The Historic Centre of Siena has been well preserved since the 12th and 13rd century. Its urban fabric, size and artistic identity distinguish Siena from other medieval urban centres in Italy. The city derived its wealth from banking activities - streets named Banchi di Sopra and Banchi di Sotto are a reminder of this. Siena also was the main rival of Florence, with which it disputed over territorial expansion.
The city had gained independence in 1189. The period that followed was to be crucial in shaping the Siena we know today. It was during the early 1200s that the majority of the construction of the Siena Cathedral (Duomo) was completed. It was also during this period that the Piazza del Campo, now regarded as one of the most beautiful civic spaces in Europe, grew in importance as the centre of secular life. New streets were constructed leading to it and it served as the site of the market, and the location of various sporting events.
Visit February 2009
With over 50,000 inhabitants, Siena is quite a bit larger than the other medieval towns in Tuscany. Although it also has been preserved well, I found it a lot harder to like (even tacky in some parts). I had to walk for about 20 minutes from one of the parking lots that surround the city center and are aimed at handling loads of tourists (and their buses) in the summer time. Parking at the Stadium is much closer, though not free.
My first glimpse of something grand was at the Baptistry, an enormous white-and-black marble building. It is adjacent to the splendid Duomo. This cathedral has an overly decorated gothic facade, and a striped bell tower almost like a minaret. Its dome is under construction at the moment and covered up. The colours black and white are used all over the design of the Duomo, as they are the colours of Siena's coat of arms.
The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo undoubtedly is the highlight of Siena. The square houses several monumental buildings, like the Palazzo Pubblico. It is also the place where the Palio horse race is run twice a year. I've watched that spectacle on TV once, and it is hard to imagine the crowds and the nervous horses at this so gentle public square. A sight not to be missed there is the 15th century Fonte Gaia, a fountain that is adorned on three sides with bas-reliefs.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
I visited this WHS in May 2003. The heart of the medieval city of Siena is Piazza del Campo where the local Palio takes place.
| Date posted: September 2012|
|Ann Reeves (USA):|
It has been awhile since I visited charming Siena but there
wasn't much posted on it so decided to give some input using
my scrapbook to jog my memory. The town, is marvelous and
the Duomo is fantastic with it's stunning mosaic floors. It's always so incredible to view Europe's amazing archi-
tecture. The highlight of our visit to Siena was having
lunch at Antica Osteria "Da Divo". It is on Via Fanciosa
close to the Piazza del Campo. The atmosphere with Etruscan
vaults and nooks and crannies is terrific, and the food was
the best we experienced on the entire trip to Italy, and that is saying something!! We ate our way through every city. The marketplace was fun and we enjoyed exploring
the typical narrow cobblestone streets twisting here and
there filled with delightful little shops and businesses.
I can see why it is described as the heart of Tuscany.
| Date posted: November 2008|
|Klaus Freisinger (Austria):|
I seem to be one of the few people who like Siena less than Florence, but since I like Florence a lot, that doesn´t mean that Siena is not a very nice city and a great place to visit. The unique cathedral and the stunning Piazza del Campo make Siena special and I would gladly return there to see more of it.
|Graeme Ramshaw ():|
Siena, the perennial rival of Florence, may not equal its neighbour to the north in sheer artistic achievement, but its charm and exuberance is all its own. The center of town is dominated by the Piazza del Campo around which every summer the Palio, a no-holds-barred horse race, is run to the delight of locals and tourists alike. Siena is also home to an unusual cathedral, which still sports the initial foundations of a massive planned expansion of the building that was cut short by the arrival of the plague. And of course, all of this is best seen while munching on one of the local ricciarelli, almond-based cookies.
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