An American I met at the hostel in Pisa had just returned from Siena and he told me about The Palio, a horse race held on 2nd July and 16 August every year in which teams of horses and their jockeys race around the unusually-shaped Piazza del Campo of Siena in full medieval costumes. I felt my heart sink because when I heard this, it was 4th July and I had just missed the race. Siena is about 45 minutes from Pisa by car/bus.
Another thing Siena is famous for is panforte, a heavy tart made of fruits, nuts and spices which is surprisingly delicious. I'm not particularly fond of heavy tarts such as pecan pie and panforte didn't look delicious. However, on our last day in Pisa, I bought a small piece of panforte and was blown away at first bite. It was moist, soft (surprise!) with flavors of citrus peel, nuts, honey and spices. It reminded me of panatone, a Christmas bread made from similar ingredients. Because of the rich ingredients, panforte is not cheap and is usually sold by the weight in grams. A small slice costs about 20 euros.
I think it was 35 euros per 200g (or was it per 100g?). Expensive but is a real treat.
I also loved torta della nonna, grandmother's cake, which has a light pastry crust and a custard made with eggs, lemon and ricotta cheese. Italian desserts are few and not fancy or elaborate but are homey and yes, from their grandmothers' recipes and simply delicious. I bought my panforte and torta della nonna from Pasticceria Salza, Pisa. The delightful cake shop was full of Italian desserts and I wish I had tried more of their goodies.