Siena is one of the most charming cities in Italy, thanks to its artistic beauty, its history and its culture. Siena is characterized by a unique medieval style, which shows itself in particular in the days of the Palio, the horse race that takes place twice a year in summer in the famous Piazza del Campo.
The symbol of the city of Siena is a shield divided into two black and white vertical parts, called ‘balzana’. According to legend, this symbol represents the black and white smoke caused by the fire lit by the two founders Senio and Ascanio as thanks to the gods after the city was founded. The architectural and artistic beauties of the city of Siena are concentrated in the historic center, which can be easily explored on foot. The heart of the city is the ancient Piazza del Campo: the square is famous for its particular shell shape divided into nine segments, since it was paved during the period of the so-called “government of the Nine”. Also in Piazza del Campo you can admire the Fonte Gaia, decorated by the sculptor Jacopo della Quercia, whose name derives from the general astonishment of the Sienese people when they first saw water flowing out of a public fountain. On the opposite side of the Fonte is the Palazzo Pubblico, built by the government of the Nine and today home to the civic museum and municipal administration. On the left of the Palazzo Comunale stands the Torre del Mangia, 102 meters high and named after its first custodian Mangiaguadagni, famous for having enjoyed the dishes of the local cuisine just as he squandered his earnings at the table. Near Piazza del Campo there are Palazzo Piccolomini (now home to the State Archive) and the Logge del Papa, commissioned by the Sienese Pope Pio II Piccolomini. Another famous place in the city is the Duomo, built in a Roman-Gothic style: inside it is possible to visit a series of monuments such as the Piccolomini library, the Crypt, the floor full of works of art, the Museo dell’Opera and the Facciatone. On the opposite side of the Duomo you can visit the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, now used as a museum complex that hosts various exhibitions during the year. Finally, for excursion lovers, it is possible to go urban trekking, getting lost in the characteristic alleys, discovering hidden corners of the city with breathtaking views.
With a small detour from Siena, we set off to discover the ancient and famous Via Francigena, the road used by pilgrims heading to Rome. The Via Francigena connects Tuscany to Rome through the medieval villages of Chianti in Val d’Elsa, the historic center of Siena and the Crete Senesi area, the Val d’Arbia and the famous Val d’Orcia.