coffee, bottled water, biscuits, and even some vin santo, at any time.
All the areas that you walked through were attractively – though quite simply – decorated and furnished, giving a sense of staying in a home rather than hotel.
Breakfast was served from 8.00am until 10.00am.
Elisa prepared the buffet herself.
There were bruschette, topped in traditional style with fresh tomato and dressed with their own olive oil, from their place in the country. There were fruit juices, cereals and typical biscuits from Siena.
There was fresh fruit – apples, bananas, etc. – to help yourself to as well as a fresh fruit salad, prunes and melon slices.
There were fresh cakes and hard-boiled eggs.
There was cheese and ham and a basket of bread.
When you come down for breakfast you’re greeted – it was mainly Elisa – and asked if you wanted a cappuccino or espresso, though of course tea drinkers can have tea if they prefer.
It was a lovely, friendly place to stay and I found other residents, as well as the staff, would always say hello in passing or at breakfast. I think this was another advantage of it being so small; a kind of ‘family’ feel. It was also the most perfect location. You could easily walk to any of the sights, and were close to lots of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. And most of all it was just wonderful staying within the heart of a truly beautiful and special city.