One of the major cities of pastoral Tuscany, Siena is a city bursting with history and culture. Tracing its roots back as far as the Etruscans in the ninth century BC, Siena itself was only founded by the Romans in the fourth century BC on the pre-existing ancient settlement under the name Saenna Julia.

Although the city associates itself strongly with the capital, as can be seen in the many depictions of Rome’s origins (the she-wolf suckling the infants’ Romulus and Remus), Siena also bears visible marks of Etruscan culture today. This heritage manifests itself in a strong civic pride and attachment to neighbourhoods. Although tourism is considered necessary, to this day modern buildings are expected to conform to medieval stands to maintain the city’s beauty.

Don’t be put off though, Siena offers one of the few genuine gateways to the past and some of its attractions are not exclusive to the city alone, but the pride of Italy itself.


Classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Siena is brimming with cultural landmarks. As with most Italian cities, Siena prides itself on its medieval cathedral, and with total justification. Accessible via Capitano Street and located in Cathedral Square, work on the Duomo di Siena started as far back as 1196 and the façade, with its rose stained-glass window, lavish statues sculpted by Giovanni Pisano and Gothic trimmings, remains beautiful by anyone’s standards. The interior is equally impressive, suffused with black and white marble stripes denoting the civic coat of arms of Siena and notable for its marble pulpit and mosaic floor. Within the Duomo can also be found valuable works of art by Old Masters such as Donatello, Bernini and even a young Michelangelo.

Other prominent places of interest can be found in the Piazza del Campo, itself highly attractive largely due to the Fountain of Joy designed by Jacopo della Quercia in the 15th century (the previous pagan statue was blamed for the Black Death’s outbreak in 1348 and promptly removed). One can see why Siena rivalled Florence in the arts during the 13th and 14th centuries in the Palazzo Pubblico Art Museum (with many examples of medieval Sienese art) and the Torre del Mangia, which offers incredible panoramic views of the city.

One of the more widely known events held in Siena is The Palio. A traditional horse race held on the 2nd July and 16th August in the Piazza del Campo, participants represent one of the seventeen Contrade (city wards), denoted by various symbols such as an eagle, a snail and a dragon (although only ten Contrade can participate in each race). The winning neighbourhood is awarded a banner of painted silk, an honour most recently bestowed on the Contrade of the Pantera in July 2006. The earliest roots for the race are medieval and are associated with the two Catholic feasts of the Visitation and Assumption. For those who worry about the race itself, with so many spectators packed into narrow streets, a pageant in medieval costume precedes the event, which is equally impressive.

Sport is also popular, with the football side, AC Siena, currently plying their trade in Serie A. During the season, tickets can be easily purchased at the stadium, the Stadio Artemio Franchi. Moreover, the city has a pedigree in basketball under the name Mens Sana Basket.

If Siena itself is not enough for you, try an excursion to nearby places like Pienza and Montepulciano, themselves recalling the medieval period. Both public transport and local tour guides are available to this end.


Siena offers rare local produce due to the reputation of its craftsmen stretching back to the 11th century, serving up fine examples of embroidery and fabrics. The best opportunities for bargains are during the many markets found in the Piazza del Mercato, with the Mercatino della Crete selling local arts and crafts on the second Sunday of every month.

For food and drink, the best place to go is Nannini on the Banchi di Sopra (specialising in panforte), which also serves as the location for all the high street fashion outlets.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Restaurants are strewn across Siena, offering both something unique to the city as well as the broader delights of Tuscany. Among the many Tuscan specialties is the pici pasta type hosted in most restaurants and providing a delectable al dente taste. However, the city’s cuisine generally focuses on local produce and ancient methods, utilising Sienese meats and vegetables and following the old Etruscan and Roman emphasis on herbs. All of this is typically accompanied by Tuscan wine, including the famous Chianti, produced in the nearby hills.

Siena also has a selection of local sweets, including the panforte (a dense cake made of honey, almonds, fruits and spices) and ricciarelli (almond paste cookies).

Corresponding to the city’s mentality, modern clubs are rarely found in Siena. That said, pubs and wine bars can be sought out in the Piazza del Campo, ensuring some semblance of nightlife. This is supplemented by local concerts, which can be found both at the Siena Jazz School and the Accademia Musicale Chigiana.

Tourist Information

Siena Tourist OfficePiazza del Campo, 56SienaTel: +39 (0)577 28 05


Siena has Ampugnano Airport located just 9km from the city but most choose to fly to Florence due to its vastly greater number of flights and connections. Although situated some 70km away from Siena itself, the city can be easily reached via train or bus from Florence (the Sita bus service is recommended, located near the Santa Maria Novella train station and dropping off at the Piazza Garibaldi in Siena). Flights to Florence run from London Gatwick through Meridiana airlines and others.

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