Although it is a relatively small city of fifty-two thousand people Siena is a cultural behemoth and rightfully has earned its place as a Unesco World Heritage Site.
This picturesque hill town has played a huge role in western civilization. Originally settled by the Etruscans, Siena rose to prominence when the Lombards conquered the city and built the Via Francigena, linking Rome with what is now France in the sixth century. The city became a regional powerhouse as two local industries, money lending and the wool trade, became headquartered there in the 12th Century. It was during this time that the city’s iconic landmarks were built – the Duomo and the city’s main square, the Piazza del Campo. Siena’s emergence as an economic force and its loyalty to the Holy Roman Emperor put it in a collision course with Florence, the other major Tuscany city state, which was dominated by the papist Guelphs and the Medici family. Wars between the two city states were frequent and bloody, and after three hundred years of fierce battles Siena surrendered to the Florentine leader Cosimo de Medici on 21 April 1555.
Today this picturesque city is probably mostly revered for its art and beauty. The Romanesque Gothic Duomo is one of the most beautiful churches in Europe. Constructed of white and greenish black marble in alternating stripes on the exterior, the church was originally intended to be the biggest cathedral in the world – until money forced the project to be abandoned. The Cathedral’s Church hosts one of the most spectacular collections of paintings and frescoes featuring the work of Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo amongst others.
The Palazzo Pubblico with its distinctive clock tower is still a landmark today. Virtually every room’s walls are covered by gorgeous secular frescoes as they were commissioned by the government rather than the church. Lorenzetti’s The Allegory of Good and Bad Government is one of the most notable works still in good condition. The Palazzo Pubblico is still a working town hall today and glorious civil weddings are celebrated throughout the year. If you are interested in getting married in this historic landmark please contact us here at TuscanDream and we will be glad to coordinate your wedding!
The famous Piazza del Campo is one of the most magnificent town squares in the world and is on July 2nd and August 16th of each year the site of the Palio, the famous horse race between Siena’s seventeen contrades (districts). Drawing half a million on-lookers this 90 second, bareback horse race is a tumultuous must-see spectacle and celebration. The race, or some people may say a battle, between ten of the seventeen contrades (the other seven plus three other contrades chosen by draw race in August) is the source of great pride among the Sienese with bragging rights on the line. The racehorses must not be thoroughbreds and the rider does not need to be on top of his horse to win. Jockeys have been known to engage in fist fights, use their whips against each other and their opponents horses and it’s a virtual free for all that must be seen to be believed.
Siena has so much more than art to offer! The University of Siena is one of Europe’s oldest and the city’s Summer Music Festival is and one of the best places to catch up and coming classical musicians from around the world performing.
The city is famous for its cuisine and fresh Pici pasta, a local specialty, is a treat to eat. There are several fabulous restaurants in the city. Just leaving the Piazza del Campo and going up into the side streets and you will find the best Sienese cuisine, like Osteria Le Logge in Via del Porrione 33 or Il Gallo Nero, in Via del Porrione 65 where you can taste also the Medioeval menus.
One of the best ways to visit Siena is to rent a nearby villa and TuscanDream is proud to offer a wide selection of the most elegant villas throughout the province of Siena.