Siena is the capital of the province of the same name in the Tuscany region of Italy. It is probably the most beautiful larger small town in the country and, especially in summer, is overrun with tourists. During the traditional Palio, held twice a year, it is impossible to find a hotel bed in the city.
Siena travel guide
Region: Tuscany. Province: Siena. Postal code: 53100. Area code: 0577. Tourist office: The tourist information office is in Piazza del Campo itself. Town hall: Il Campo, 1 (tel. +39 0577292111).
By car/public transport
By car: If you want to take a scenic route from Rome or Florence, you can follow the old consular road Via Cassia (SS2). It is also possible to follow the A1/E35 until the exit at Sinalunga/Bettole. This is much faster, but it is a toll road.
Public transportation: The train station is a short walk outside the historic center of the city. From both Pisa and Florence you can reach the city by train by changing in Empoli. From Rome you will need to change trains in Empoli. Buses from Rome depart from Tiburtina station and do stop in the middle of the city.
What to see
For a medium-sized city, Siena has a lot to see and one can easily spend several days there. Moreover, there are several small towns and villages in the area that are also worth visiting. San Gimignano is the best example. The attractions in the city itself are mostly located in the historic center. Especially the Piazza del Campo and the immediate surroundings of this central square are full of beautiful palaces and churches.
The Basilica dell’Osservanza is located outside the city walls. It was founded by San Bernardino da Siena, who also used to live there.
The main event is the famous Palio, which is held twice a year. The central districts of the city battle each other in a horse race around the Piazza del Campo. During the days surrounding the festival, this square is filled at night with tourists who have been unable to find a place to sleep.
A brief history of Siena
Although people lived in the area as early as the Bronze Age, Siena was not founded until Roman times. Highlights of its history are the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance period.
According to legend, Siena was founded by Aschio and Senio, the children of Remus, who had had to flee from Rome.
Previously it was one of the minor Etruscan settlements. Even further back in time, traces of human life in the Bronze Age have been found, although nothing to suggest that there used to be an actual village there.
After the Etruscan era, it became a Roman military colony named Sena Julia.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, Siena was ruled by the bishops. The construction of the pilgrimage route Via Francigena, along which several fortresses were built, increased the importance of the city.
Later, the bishops lost authority to the consuls, the consuls then to the Podestà, and the Podestà was replaced in 1236 by the Governo dei Ventiquattro (“Government of the Twenty-Four”), which in turn had to make way for the Governo dei Nove (“Government of the Nine”) in 1287.
In 1348, due to a plague epidemic, the population was reduced to no more than 8,000 people.
At the beginning of the 15th century, Gian Galeazzo Visconti held power in Siena. However, by the end of the same century, the Petrucci family took over the feudal lordship.
From that time on, much of the city’s history was marked by its rivalry with Florence. Siena was on the side of the Ghibellines and until 1552 also on the side of Charles V’s Imperial troops.
However, in 1555 the city had to surrender to the troops of Cosimo I and in 1559, after the defeat at Montalcino, the Republic became history.
In 1859, Siena was the first city to join the Kingdom of Italy.
Siena is now one of the most beautiful cities in the country and, especially on the weekends when the traditional Palio is held, is overrun by tourists.
Day trips (province of Siena)
Apart from the already mentioned San Gimignano, there are several beautiful hill towns in the area around Siena.
Abbadia San Salvatore is named for an abbey that used to be extremely important during the Middle Ages.
Siena (province of Siena, regio of Tuscany)
Abbadia, Agazzara, Bolgione, Casa Vannini, Casciano, Certano, Colle Malamerenda, Colombaiolo, Colonia Santa Regina, Doglia, Ellera, Ferraiolo, Ferratore, Ficareto, Fogliano Grosso, Ginestreto, Isola d’Arbia, La Pergola, Le Coste, Le Querce, Le Ropole, Leccio, Monastero Basso, Montalbuccio, Montecchio, Montechiaro, Monteliscai, Osservanza, Piazza, Pieve a Bozzone, Presciano, San Giovanni, San Martino, San Pietro a Paterno, San Rocco a Pilli, Sant’Andrea, Sant’Andrea a Montecchio, Santa Regina, Selvaccia, Tavernacce, Taverne d’Arbia, Terrensano, Toiano, Val di Pugna, Vico d’Arbia, Villa Mieli, Volte Alte, Volte Basse.