Located in the heart of Tuscany, just 70 km south of Florence, Siena is Italy´s best preserved medieval city with a population of about 56,672 people. Once a wealthy, warlike independent state during the Middle Ages, Siena experienced a few hundred years of poverty after its final defeat by Florence. Since then, Siena has maintained its lovely medieval buildings and Gothic architecture, and today’s new constructions adapt to this character and beauty.
Siena is built on three small hills within the city walls, divided into three areas, called "Terzi".
- "Terzo di Citta" was the earliest inhabited area of the city, and holds Piazza Postierla; the Cappella delle Ceneri di Sant'Ansano; the Duomo, Siena's gorgeous black and white cathedral; and the museum of Santa Maria della Scala.
- "Terzo di Camollia", named after the city gate Porta Camollia, consists of the main social and shopping street -Via Banchi di Sopra, with Piazza Salimbeni and Piazza Tolomei; and the Basilicas S. Maria in Provenzano, S. Francesco, and the Fortezza.
-"Terzo di San Martino" expands around the Francigena way, the route to Rome for the pilgrims of the patron saint S.Martino. The area includes the Piazza del Campo at the heart of the city; the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena's City Hall, which contains the famous frescos on government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and access to the Torre di Mangia with a spectacular view of the Senese countryside, and the famous fountain Fonte Gaia.
These terzi are subdivided into 17 contrade. Loyalty to one's contrada is an important part of Siena´s culture and history. The competition between each contrada takes centre stage in Siena's world-famous horserace, Il Palio. An unbroken medieval tradition since the 11th century that takes place annually on 2 July and 16 August when the unique shell shaped Piazza del Campo is converted into a racetrack.
Siena is a major tourist attraction and home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe, which adds for a vibrant student atmosphere and a bustling daily life. Siena offers many cultural events, concerts, cinema, theatre and a wide range of sporting activities. In the summer, there is the Siena Jazz Festival, and the classical concert by the Accademia Musicale Chigiana. Settimana Musicale Senese features various concerts around the city.
Siena stores offer many locally made items, such as, leather products, neckties, fabrics, glazed terracotta, gold jewellery, and of course local food, such as, Panforte, Ricciarelli, Pici and many wines. Every Wednesday morning a huge market is held around the Fortezza Mediceana.
The Senese countryside also boasts a lovely landscape of natural beauty. There is the Chianti landscape between Florence and Siena, hills woven with vineyards and Olive estates, and beautiful towns like San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. South of Siena, the Arbia valley leads to the hill-top town of Montalcino, home to the famous Brunello wine. The area La Crete Senese features harsh rock formations, soft rounded hills, and a unique landscape grain-field below a medieval fortress.
Siena wonderfully blends the natural beauty of Tuscany with the historic elegance of its medieval influence.