SIENA Siena is an outstanding medieval town in Tuscany. The population is about 290.000 inhabitants and the historic centre was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO in 1995.
A brief history of Siena:
At the time of the Holy Roman Empire there was a town called SAENA JULIA. Legend has it
that Remus’ sons – Senio and Ascanio – were the first to found a settlement, but later Etruscan archaeological evidences have proved the village was much older. The Middle Ages were the town’s golden years. Siena was actually on an important ancient route that connected Canterbury to Rome, the VIA FRANCIGENA . All merchants and pilgrims travelling from or to Rome would walk along this route. The extraordinary importance gained then by the town can be nowadays perceived by looking at its stunning buildings, such as the Cathedral (Duomo) and Palazzo Pubblico, built between the end of the thirteenth Century and the beginning of the fourteenth Century. It is no accident that the main street is called Banchi di Sopra, in fact the first bankers of Siena supposedly started their activity in this very street and later expanded their business to the province of Champagne, Flanders and Rome (especially on behalf of the Pope). Over the decades Siena slowly became a Ghibelline town, that means it was loyal to the emperor and made an enemy of the Guelph Florence, loyal to the Pope. The two rival political factions fought in the famous Battle of Montaperti on 4th September 1260, when the Florentines lost to the Sienese. Though, during the following three centuries Siena had to face several attacks from its powerful rival, only to definitely lose its freedom in 1555. The most famous symbol of the town is the BALZANA, an escutcheon equally divided between black and white. It is said that these two colours were the ones of the horses Senio and Ascanio used to escape from their uncle Romolo and reach this part of Tuscany. Another important symbol is the LUPA (she-wolf) suckling the Twins, Senio and Ascanio.

The best places to visit:
  • Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (better known as the Duomo) :a perfect synthesis between the Gothic and Romanesque styles that was consecrated in 1250. Opposite to the Duomo stands the former Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. Today it is no longer a hospital, rather a museum. The wonderful façade of the Cathedral was designed by Nicola Pisano. The works were usually directed by the monks, who on this occasion engaged another monk from San Galgano Abbey to complete the masterwork. Inside the Cathedral we can gaze at the marvellous frescoes by Cimabue. Since the Duomo was considered not to be spacious enough to host all the inhabitants, extension works were started in 1339. Unfortunately, in 1348 the plague broke out and in the same period some parts of the building collapsed, freezing the works. Today, the incomplete part of the building can be admired in Piazza Jacopo Della Quercia - a square close to the Cathedral - while the complete part houses the famous Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, one of the oldest private museums ever established in Italy.
  • The Baptistery: it is devoted to St. John (in fact, it is called Battistero di San Giovanni) and it was built in 1316 from a project by Crescentino di Camaino. Still, its façade is incomplete. The baptismal font is a masterpiece by Donatello, Jacopo della Quercia and Lorenzo Ghiberti. It is made of marble, bronze and smalti.
  • Piazza Del Campo: The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo is covered with terracotta tails placed as fish-bone. Is divided into 9 section to remember the luckyest period of Siena during its history. When the city was ruled by the government of 9t . The name Piazza del Campo is due to the fact that originally it was a big green area where was taken place markets and fairs. The Campo Square is known all over the world particularly because of the Palio, one of the most famous horse races of all times that is held twice a year in this very square. On the square face different beautifull b uilding and the most important one is Palazzo Pubblico .The city-hall
  • Palazzo Pubblico: Was built between the end of the thirteen Century and the beginning of the fourteenth Century as the seat of the Government of Nine, while today it hosts the Municipality of Siena. It is made of bricks and travertine and overviews the wonderful square. Next to this building rises a stunning bell-tower named Torre del Mangia.
  • Torre del Mangia: It was built in the thirteen Century and it is the tallest tower in Tuscany. Its name is said to derive from the nickname of the first bell-ringer, Giovanni di Balduccio, called “Mangiaguadagni” – that means “profit eater”. At the base of the tower we can admire a marble shrine built in 1352 to thank the Virgin Madonna for the miraculous end of the plague.
  • The Fonte Gaia: is the most representative monumental fountain in Siena. The current work is a copy by Tito Sarrocchi, made in the nineteenth Century from the original masterpiece by Jacopo della Quercia (early fifteenth Century).
Other highlights: Sanctuary and House of Santa Caterina; Basilica of San Domenico; Church of Sant’Agostino; Sinagoga in Siena; Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena; Civic Museum of Siena; Santa Maria della Scala museum complex.

Places near Siena that are worth visiting: Monteriggioni, Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Colle Val d’Elsa, San Gimignano, Chianti senese (Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga), Buonconvento, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Giovanni D’Asso, San Quirico d’Orcia, Cetona, Sarteano, Chianciano Terme, Chiusi, Trequanda, Radicofani, Poggibonsi, Rapolano Terme.

Some illustrious name born in this area: Arnolfo di Cambio, Duccio da Boninsegna, Simone Martini, Jacopo dall Quesrcia, Tito Sarrocchi.

Local dishes: Pici, Pappardelle alla Lepre, Cinghiale, Riccirelli, Panforte, Cantucci e Vin Santo, Crostini di Fegatini.

Famous events: The most important event to attend is the Palio, an exciting horse race which takes place in Piazza del Campo, the heart of the town, twice a year: every 2ndJuly and 16thAugust. Ten out of the seventeen “contrade” take part in each race. The shell-shaped square is prepared for the event by covering the external ring with tuff clay in order to make it usable as a racecourse.
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