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Siena

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Siena [1] is a medieval city in the region of Tuscany, located in the north of Italy some 70 km (43 miles) south of Florence. It is probably best known for a colourful horse race, Il Palio, conducted twice each year in the summer.

Siena

Understand

Siena was a proud, wealthy, and warlike independent state during the Middle Ages, until its final defeat by Florence. Medieval Sienese art (painting, sculpture, architecture, etc.) is unique and of historical importance. Sienese people are fiercely proud of their city and their neighborhood (contrada). The Palio, described below, is all about neighborhood pride and rivalry, and also constitutes the unbroken continuation of a Medieval tradition associated with religion, pageantry, trash-talking, bragging, and occasional violence. It is taken very seriously and is in no way a put-on for tourists; in fact, you are likely to be less welcomed during the Palio than at any other time, and there isn't the slightest doubt that Siena would run the Palio with great enthusiasm regardless of whether any visitors ever showed up. That said, this is a city which depends and flourishes on tourism. Siena was a very poor little city for a few hundred years after its defeat, which is the main reason that its lovely Medieval buildings were never torn down and replaced with modern structures. In the 19th century, tourists started coming. Nowadays, it is a requirement that new buildings within the city walls be built to maintain the city's character and beauty - many are strikingly modern, yet fit in well.

Get in

By plane

Siena's Ampugnano airport is located 9 km from the city. At the moment, connections from Olbia, Vienna and Munich are available. For additional information tel 0577-392226. A shuttle service connection is currently available between the airport and Piazza Gramsci TRA-IN (tel. 0577-204224).

Most travellers arriving by plane will land at airports in Florence or Pisa.

By car

From the north, take the Chiantigiana from Florence (SS 222 - 72 km) that elegantly crosses the hills of Chianti or the highway (SS 2 superstrada Siena/Firenze - 68 km). From the south, Siena can be reached by taking the Autoway from Rome (A1 Roma-Firenze, exit Valdichiana), turning right on state highway #326 (Bettolle-Siena - 240 km). Free parking can be found near Fortezza Medicea, northwest of the city stadium - and around it. [2] [3] [4]

By train

From the north, some trains go directly from Florence to Siena, and otherwise it is possible to take any train that stops in Empoli and find train connections from Empoli to Siena every 30-60 minutes. From the south, direct connections to Siena depart from Chiusi or from Grosseto. The train station in Siena is located approximately 2 km from Siena's historical centre, a five minute bus ride - buses leave regularly from Piazza del Sale. Buses numbers 3, 8, 10, 17, 77 leave from the station to Piazza del Sale and bus #17 departs from Piazza del Sale for the train station. If you don't mind walking uphill, you can also walk to the centre in about 20-30 minutes: Exit the train station, turn left, walk past the bus park and then uphill, bearing right at the traffic circle, staying on the road called Viale Giuseppe Manzini. When this road sharply bends to the right, follow the curve around where the road becomes Via Garibaldi, which will take you into the city.

By bus

By far the easiest way to get to Siena from Florence (though the train journey is much more picturesque). Take the SITA bus (located across the street from Santa Maria Novella train station). After 1hr 20 minutes it will eventually drop you off at Piazza Garibaldi which is located well within the walls of the city, allowing for an easy walk to any of the city's attractions. Connections are also available from Rome (3 hours) and various other cities.

Get around

The centre of Siena is accessible only on foot. Cars (other than taxis, police, etc.) are strictly prohibited. There are several small buses (Pollicino) run by the TRA-IN company that cover some streets located in the centre and several bus lines to and from the outskirts of town. Bus tickets cost 0,90 per fare when bought at kiosks/tabacchi, but are more expensive when bought from the driver. Outside the main city walls can be found various parking areas. For more information, contact "Siena Parcheggi" tel. 0577-228711. To call or reserve a taxi, telephone the Central Reservation Office at 0577-49222.

Siena may be the only city in Mediterranean Europe where parking is not a massive headache, though charges have increased dramatically in the past few years and you can expect to pay €40,00 or more per day. Farther out there is free parking, with minibus service, from Due Ponti and Coroncina (beyond Porta Romana).

Siena is a city (a small city, yes, but it isn't like one of the hill towns) and the attractions away from the Piazza/Duomo area are spread out on three steep hills, so walking is a necessity. You will understand why Italians can eat so much, and not get fat, when you see old women carrying groceries up a long street with a 30-degree incline. If you are tired, check to see if you can get to your destination by walking along a ridge, rather than going in a straight line down a hill and back up.

See

Piazza del Campo at "Il Palio". The Palazzo Pubblico is to the right in the photo.
Piazza del Campo from above
  • The Piazza del Campo, the unique shell shaped piazza at the centre of the city, and twice a year the racetrack for the Palio (q.v.).
  • The Palazzo Pubblico, Siena's City Hall for almost 800 years, contains (amongst many other things) the famous frescos on good and bad government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and access to the Torre di Mangia, from whose top you can view a beautiful panorama of the Sienese countryside.
  • The Duomo, Siena's magnificent black and white Italian Romanesque cathedral including the Libreria Piccolomini, Baptistery (separate entrance and charge), and an attached Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (separate entrance and charge) [5] (website only in Italian) which includes the famous Maestà by Duccio. After you've seen all the art, you can also treat yourself to a beautiful panorama from Il Facciatone in the museum.
  • The Pinacoteca, full of Sienese painting from the city's Medieval heyday.
  • The Palazzo Salimbeni, built in 1472, is the world headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the major banking corporation which has a hand in much of the economic and cultural life of the city. The building itself is well worth looking at from the outside. Inside, there are interesting documents showing the history of banking, plus a collection of paintings and other artwork, but you would have to request permission in advance if you'd like to have a chance to view them.
  • The house where St. Catherine of Siena was born is just a few blocks from the duomo. This 14th century mystic is one of the principal patron saints of Italy.

Do

  • 2Be In Siena, Phone +39 334 9363263, (email: info@2beinsiena.com), [6] Travel Designers, offers customized wine tours and sightseeing tours for Siena and Florence. Transfers, ballooning, horseback riding, Vespa rental, trekking and mountain bike.
  • Take a tour of an Etruscan tomb, visit a winery for a wine tasting, sample regional food, and visit a local village. There are many such tours available.

Events

  • Palio Horse Race - a horse race like nowhere else, between the 17 contrade of Siena, is run in The Campo of Siena on July 2 and August 16. All Sienese are affiliated with one of the contrade, to which a typical Sienese feels loyal with a strength perhaps surpassed only by their loyalty to their family. Since the 11th century, the Sienese have conducted festivals every year where the contrade compete for renown (and in times gone by, actual political power) through contests such as flag throwing, horse racing and even fist fights. The fist fights no longer happen (a heavy police presence in the weeks prior to the contest sees to that), but the spirit of competition between contrade is still fierce. See more on the Palio at: [7].
  • Classical concerts during the summer at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, and at various locations in the city during the Settimana Musicale Senese. [8]
  • Siena Jazz Festival [9] during summer.
  • Other Events [10] updated list of expositions, market exhibitions, festivals and other events.

Shop

Siena is large enough still to have items made in the local area, stemming from its history of craftmanship, so you will find some items not readily available anywhere else. Fine paper, neckties, fabrics, embroidery/tapestry, glazed terracotta, gold jewelry, and of course local food and wine, are some of the distinctive items produced locally. There is a great shop on Via di Citta (the main street) with leather luggage, purses, bags etc.

A huge Market is held every Wednesday around the Fortezza Mediceana from about 7am to about 2pm.

Siena has popular stores such as Furla, United Colors of Benetton, Upim, Intimissimi and more.

Due to the city's status as a major tourist attraction there are plenty of newsagents selling international papers and magazines. A good example is the shop opposite the church on Via San Marco in the Snail Contrada, which has a friendly and helpful multilingual owner, who also runs an internet access point.

  • Olive Oil [11], - if you have a car then drive out to the Montestigliano Olive estate, perched high on a hill surrounded by olive trees. You can taste and buy their single estate, extra virgin olive oil (as well as a few other goodies) to take with you or have shipped. There is also a lovely courtyard where you can sit and enjoy a glass of wine and admire the view.

Learn

The wonderful Siena Jazz Music School is housed in the old fortress.

Siena is also well known for its Italian language schools and several prestigious universities.

Drink

Also in the fortress is the excellent and large Enoteca Italiana which is a wine bar underneath which are vast vaults containing stock of every wine made in Italy.

Eat

  • Excellent gelato can be found just off the Campo at two gelaterias called "Il Gelato" and "Brivido". Ask for Romaney at "Il Gelato"
  • For something more substantial, "La Chiacchiera" next to the House of St Catherine is an excellent source of typical Tuscan cuisine; the pici (thick, homemade noodles) are superb.
  • Osteria Nonna Gina, outside the Due Porte is recommended as is the nearby Osteria del Gatto in Via S Marco.
  • Also excellent is "La Torre", the restaurant of the contrada of the same name.
  • Osteria Sotto le Fonti, Via Esterna Fontebranda, 114 (St. Catherine district), 0577-226446, [12]. Restaurant off the beaten path, with owners who serve you personally; the waitress speaks fluently English (very rare in Italy) and knows how to recommend you wine, as she is also a wine tour guide.
  • Nannini, Via, +39 0577 286050. A bakery/cafe with an excellent selection of Tuscan pastries: Ricciarelli, Cavalucci, Cantucci, Panforte, etc. The ingredients of same are prominently displayed in most cases, making Nannini a very attractive option to the travelling vegan.


Sienese specialties include:

  • Panforte - a unique kind of dense cake, made of honey, flour, almonds, candied fruits, a secret blend of spices, etc. Tipo Margherita is the classic, but several other types are made. Panforte is commercially manufactured only in Siena and neighboring Monteriggioni, its loyal ally in medieval wars with Florence. The most famous brand of panforte is Sapori. You can buy panforte most cheaply in local supermarkets, but don't miss a trip to Nannini on Banchi di Sopra (see above), a pleasant caffé where you can buy not only their panforte by weight but also many other types of unusual pastries and so forth.
  • Ricciarelli - small almond paste cakes.

Sleep

Camping

  • Camping Siena Colleverde [13] (in Italian only at the moment), Strada di Scacciapensieri 47, tel. +39 0577 280044, fax +39 0577 281041, e-mail [14] is situated to the east at about 3 km from the city centre and up the hill from the rail station. It is quite a large campsite and has all the facilities and a swimming pool. As of this year, one can rent new and comfortable cabins with toilet/shower for 2/4/5 persons (40/100/115 euros per night, maybe cheaper when booked through traveling sites), a good alternative for a hostel. The campsite can be reached by taking bus 8 from the city centre and asking to be let off at camping Colleverde (the stop itself is actually quite near the entrance to the site, there's a good and cheap pasticcheria/bar nearby as well). Alternatively you could walk though it's quite strenuous to do so.
  • Alternatively, you could camp at Montagnola, Strada della Montagnola 39, 53018, Sovicille (SI), tel. +39 0577 314473, e-mail [15], beyond the small village of Sovicille about 12 km from Siena with regular bus connections to and from Siena. It's a decent site with basic facilities but quite friendly and helpful staff.

Budget

  • Piccolo Hotel Il Palio [16] Cheap but not very well kept 2 star hotel within the city-walls from 60€ (2007) easy to reach by foot from the station.
  • Agriturismo Monaciano [17] Tuscany self catering accommodations into the Chinti hills just 7 km. from Siena with swimming pool, ping-pong and a romantic park. Monaciano has many farmhouses that may comfortably accommodates large families or large group of friends.
  • Ostello del Chianti (Chianti youth hostel), Via Roma, 137 50028 Tavarnelle Val di Pesa FI, tel. +390558050265 fax. +390558065039 [18] is a clean, comfortable and friendly hostel very convenientely situated right in the heart of Tuscany, within easy reach of Florence, Siena, Sangimignano and the renowned Chianti area. Doubles €31, ensuite €40, dorms €14.
  • Casa Gigliola [19] - holiday rental apartment near Siena - beautiful apartment for 6 people near the Abbey of San Galgano. Private garden, terrace, excellent location in a very green area of Monticiano. Inexpensive and comfortable.
  • Casina di Rosa [20] holiday rental home in medieval hilltop village south of Siena, can accommodate up to 3 people.
  • The Relais dell’Ussero [21] at the Villa di Corliano or at the Ussero Palace are two historical fifteenth century mansions. Villa di Corliano it is very conveniently located only 2 Km along the road from the health spa of San Giuliano Terme (Pisa) and Ussero Palace is in the historical centre of Pisa. Both are near the cities of Lucca and Livorno (a 15 minute drive to both). Florence is only an hour away and Siena an hour and a half.
  • Santuario S. Caterina (Alma Domus), Via Camporegio, 37, +39 0577 44177 (fax: +39 0577 47601). Run by a nunnery, this modest hotel near the Basilica di S. Domenico provides sanctuary to weary travellers. Curfew is 11pm. 60-90€.

Mid-Range

  • Tuscan Villa Burraia [22]. Agriturismo near Montepulciano, 1 comfortable self-catering apartments for 8 people, Gym garden, swimming pool.
  • Agriturismo in Toscana Il Passo degli Ulivi [23]. Agriturismo near Paganico, 3 comfortable self-catering apartments near Petriolo hot springs, air-con, garden, swimming pool.
  • Albergo Bernini, Via della Sapienza n°15, 53100 Siena (just down the street from San Domenico) tel. +39-0577-289047 [24] (use simple English if you email) [25] - dated but clean rooms in a tiny, centrally-located inn. A truly friendly older couple owns and runs it, and lives on the property (they leave their door open often). The great thing is the view of Siena - spectacular, as you look across the unobstructed valley and almost down at the Piazza del Campo and Duomo. The two rooms at the back have the view. They also have good tips on the best inexpensive dining, which is fabulous. At midnight they lock the doors and go to bed. Double with bath €85, without bath €65.
  • Borgo di Pietrafitta Relais, Strada di Pietrafitta, 53011 Castellina in Chianti, Tel. +39.0577.741390 Fax +39.0577.740049. [26]. In the heart of the Chianti, in the most beautiful part of Tuscany, between Siena and Florence, Relais Borgo di Pietrafitta is waiting for you.
  • Montestigliano 53010 Rosia [27], conveniently located just 15 minutes south of Siena, in the heart of the countryside but within easy reach of the cities and hilltowns, it really is an ideal place to base yourself. The setting is a beautiful 2000 acre olive producing (the oil is delicious!)agritcultural estate, which has paths to walk or bike along. The main hamlet has restored old farm houses and buildings converted into apartments. Cooking classes (a great cultural and culinary experience) for both adults and kids, meals and various other activities can be organized, but you also relax beside the pool and enjoy the spectacular views across the Tuscan landscape. There is also a gem of a british consiegere who will help you plan as much or a little as you want.
  • NH Excelsior, Piazza La Lizza, +39 0577 382111 [28]. Situated in the heart of the city, the NH Excelsior is elegant and pleasant, and has easy access to the city’s main attractions.

The hotel, recently completely refurbished, has 129 rooms all of which offer comfort and a modern design.

  • The Hotel Minerva [29] is situated in the historic center of Siena. There are 59 bedrooms with bathrooms, phone, color TV, safe deposit box, air conditioning, fridge-bar, laundry service, fast internet facility. The bedrooms have a view of old Siena. A meeting room is available. Garage. Ten minutes' walk from Piazza del Campo. 500 meters from the Railway Station.
  • Poderi Arcangelo, Via San Benedetto 26, 53037, Capezzano San Gimignano Siena - Tel. +39 0577.944404 - Fax +39 0577 945628 - Sito web: [30]. In Chianti, near San Gimignano, in the municipality of Capezzano, surrounded by 40 hectares of olive groves and the DOCG vineyard of the organic farm: rooms, suites, restaurant and pool.
  • Argiano in Chianti , Località Argiano, 53010 Pianella (SIENA), Toscana Italia

Tel./Fax: 0577 363330 [31] or use [32] for more detail. Superb quiet self-catering apartments 1-2 bedroom or a independent villa for 10, both of which have a great pool, with stunning views. 15 -20 minutes drive from Siena

  • Residence Il Cassero in Lucignano 20 minutes south Siena *Il Cassero
  • Villa Astreo, via del Colombaione, 4 - 53010 Vagliagli, +39 0577.322624 (, fax: +39 0577.322624), [33]. . Villa Astreo is among the hills of the Siena countryside, surrounded by pine and olive groves.
  • Borgo Grondaie [34]. A typical farmhouse hotel in Siena with swimmingpool. It offers a selection of studio apartments and en-suite rooms in a country and friendly atmosphere.
  • Azienda Agricola Il Poggio, Celle sul Rigo, +39 0578 53748 (, fax: +39 0578 53587), [35].
  • Tuscany Accommodations [36]. Private Villas and Apartments in Siena. Great selection of exclusive private villas for rent in Siena.

Splurge

  • Hotel Albergo L'Abbeveratoio, Loc Abbeveratoio · San Giovanni d'Asso (Siena), 0039 0577802911 (, fax: +39 0577 301167), [37]. Agriturismo accommodation just south of Siena, the ideal place to relax in the country, eat the best food possible and base yourself for a driving holiday around Tuscany.
  • Borgo San Luigi, Via delle Cerreta, 7 · Loc. San Luigi Strove · Monteriggioni (Siena), +39 0577 301055 (, fax: 0039 0577802056), [38]. The San Luigi Residence, situated at the gateway to Siena under the still-intact walls of Monteriggioni in the heart of historical Tuscany.
  • Il Boschetto - 4 km from Siena, 9-room villa with pool, private garden, large living room with open fireplace, satellite-TV and video, 5 large bedrooms.
  • Bellavista Palace Montecatini, Viale Fedeli, 2, Montecatini, 51016 Terme, +39 0572 78122 (). 5 star luxury hotel complex in the nearby volcanic spa town of Montecatini, Terme, where everyone is pampered to the extreme. Offering a rich host of services to complement the natural springs, including various types of massages, full fitness and leisure facilities, well being centre, physiotherapy and health and beauty treatments.
  • Campo Regio Relais [39]. A luxury, bed and breakfast-style hotel, renovated in 2005, right in the historical center of Siena, with amazing view onto the old town.\
  • Hotel Borgo Casato,

A few minutes from Siena, Borgo Casato is the ideal place to relax. It is in the middle of the Chianti and only 7km from the termal station of Rapolano.



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