SIENA - Tuscany - Travel Guide & Hotels
SIENA TRAVEL GUIDE
Siena is a Tuscan city of 53,772 inhabitants. According to legend, the city was founded by Senio, one of the sons of Remus, brother of that Romulus who founded, always according to legend, Rome. Its origins are very ancient, it seems that here was an Etruscan settlement called "Saenae", while it is known for certain that here was a small Roman military colony named Saena Iulia. There is little information dating back to the High Middle Ages, while it is known that around the tenth century Siena, finding itself on the road that led to Rome, began to prosper, becoming an important commercial hub, above all thanks to its good relations with the Church. There is no lack of clashes with neighboring Florence, as in the twelfth century, when Siena sided with the Ghibellines; despite this, the period of maximum splendor of the city is with the Government of the Nine, a Guelph party, who came to power at the end of 1200. In 1555, after a long siege, Siena becomes part of the Medici Republic, but remains partially separated from the rest of the Grand Duchy, so much so that it is also called the New State.
what to see and what to do in SIENA
Siena is one of the most beautiful Tuscan medieval cities in Italy, and is developed around
- Piazza del Campo, even during the Roman period, when the Forum was located here. The square is characterized by a particular shell shape, and is dominated by the large Palazzo Pubblico with the Torre del Mangia, 87 meters high: if you do not have problems with the narrow spaces and want to admire the breathtaking views, it is worth climb the 400 steps leading to the top of the tower.
- Also worthy of a visit is the Palazzo Pubblico itself, which today houses the Museo Civico di Siena: most of the walls of the palace are covered with frescoes, and probably the most famous are those of the Sala dei Nove, where you can admire the cycle of the Good and Bad Government, of Lorenzetti: these allegorical frescoes represent the life of the city and its campaigns as they might have been during a proper government (a Good Government) and a corrupt one (Bad Government); unfortunately the wall of the Bad Government is damaged, and the frescoes can only be seen in part. It is curious to note that the landscape surrounding the city represented in the frescoes, with olive groves and vineyards, has not changed much over the centuries.
- On the other side of Piazza del Campo is Fonte Gaia, built during the mid-1300s and decorated with beautiful marble engravings: the fountain is fed by underground tunnels 30 km long, and still today supplies water to the city center.
- Of course you cannot miss a visit to the Duomo: this church in Romanesque - Gothic style is one of the most important in Italy, and its construction dates back to the early 1300s. The facade is in white marble, with some decoration in red marble of Siena and serpentine of Prato (a dark green marble), although the most outstanding feature is certainly the abundance of sculptures that enrich it. The interior is divided into three naves pillars of various styles with white and black bands, while the ceiling consists of cross vaults, painted blue and decorated with golden stars. The interior of the Cathedral is really full of works of art made by the greatest artists of the time, such as the Pulpit by Nicola Pisano, one of the most important sculptural works of the thirteenth century, and some sculptures by Donatello and Michelangelo. Wonderful the floor of the Duomo, one of the largest and most precious examples of marble inlays, which took six centuries to complete, from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century; it is composed of over fifty-six panels made by great artists of the time, from Pinturicchio to Urbano da Cortona, just to name a few. The floor is normally covered, but between August and October it is discovered and it is possible to admire it in all its grandeur.
- But Siena is not only made up of beautiful buildings and works of art: it is beautiful to "get lost" in the streets of its historic center, to discover picturesque corners and unforgettable panoramic views, and maybe taste some good local product.
Events in SIENA - THE PALIO
There are many events that take place in Siena:
- in March there is the CiocoSi event, during which the best Italian chocolatiers artisans gather in Piazza del Campo for a trade fair where it is possible to make tastings but also to attend challenges between masters chocolatiers and lessons for adults and children.
- In the Christmas period, in Piazza del Campo a medieval market is set up where it is possible to go shopping with local handicrafts and food and wine products, and maybe even taste some sweet or good mulled wine, to drive away the cold of winter.
- Surely however the most important event that takes place in Siena is the Palio: this is a tradition with ancient origins, it seems that the first Palio was organized in 1600, and apart from the period of the two World Wars, it has never been interrupted. The 17 districts of the city challenge each other twice a year, on July 2 and August 16, in a horse race in Piazza del Campo; each district is distinguished by a coat of arms and unique colors, which can be seen walking through the city, exposed along the streets or at the windows of the houses. The event is organized over four days, and the last is that of the race, preceded by the blessing of the horses and the parade in historical costumes through the streets of the city; the race includes three laps of the square, and wins the horse that arrives first, also "shaken", that is without a jockey. The Palio is not only a tourist event, but is part of the life of all the Sienese, who participate in the life of their district and the organization of the Palio throughout the year. It is really worthwhile to assist to it!