Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, Siena sits on the northern edge of the Crete Sense, a landscape of soft, rounded hills bathed in warm, golden light. One of the most beautiful sites in Tuscany, it is set on three hills linked by a maze of winding alleys and steep steps. The Piazza Del Campo, a stunning paved square, stands at the heart of the oldest universalities in Europe, which lends a bustling, vibrant atmosphere to this historic place.
The city started out as an Etruscan hilltop town, but by 30AD the Romans had established a military outpost here. The Lombard’s arrived 6th century, followed by the Franks. Between the 9th century and 11th centuries, the church played an active role in governing the city, by the inhabitants soon claimed their right to govern and administer town.
The city’s wealth and military power grew quickly and friction developed between Siena and Florence, as both cities tried to enlarge their territory. There were many battles between the two cities, but eventually, Siena was incorporated into the Florentine territory. Despite these turbulent times, in the years 1150-1300, the city flourished and beautiful monuments such as the Duomo, the Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia was built. However, a devastating plague hit Siena in 1348 and killed three-fifths of the population, after which the city was slow to recover.
In the center of the city is enormous, scallop-shaped Piazza del Campo. One of the greatest squares in the world, it is overlooked by the Palazzo Pubblico and the soaring Torre del Mangia. Collectively, they are a UNESCO World Heritage. Site and represent a millennium of Siena’s cherished aspiration of independence and (not always successful) democracy.
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On the 2 July and 16 August every year, the Piazza del Campo hosts the Palio, a world famous bareback horse race round the cobbled streets of the city.
Rival procession fills the town, each in their own colorful medieval dress, with screeching bands and flying flags. These races have been run continuously for at least 500 years and are a part of Siena’s living history.
When To Visit:
July or August for Palio.
The Palazzo Publico and the Torre del Mangia, the palace was built in 13th century to house republican government.
The Duomo – this medieval cathedral takes the form of a Latin cross. Both the exterior and interior contain examples of striped black and white marble, the symbolic colors of Siena due to the black and white horses of the city’ legendary founders Senius and Achius.
The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo- houses the best of Siena’s paintings and sculptures, including some of the best Italian Gothic and Renaissance art in country.
The Pinacoteca Nazionale – a wonderful art gallery displaying local art dating from 1200-1300.
The Piazza del Campo, this shell-shaped piazza lies at the heart of Siena and has served as a focus for life in the city for centuries. It is regarded as one of the most beautiful civic spaces in Europe and is the venue for a medieval horse race that takes place each year in July or August.
The church of San Domenico.
You Should Know:
There are entrance charges for most historic sites