In the heart of Tuscany, surrounded by magnificent countryside, is Siena (322m2, 66,000 inhabitants.). The town is built on three hills. The three districts link up on the shell-like Piazza del Campo which, according to many, is the most beautiful square in the world. In the Middle Ages, Siena was the Florences great rival until the town was incorporated into the grand duchy of Tuscany in 1559. With its narrow, winding streets, Siena is a real medieval town. It also has gothic influences as shown by the magnificent, marble cathedral and the many brick palaces.
In contrast to Florence, which is busy and hectic, Siena exudes an atmosphere of serenity. If you park your car outside the towns walls (the historic town centre has been a pedestrian zone since 1956) and wander into the old town through one of the gates you might well imagine you have travelled to a different period in history. All the streets and lanes lead as if by magic to the "Campo". There, next to the Palazzo Publico, it is impossible to miss the majestic Torre del Mangia which is more than 102 metres high. Just walking about this slightly sloping square gives you an exceptional sense of beauty: it is an example of medieval town planning at its best.
Siena is important as one of the most important historical and artistic towns in Italy and is, as a result, a major tourist attraction. It was founded by the Romans who had authority over the town in the 3rd century. In the 12th century, the towns residents acquired more power and it was during this period that Siena managed to increase its wealth considerably by taking control of silver mines and by manufacturing woollens and through trade. Goods from Siena were exported throughout the whole of Europe. For a long time, there was considerable rivalry between Siena and Florence and this regularly resulted in armed conflict.
In addition to splendid buildings, Siena also has a number of very interesting museums featuring the very best of Italian gothic painting. In general, the museums are open the whole day during the period from mid March to the end of October. The towns rugged form and height differences mean it is quite tricky to get your bearings. In addition, there is very little parking space which is why it is advisable to use public transport.
The sights you really must see are the Piazzo del Campo with the Piazzo Pubblico which houses the Museo Civico, the cathedral, the Museo dellMetropolitana and the pinacoteca Nazionale. In addition, Siena has numerous churches and palaces which might be a little disappointing if you have already visited the cathedral and the Pallazo Pubblico but are certainly worth a visit if you plan to stay for more than one day. Of these churches, the San Domenico is certainly recommended and of the secular buildings you should try to visit the Palazzo Piccolomini with its very interesting collection of book bindings. Of course, there are plenty of shops, restaurants and sources of entertainment.
The vicinity of Siena: to the North is the Convento dellOsservanza which was built in the 13th century on the Capiola hill (321 m.) which provides magnificent panoramic views over the town.