A view over Siena’s rooftops into the Italian Countryside.
Why visit Siena?
Piazza del Campo (aka Il Campo), the enormous town square where Il Palio takes place twice a year.
Siena is of course best known for its thrilling and dangerous bareback horse races in July and August, Il Palio, that skids around Piazza del Campo, the city’s beautiful scallop-shaped market square. But Siena has a lot more to it than historically nutty nag thrashing.
Enclosed by an ancient wall, Siena is Europe’s best preserved medieval town, containing many outstanding works of art and architecture.
The entire town is in warm terracotta bricks, with a laid-back atmosphere and pedestrian friendly streets that make it a delight to walk around, though motorbikes and small public vehicle can be aggressive sharers.
The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO a World Heritage Site and one of Tuscany’s most popular tourist attractions.
A classic Tuscan hill town, Siena was first settled about 900–400 BC by an Etruscan tribe known as the the Saina who were famously advance in terms of architecture, lifestyle and culture.
Il Duomo (Cathedral) of Siena.
Inside Il Duomo.
• The Duomo; work on Siena Cathedral started in the 12th century and took a hundred years to complete. In Romanesque-Gothic style the cathedral has a superb inlaid marble floor (revealed for only a few weeks in August), and an awesome pulpit carved by Nicola Pisano.
The Duomo’s Libreria Piccolomini is also magnificent, with vivid frescoes and gorgeously illustrated books.
– Outside Siena Cathedral on Piazza del Duomo, there is Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana (Duomo Museum) showing ‘Maestà’ by Duccio di Buoninsegna, the famous Sienese artist.
– Pinacoteca (National Picture Gallery), is home to ‘Madonna of the Franciscans’ by Duccio di Buoninsegna.
Trains run to Siena from both Pisa and Florence, tho’ you have to change at Empoli. The rail station is at the bottom of a long hill outside the city walls so be prepared to jump on a bus or taxi from the station unless you’re fit or carrying little baggage.
Buses go to and from Florence in less than an hour, as well as from Rome (3 hours), Milan (over 4 hours), and some other Tuscan towns.
Driving via various autostrada is quite easy, such as the Autostradale RA03 from Firenze.
Siena’s greatest festival: Il Palio pictures