Siena

Siena is architecturally and artistically one of Italy’s richest cities. Its planning is particularly enchanting; ancient red-brick walls enclose narrow streets which climb up and down the hills and curve unexpectedly into lively piazzas. The special harmony of architecture and colour,  the character of the people, placed in such wonderful countryside, make Siena many peoples’ favourite city. 

Have a look at our Map of Sights and Museums in Siena (with handy parking tips)

To see where you could stay in and around Siena click here: Villas in and around Siena

View of Siena from Cathedral
A sketch by Dan Wrightson from the unfinished walls of the Siena Cathedral

I sketched the view above while standing on the “Facciatone”, an unfinished and ambitious project to extend the Cathedral. The works were brought to a sudden stop by the Black Death in the mid 14th century and remain uncompleted. They now provide a perfect high spot to see the city. To buy tickets go to the website of the Opera del Duomo (the same body that was established to oversee it’s construction in 1180!):  Tickets for Cathedral, Facciatone and more

This medieval city is mainly made of bricks, all in the typical rusty brown of the local clay. “Raw Sienna” and “Burnt Sienna” are colours beloved by artists and they were originally made with the earth from the fields that surround Siena. Today the city is still predominantly a terracotta city, with they striking exception of the Cathedral, built on the highest point in the city. 

Siena view from San Domenico
The view of the Cathedral rising above the city, sketched from the church of San Domenico | Dan Wrightson

The Palio

Perhaps Siena is most famous for the Palio, a bareback horse race run around the beautiful shell-shaped square, the Campo, twice a year, on first Sunday of July and on the 16 August. But this is more than a horse race, it is the culmination of year-round preparations for a tradition which has never faded, and which the Sienese take very seriously. A series of colourful and breathtaking medieval spectacles start four days before each race. The event is still heartfelt by the Sienese and it is not advisable to take small children to see it from the centre of the Piazza del Campo.

Piazza del Campo

Accademia Musicale Chigiana

The world-renowned Chigiana Music Accademy is situated in the notable Gothic Palazzo Chigi-Saracini. The academy organizes Master Classes in the major musical instruments as well as singing, conducting and composition. During the summer months a series of concerts are held under the title of Estate Musicale Chigiana.

Around Siena

Torri, Stigliano, Brenna and Orgia form a line of villages on th edge of a large forested area, cut by the meandering river Merse. These Montagnola hills are covered with the Mediterranean mix of chestnuts, oak trees and pines that make the woods a wonderful place to hunt Porcini mushrooms or gather chestnuts for the fire. To the north Siena is surrounded by a semi-circle of forested hills offering beautiful walks and bike rides, as well as hidden castles, old mills and small villages.