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Piazza del Campo, Siena
by Jesse Andrews


Chiesa San Agostino, Siena
by Jesse Andrews


View of Siena
by Jesse Andrews



Outskirts of Siena
by Jesse Andrews

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Welcome to Siena
From Jesse's Journeys in Italy

Population: 54,498 (2004)
Official website:
Siena
Wikipedia: Siena

Map: MapQuest

Siena, which 'til this day, retains its medieval character, sits on three hill tops, just over 320 meters above sea level, in the very heart of Tuscany.  The buildings of the city are predominantly red brick with red tiled roofs.  The entire city is encompassed within a square mile, so travelers can easily see and enjoy every corner.  Neither cars (save a few authorized vehicles) or bicycles are permitted inside the city walls.

The three major attractions within Siena are the main public plaza - the Piazza del Campo - and the adjacent Palazzo Publico, with its museum, and three blocks west, the Duomo, one of the world's most beautiful cathedrals.  During the over 200 years it took to build the Duomo, it was worked on by some of Italy's most reknowned artists including Pisano, Michelangelo, Pinturicchio, Duccio, Donatello and Bernini.

If you visit between July 2nd and August 16th, you will witness the Palio, a bareback horse race that has been run for over 800 years and still  draws tens of thousands of spectators.  The race is only 90 seconds long, but the festival gathers steam over the preceding days.

Originally an Etruscan outpost, it evolved into a Roman colony, founded by the Emperor Augustus, called Sena Julia. The Lombards gained dominion over the city during the middle ages, but they were supplanted by a succession of Carolingian counts.  During the 200 or so years from the 9th to 11th centuries, the city was dominated by the church.  In 1147 it became an independent city with an increasingly aggressive policy of expansion into adjacent territories.

Siena and Florence engaged in a 400 year long struggle for domination, driven by the competition between the Ghibellines and Guelfs.  Siena defeated Florence at the Battle of Montaperti in 1260, but over time the Florentines regained their strength, and with their allies, the Spanish, laid seige to Siena, which fell in 1555.  The city remained part of the Duchy of Florence until the unification of Italy.

The black death hit Florence in 1348, at a time when Siena, with a population of about 50,000 (equal to Paris or London), killing off more than three quarters of the population, and decimating civil rule and the local economy.

During the 14th Century, the city, with its steep, winding alleys paved with stone, was divided into the 17 wards or contrades, a municipal structure that remains intact.  During the Palio, each contrade is represented by men and women in medieval costume, carrying the flags and standards of their neighborhood.  Colorful is too weak a word for the display.  Try amazing!

The innumerable cafes, pastry shops and other stores seem only to be seperated by the dozens of gothic palaces and many ancient churches scattered throughout the city.  Step into the sanctuaries of these churches and you are likely to find unsurpassed alter pieces and other clerical treasures.

The Sienese Renaissance produced a gothic style distinctive to that of the Florentines.  The works of its principle artists, Duccio, Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers are found all over the city.

Take your time - whether site seeing or shopping, or both. Siena is a treat.  If you can, visit during the off season when you won't be as overwhelmed by tourists as you will be in July and August.

Tuscany

4320′N 1120′E

 

Distances

Montepulciano - 62 km;
Florence - 75 km;
Arezzo - 88 km;
Perugia - 106 km;
Lucca - 134 km;
Pisa - 169 km;
Bologna - 171 km;
Rome - 232 km;
Milano - 370 km

Directory

Tourist Office
Campo di Fiori 56
Tel: 0577-280-551
 

Restaurants

Al Marsili - Via del Castoro 3 - upmarket elegant

Cane e Gatto - Via Pagliaresi 6 - expensive - 7 course meals

Da Divo - Via Franciosa 29 - Below street dining - cool

Due Porte - Via di Staloreggi - Piazza and Tuscan foods

Gallo Nero - Via del Porrione 65 - vaulted restaurant - neat

La Taverna di Cecco - Via Cecco Angiolieri 19 - fab food - good service

La Campane - Via delle Campane 6 - high quality Sienese food

Netto - Via del Porrione 28 - Sienese food done very well

Renzo - Piazza Indipendenza - light simple meals

Tullio ai Tre Cristi - Vicolo Provenzano 1 - great meals since 1830


Siena's Coat of Arms

 


Siena alleyway

by Jesse Andrews

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