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Travel Guide Europe Italy Tuscany Siena

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Introduction

La Torre

La Torre

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Siena in Tuscany, also spelled Sienna, is one of the most stunning hill top towns in all of Italy. The traditional rival of Florence this city is often overlooked by tourists in favour of its rival. It is sad because Siena is amazing city in its own right with one of the best old towns in all of Italy and the stunning central plaza of Piazza del Campo should not be missed. Especially if your lucky enough to catch of the amazing horse race of The Palio held in it twice a year.

Brief History

The city area was first settled during the first millennium BC as an Etruscan village. Although the city was not mentioned in Roman records until AD 70. The cities Roman origins can still be seen in the town's emblem of a female wolf breast feeding the infants of Romulus and Remus. Local legends hold that Siena was founded by Senius a son of Remus. No one is really sure if this is were Siena gets its name because there have been many other Siena sounding groups or events in the towns history.

Under Roman rule the city was a bit of backwater but it grew in power when roads had to rerouted to avoid Byzantine raids along the coast. This also brought many Christian pilgrims into the city on their way to Rome, giving Siena additional wealth. This led to the erosion of the power of the church and by 1179 Siena had written its own constitution and founded a republic. The 13th and 14th century were considered the high times in Siena society even with the occasional war with Florence.

Sadly during the 15th and 16th century city's power declined and the Spanish conquered Siena with the help of Florence in 1555. King Charles of Spain owned so much money to the powerful Florentine Medici family that he gave Siena and some coastal areas to Florence adding to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Thus marking the end of the Republic of Florence.

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Neighbourhoods

Most of the tourist sights are located within the old town. The old town is pretty easy to navigate by foot.

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Sights and Activities

Siena cathedral interior

Siena cathedral interior

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Siena Cathedral

Siena Cathedral, in Italian Duomo di Siena, is the main church in Siena. This cathedral was built between 1215 to 1263 in the shape of a latin cross. The interior and exterior are designed with white and greenish black marble in altering stripes, these are symbolic colors to Siena. There is also red marble on the façade. On the outside of the church the erie remains of a started expansion can be seen when walking around the exterior on the south end of the church. This expansion would have doubled the size of the church was only stopped because of the bubonic plague in 1348. The inside has great artwork and several interesting relics including a depiction of the Slaughter of the Innocents.

Other Churches

  • Basilica dell'Osservanza - Located on the outskirts of town this church was built in 1490 and has a Renaissance style with a Baroque feel. The church was totally destroyed during World War II and was completely rebuilt form photos and evidence from monks.
  • Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi, also known as Can Clement, is an interesting church with several styles represented in it.
  • Basilica of San Domenico, also known as Basilica Cateriniana, was built between 1226 and 1265 but was enlarged in the 14th century giving it a Gothic make over. Interesting the interior is lined up on an Egyptian cross.
  • Basilica of San Francesco was built in the 13th century and has an Egyptian Cross floor plan. The present day interior looks more neo-Gothic then the original construction.
  • Santo Spirito has a nice Renaissance style portal and was built in 1504.
  • San Martino was built in the 12th century with the facade complete in 1613 and tower in 1738.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Piazza del Campo, located at the centre of town, is one of the most splendid plaza's in all of Italy. It is also the location of The Palio, an amazing horse race.
  • Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall, is located right on the Piazza del Campo. Its stunning tower, Torre del Mangia, can be seen anywhere in the city and gives an impressive feel. The interior is filled with amazing public art mainly from the Republic period with strong feelings of freedom and liberty. Several hours can be spent looking at these fine examples of political art.
  • Monte dei Paschi di Siena, located on Piazza del Campo, is the oldest continuous bank in existence.

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Events and Festivals

Palio di Siena

  • Palio di Siena is one of the most intense horse races in the entire world. The different districts of the city compete in this festival to have control of the city centre. 10 riders, wearing the right colors, represent the 16 different districts and the horse to cross the line first, even without the rider, is considered the winner. Held twice a year on July 2nd and August 16, this even is extremely popular and make sure to book seats and hotel rooms far in advance.

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Weather

Siena's weather is comparable to the average weather in Italy. A Mediterranean climate with mild but wet winters and dry and warm/hot summers, with temperatures mostly around 30 °C from June to early September. Winters can get quite cold sometimes and a sweater or jacket is absolutely necessarry. Snow is rare.

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Getting There

By Plane

Siena's Ampugnano airport is 9 kilometres from the city. However, there are no scheduled flights to Siena airport. For additional information tel 0577-392226. A shuttle service connection is currently available between the airport and Piazza Gramsci TRA-IN (tel. 0577-204224).

The nearest commercial airport is in Florence. Other options include Pisa and even Bologna. Buses of the Sena line connect Siena with the Bologna Marconi airport (twice daily, 2.5 hours), a favorite with the discount carriers. There is also a bus link to Pisa airport.

By Train

It is possible to reach Siena by train from Florence and Pisa, although it requires a change in Empoli. Remember to note that the train station is located at the bottom of the hill outside the city walls. If you have lots of luggage you might want to take taxi

By Car

From the north, take the Chiantigiana from Florence (SS 222 - 72 kilometres) that elegantly crosses the hills of Chianti or the highway (SS 2 superstrada Siena/Firenze - 68 kilometres). From the south, Siena can be reached by taking the Autostrada from Rome (A1 Roma-Firenze, exit Valdichiana), turning right on state highway 326 (Bettolle-Siena - 240 kilometres). Relatively cheap parking can be found near Fortezza Medicea, northwest of the city stadium - and around it.

By Bus

Buses come and go from Piazza Gramsci, located within the old town. Buses go directly from Florence, near the Florence train station, and takes an hour. It is also possible to get buses to and from Rome, 3 hours, and Milan, 4.5 hours.

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Getting Around

By Car

The centre of Siena is accessible only on foot. Cars (other than taxis, police, etc.) are strictly prohibited; motorcycles and scooters are OK, though. Patrons of the central hotels are allowed to drive up and unload the luggage (and then get out), but only by obtaining one-time permission slips from the hotel front desk beforehand (also have them draw the route for you on a map and follow it to the letter; if you miss a turn, it may be wiser to head out the nearest gate, get on the circumferential road just outside the walls, return to the starting point and try again); have this pass handy if stopped by police while driving within the walls - or, in a pinch, at least a confirmation of your reservation. Don't rush your turns, and swing wide like a truck, as you would be sometimes required to fit between two stone walls into an opening just slightly wider than your vehicle. For more information, contact "Siena Parcheggi" tel. 0577-228711. To call or reserve a taxi, telephone the Central Reservation Office at 0577-49222.

Siena may be the only city in Mediterranean Europe where parking is not a massive headache, though charges have increased dramatically in the past few years and you can expect to pay €40 or more per day for the more convenient spots. The huge parking lots around the Fortezza and the adjacent football stadium are no longer free, but on the other hand, you can now count on finding a space there almost anytime; there is free parking further out, with minibus service, from Due Ponti and Coroncina (beyond Porta Romana).

By Public Transport

There are several small buses (Pollicino) run by the TRA-IN company that cover some streets located in the centre and several bus lines to and from the outskirts of town.

By Foot

Siena is a city (a small city, yes, but it isn't like one of the tiny hill towns) and the attractions away from the Campo/Duomo area are spread out on three steep hills, so walking is a necessity. You will understand why Italians can eat so much and not get fat, when you see old women carrying groceries up a long street with a 30-degree incline. If you are tired, check to see if you can get to your destination by walking along a ridge, rather than going in a straight line down a hill and back up.

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Eat

Sienese specialties include:

  • Panforte - a unique kind of dense cake, made of honey, flour, almonds, candied fruits, a secret blend of spices, etc. Tipo Margherita is the classic, but several other types are made. Panforte is commercially manufactured only in Siena and neighboring Monteriggioni, its loyal ally in Medieval wars with Florence. The most famous brand of panforte is Sapori. You can buy panforte most cheaply in local supermarkets, but don't miss a trip to Nannini on Banchi di Sopra (see above), a pleasant caffé where you can buy not only their panforte by weight but also many other types of unusual pastries and so forth.
  • Ricciarelli - small almond paste cakes.

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Drink

In the fortress is the excellent Enoteca Italiana, a wine bar and shop located in the fortress' vaults. The Enoteca Italiana stocks an extensive selection of wines produced all through Italy.

Additionally, since Siena is in the Chianti country, you can buy bottles of good Chianti wines at any market that sells food and wine.

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Sleep

Upscale

View our map of accommodation in Siena or use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Learn

The wonderful Siena Jazz Music School is housed in the old fortress.

Siena is also well known for its Italian language schools and several prestigious universities.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Almost all towns and cities in Italy have internet cafes. A growing number of budget hostels and nicer hotels have free Wifi. By law all public-access internet points must keep records of web sites viewed by customers, and even the customer's ID: expect to be refused access if you don't provide identification. Hotels providing Internet access are not required to record IDs if the connection is provided in the guest's room, although if the connection is offered in the main public hall then IDs are required. Publicly available wireless access without user identification is illegal, so open Wi-Fi hotspots (like the ones you might expect to find in a mall or cafée) all have some form of (generally one-time) registration.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The main networks are TIM (Telecom Italia Mobile, part of Telecom Italia, formerly state controlled), Vodafone, Wind, and 3 (only UMTS cellphones). Best advice is to buy a prepaid SIM card (from € 10 upwards) and a cheap mobile phone (€ 19 upwards) to put it in (if you don't have a cellphone already that you can use). It will be much more practical. All land line numbers start with 0. Mobile numbers start with 3. Numbers starting with 89 are high-fee services. In case of emergency call the appropriate number from the list below. Such calls are usually free and calls to 112, 113 (police), 115 (fire), 118 (health) can be made from payphones for free without the need of inserting coins. 112 (standard emergency number in GSM specification) can be dialed in any case for free from any mobile phone.

Post

Post Italiane is the national postal services of Italy and has quite an efficient network of postal offices and reliable postal services. Standard letters and postcards (up to 20 grams) cost €0.39 to send within Europe and the Mediterranean countries outside Europe and €0.41 to all other destinations throughout the country. Up to 50 grams, prices start at €0.52 for Europe, €0.62 for other areas. Packages start at €1.55 within Europe, and around €2.50 for other countries. Post office business hours in Italy are from 8:30am to 2:00pm from Monday to Friday, with closing times at Saturday and the last day of the month at 12 noon. In general, larger post offices in bigger cities and in tourist areas keep longer hours than those in local towns. Also note that business hours in the south might be different than the north, with longer hours at night, especially in summer! If you want to send packages you might try faster and more reliable/efficient private courier companies like TNT, UPS or DHL.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 43.3186614
  • Longitude: 11.3305135

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This is version 14. Last edited at 3:29 on Aug 2, 17 by sleepBot. 11 articles link to this page.

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