Siena Travel Guide
While Florence remains a popular tourist destination, so too, does the town of Siena which has always been its historical rival when it comes to popularity among travelers in the area. Where Florence showcases the glory of the Renaissance, Siena features a look and vibe that is largely Gothic, and this difference in art style is what causes the division in opinion among visitors when trying to decide which town is the prettiest in the Tuscan region.
Siena is a scenic university town that is built upon three hills, and is surrounded by ancient walls, Chianti vineyards, and olive trees. The entire area has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site thanks to its well-preserved medieval and gothic structures, some of which date back to the 11th century. In fact, because almost every building in Siena is either historically, artistically, or architecturally significant, it is impossible to truly enjoy everything that the town has to offer in a mere day or two.
Among its many points of interest, its most popular ones would be the Piazza del Campo which is the heart of this town, along with the Duomo and St Maria della Scala. There’s also the University of Siena which is known for its schools of medicine and law and whose population adds to the youthful and vibrant feel of the town. It should also be noted that Siena has a prominent role in the history of Italian theater, and as such, catching a show at the Teatro Grande is also a must during one’s visit.
As for its surrounding areas, Siena makes a good base for anyone who plans to explore Tuscany because of its proximity to other nearby sights and attractions. Other beautiful old towns like San Gimignano and Monteriggioni are easily accessible, as is the town of Montalcino which is famous for its Brunello wine. Meanwhile, quaint coastal towns like Castiglione della Pescaia, as well as nature reserves like Maremma are also easy to get to either by public transport or by car.
Other than its historical buildings, part of Siena’s cultural identity would be the Palio, an annual four-day horse racing event which causes life in Siena to pause every July 2 and August 16 as residents celebrate and enjoy the races themselves as well as the various events and amusements that accompany it. The Palio is normally kicked off with a mass for the horse jockeys, a benediction ceremony for the horses, and a grand parade composed of around 600 people in full historical costumes, and the first day is then capped off with fireworks. It is truly a sight to behold, and visiting during the Palio is bound to be an unforgettable experience as one gets to experience the spirit and excitement of Siena.