Siena is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, and the historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is known for its medieval character, art, food, museums, the horse race “Palio di Siena” and a hunting sequence at the beginning of the James Bond film “Quantum of Solace”. Siena is located approx. in the middle of Tuscany with San Gimignano and Volterra in the west, Montalcino in the south, Arezzo in the east and Florence in the north.


According to a local legend, Siena was founded by Senius and Aschius, the two sons of Remus (from the legend of Romulus and Remus). After the deaths of their fathers, they fled Rome, taking with them the statue of the female wolf breastfeeding the twins. Thus, they dedicated that symbol to the city, and the symbol is found in several places in the city to this day. In addition, they rode white and black horses that are supposed to be the origin of the colors in the coat of arms of Siena.

Although the origin of Siena is still debated, it was most likely first settled by an Etruscan tribe called “Saina”. The Etruscans were a powerful and prosperous civilization in ancient Italy in the area roughly equivalent to Tuscany, western Umbria and northern Lazio. They lived between 800-280 BC. before they were finally defeated by the Roman Empire after many wars between them, and the rest of their civilization was assimilated into Roman culture.

Recent History

Under Emperor Augustus, Siena was called Saena Julia. The city did not have much success under Roman rule because it was not located close to any of the major roads in Italy, and lacked opportunities for trade. It was not until the city was conquered by the Lombards in approx. 600 AD that the city began to see success. The ancient Roman roads Via Aurelia and Via Cassia began to be subjected to Byzantine raids, so the Lombards redirected their trade route to another safer route through Siena, Via Francigena. The city flourished as a trading post and the constant flow of pilgrims passing through the city on their way to or from Rome provided a valuable source of income for centuries to come. Interest in pilgrimage has increased dramatically in recent years and via Francigena has become a popular destination for hikers.

The Church

The church became more and more involved in the rule of the city in the 9th century, but the population eventually took autonomy over the city in the 11th century and created the Republic of Siena. From the 11th to the 16th century, both Siena and Florence grew enormously economically and militarily, and as a result it created a rivalry between the two cities. Many wars were fought between them, but Florence eventually won with the help of the Spanish monarchy. The Spanish king owed Medici (bank family and Duke of Florence) large sums and gave Siena the territories to Medici who created the Duchy of Tuscany. Siena was part of this duchy until the unification of Italy in the 19th century.

Piazza del Campo

In the heart of Siena is “Piazza del Campo”, known for its shell shape, this square is the center of most of the city’s life. Within the square is also “Fonte Gaia”. A unique fountain with its square shape and beautiful figures around the edges. Restaurants are lined up in a crescent around the square, and where the restaurants end, “Palazzo Pubblico” starts with “Torre del Mangia”.

Reise til Italia : Siena : Primatoscana
Piazza del Campo with Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia

Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia

“Palazzo Pubblico” and “Torre del Mangia” form the surface of the crescent to “Piazza del Campo”. Palazzo Pubblico was completed in 1342 and was the government of the Republic of Siena. The building is an example of Italian medieval architecture with Gothic influences, and inside the building there are wonderful frescoes. The tower was completed in 1348 and one can walk on top of it, giving a great view of Siena and the surrounding countryside. The tower is 102 meters high, and it was built as high as the Cathedral of Siena to symbolize that the church and the state had equal power.

Palio di Siena

In “Piazza del Campo” there is a unique happening, and it is not to be missed. Consisting of a less than two-minute event that creates debate and rivalry all year round, and can make people cry, cheer or laugh. There are two horse races each year, July 2 and August 16. Ten horses and riders participate, each from their own district. There are seventeen districts in Siena, and locals firstly identify themselves with which “contrada” (district) they belong to and thereafter everyone belongs to Siena. The rivalry between the districts is great in the months before the race and is part of the “game”, but it is never anything more than words, as is usually the case with the Italians. Read article here for more information if you want to experience this.

Doumo di Siena

The construction of the cathedral was started in 1196 and completed in 1370. It is built in the shape of a cross, and is a mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture with a facade of dark green and white marble. Inside the church there are fantastic marble floors and beautiful stained glass windows. Outside the cathedral you will find a statue of the female wolf from the legend of Romulus and Remulus.

Other Attractions

There are two beautiful churches, “Baslica di San Donato” and “Chiesa di Sant’Agostino”. “Piazza Salimbeni” is home to the bank “Monte dei Paschi di Siena”. It was founded in 1472 and is thus the oldest bank in the world that is still in operation. “Accademia musicale chigiana” houses “Chigiana International Festival & Summer Academy”. An annual festival in July and August where you can hear classical music and opera. More information here.

Rounding off with a bit of football

The football team of Siena played its previous season in Serie C, but was a former Serie A club and last played in Serie A in the 2012/2013 season where they were relegated. The following year they went bankrupt and had to start up again in Serie D. The stadium in Siena is called “Stadio Artemio Franchi” and is named after a former Italian sports director. He died in a tragic car accident and the football team of Florence, Fiorentina also changed its name to the same name of his stadium in honor of him. So the two old rival cities have now shown that they can put rivalry aside for more important things.