Toscana - Places to Visit - Siena
Situated 322 m. above sea level in the heart of Tuscany, this town is built on three hills, maintaining intact its medieval appearance characterized by narrow winding streets and noble buildings.
Of Etruscan origin, it was a Roman colony with the name of Sena Julia; its importance grew in the Middle Ages, first as the seat of Lombard gastalds, and then of Counts under the Carolingian domination. After a long period of Episcopal dominion (9th-11th century) the town reached a peak of power after becoming a municipality (1147), undertaking a policy of expansion towards the bordering territories.
Confrontation with Florence was inevitable and the struggle lasted, with various vicissitudes, until 1555, when after a long siege, Siena was conquered by the Florentines, losing its autonomy and becoming part of the Duchy, sharing its fortunes until unification with Italy.
This town is of great environmental and artistic interest with a wealth of important monuments including: Piazza del Campo, one of the most beautiful medieval squares in Italy, Palazzo Pubblico (13th-14th century in Gothic style) overlooked by the bold Torre del Mangia (14th century, 102 m. high) and Palazzo Sansedoni (13th-14th century, altered in the 19th century); in Piazza del Duomo lie the Duomo (12th-14th century), one of the best examples of Gothic in Italy, with beautiful graffito and intarsia flooring, Libreria Piccolomini (in the left aisle, with valuable 16th century frescoes) and the 14th century Baptistery (font by Jacopo della Quercia), the Spedale di S. Maria della Scala (13th-14th century) and the remains of the Duomo Nuovo (14th century).
The economy is still based on the commerce of agricultural produce from the surrounding areas, and industry, though present in the foodstuff (confectionery) and pharmaceutical sectors, is not highly developed.
Tourism is of importance (linked also to the famous Palio), as are cultural activities (University, Academies) and crafts (ceramics, wrought ironwork). Banking is relevant to a certain extent; it flourished here in the Middle Ages and one of the banks is of international importance (Monte dei Paschi).
Events: Palio delle Contrade (2nd July and 16th August), Festa di S. Caterina (29th April), Musical Weeks in Siena (September).
Famous People: Antonio Federighi (architect, 1420 circa-1490), Jacopo della Quercia (sculptor, 1361-1438), Duccio di Buoninsegna (artist, 1255-1319), Simone Martini (artist, 1284-1344), Stefano di Giovanni called the `Sassetta' (artist, 1392-1451), Ambrogio Lorenzetti (artist, d. 1347), Pietro Lorenzetti (artist, 1280-1345 circa), Saint Catherine (1347-1380).
Cultural Institutions: Accademia dei Fisiocritici, Chigiana Musical Academy, Rozzi Academy, Accademia Senese degli Intronati, Biblioteca degli Intronati (library), State Art School, National Archaeological Museum, Museo dell'opera Metropolitana (among others, works by G. Pisano, Jacopo della Quercia, S. Martini, P. Lorenzetti), Civic Museum, National Art Gallery, University.
In the Province: Montepulciano (city of art), S. Gimignano (city of art), Pienza (environmental and urban interest), Poggibonsi (agricultural and industrial centre), Chiusi (environmental interest, Etruscan Museum), Chianciano Terme (spa).