The ancient city of Siena has captivated my imagination and stolen my heart. We spent a little over 24 hours there this week and I am ready to commit to a lifetime love affair. In my next life, I hope to live in Siena, make glazed terra cotta ceramics and tour the whole city on my Vespa.

I’d like to visit each of the 17 Contrades and locate and photograph all of their symbols. These are the medieval wards, or neighborhoods, and each one has a mascot, flag, colors, museum, patron saint, motto and even a website. Within each contrada, you can find small tiles, plaques and sculptures featuring the mascot, and it’s a little bit like an Easter Egg hunt to spot them. The mascots are: Eagle, Caterpillar, Snail, Owl, Dragon, Giraffe, Porcupine, Unicorn, She-Wolf, Ram, Seashell, Goose, Wave, Pantheress, Forest, Turtle and Tower (which is represented by an elephant with a tower on its back). Each contrada is traditionally associated with a trade or business, such as shoemaking (Owl), painting (Giraffe), pottery (Seashell) and banking (Dragon). They have allies and adversaries, and twice a year, they compete against one another in Il Palio, a horse race around the Piazza del Campo. Only 10 teams compete in each race, and they take turns. Steve finds it hilarious that teams named Snail, Caterpillar and Turtle compete in contests of speed, but I don’t find that any more puzzling than the inclusion of teams named Wave, Tower or Forest. In any event, I’m just dazzled by the whole state of affairs.

Siena is hilly and very walkable, and there are ramps, steps, tiny alleyways, arches and all manner of twists and turns. We ate dinner in a restaurant that was built into the side of a hill. The dining room sits atop the wine cellar, which was an Etruscan house in the 3rd century B.C. The old part of the city has a very medieval feel and I found it absolutely enchanting.

The main cathedral (Duomo) is splendid, inside and out. I really don’t have the words for it. It was begun in the 12th century and took over 150 years to build, which seems shockingly fast, given the scope and majesty of this building. Of course, a lot of the artwork, sculptures and other embellishments have been added over the centuries. There were plans to make a massive addition to the church in 1339, and a couple of outer walls were built, but construction was halted by the Plague in 1348 and never resumed. Today, you can climb up to the top of one of those walls and see for miles in every direction. Lemonade out of lemons, indeed.

To paraphrase the late, great Italian-American singer, Frank Sinatra, I’m wild, beguiled and bewitched.