tuscany guide

01 – Siena

Medieval pearl of Tuscany
Distance from the airport: 240 km (~160 mi)
Travel time: ~ 3 hours

From Rome–Fiumicino International Airport, take E80 and head north, then take the SS223 road towards Siena.
It would be a shame if you visit the Tuscan province of Siena without stopping by its eponymous capital. Siena is a fantastic place for culture-lovers, gourmets, and, of course, photographers. The city is famous for its cuisine, art, medieval cityscape, and the centuries-old tradition of Palio horse racing held twice a year. Siena is located in the middle of a vast hilly landscape surrounded by picturesque valleys. I recommend staying in Siena for at least two to three days to fully appreciate the city with its nearby historical sights and landmarks.
Historical reference
After the murder of their father, they fled from Rome into the forest on black and white horses, where the two young boys survived by being suckled by a she-wolf. When the boys grew up, they founded a city and took the she-wolf as its symbol, and the colors of the horses as the city's coat of arms. Most probably, however, the town was founded by the Etruscans who were later seceded by Romans. The latter established a military colony on Siena's territory calling it Sena Julia.

Siena didn't prosper under Romans: it didn't have proper infrastructure and therefore lacked opportunities for trade. With the invasion of the Lombards, who built the road through Siena to connect their northern possessions with Rome, Siena finally started to prosper. The oldest aristocratic families in Siena date their lines to the demise of the Lombards in 774 when the area was invaded by Charlemagne. During this period, lots of Frankish overseers married into the existing Sienese nobility and left a considerable legacy throughout the region. By the time feudal power waned, the region was broken down into several autonomous areas, which resulted in the creation of the Republic of Siena in 1115 that existed for more than four centuries up until 1555. The end of the Republic came after its defeat to Spain. However, since the new Spanish King Felippe II owed a huge amount of money to the Medici family, he gave up Siena to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, which the town continued to belong to until the 19th century.
Siena has had a rich tradition of arts. The Sienese school, a school of painting that flourished in Siena between the 13th and 15th centuries, includes such artists as Duccio, Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti, and Martino di Bartolomeo. You can see the above artists' works, as well as the art by Guido da Siena, (mid-13th century) Domenico Beccafumi, Lorenzo Loto, Domenico di Bartolo in the church of San Domenico and the National Pinacoteca of Siena.

Siena Cathedral, aka Duomo, is a masterpiece of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture and a focal point of important ecclesiastical buildings that comprise a museum, baptistry, and crypt. The construction of Duomo started in 1215 and was completed nearly 100 years later, in 1380, that's how much work was put into it. Duomo became one of the most prominent monuments in Italy. The statues of philosophers and prophets adjourning the building are copies from the originals located in the Museo dell' Opera.
Another landmark that's worth visiting is the Piazza Del Campo, the shell-shaped town square that unfurls before the Palazzo Pubblico and its soaring tower Torre del Mangia. The Palazzo is a 14th-century Gothic masterpiece, which houses yet another museum, Museo Civico, with the finest frescoes by Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti, and Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The frescoes in the museum are unusual: because they were commissioned by the governing body of the city rather than the church, the artworks depict secular rather than religious subjects.
Palazzo Salimbeni is a Gothic style urban palace located on the piazza of the same name. The building, associated with an ancient mercantile family of Siena, currently houses the main offices of the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of the oldest banks in continuous existence in the world.