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Siena - 2012 - About Siena
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With its narrow streets and steep alleys, a stunning Gothic duomo, a bounty of early Renaissance art, and the glorious Palazzo Pubblico overlooking its magnificent Piazza del Campo, Siena is often described as Italy's best-preserved medieval city. Victory over Florence in 1260 at Montaperti marked the beginning of Siena's golden age. During the following decades Siena erected its greatest buildings (including the Duomo); established a model city government presided over by the Council of Nine; and became a great art, textile, and trade center. Siena succumbed to Florentine rule in the mid-16th century, when a yearlong siege virtually eliminated the native population. Ironically, it was precisely this decline that, along with the steadfast pride of the Sienese, prevented further development, to which we owe the city's marvelous medieval condition today.

Although much looks as it did in the early 14th century, Siena is no museum. Walk through the streets and you can see that the medieval contrade, 17 neighborhoods into which the city has been historically divided, are a vibrant part of modern life. You may see symbols of the contrada—Tartuca (turtle), Oca (goose), Istrice (porcupine), Torre (tower)—emblazoned on banners and engraved on building walls. The Sienese still strongly identify themselves by the contrada where they were born and raised; loyalty and rivalry run deep. At no time is this more visible than during the centuries-old Palio, a twice-yearly horse race held in the Piazza del Campo, but you need not visit during the festival to come to know the rich culture and enchanting pleasures of Siena; those are evident at every step. 

Siena is laid out like a "Y" along three ridges with deep valleys in between, effectively dividing the city into thirds, called Terzi. The Terzi are each drawn out along three main streets following the spines of those ridges. The southern arm, Terzo di San Martino, slopes gently down around Via Banchi di Sotto (and the various other names it picks up along the way). To the west is Terzo di Città (home to the Duomo and Pinacoteca), centered on Via di Città. Terzo di Camollia runs north around Via Banchi di Sopra. These three main streets meet at the north edge of Piazza del Campo, Siena's gorgeous scallop-shaped central square.

Siena welcomes her guests with the saying as it is written on the Porta Camollia: "Cor Magi tibi Seni pandit" (Siena opens her heart to you even more through this door). 


Although it often looks and feels like a small Tuscan hill town, Siena truly is a city, and its sites are widely spread apart. Siena is a pedestrian–friendly city: here you walk because the historical district is closed to traffic. And don’t you think that you will get away easily because Siena is a small city: the historical centre is large, and filled with sloping streets. The locals are "trained hikers” from their first steps, but the tourists sometimes get "out of breath.” An ideal holiday: so many things to see, while keeping fit.The city does run minibuses, called pollicini (tel. 0577-204-246), which dip into the city center from 6am to 9pm. The line B services the Terzo di San Martino and out the Porta Pispini gate, as does bus no. 5 (there's also an N night bus on this route 9pm-1am). There are four lines A buses, differentiated by color. A pink goes around Terzo di San Martino (and out the Porta Romana gate), as does bus no. 2; A green and A yellow cover Terzo di Città (green from Porta Tufi to the Duomo, yellow from Porta San Marco to the Duomo); and A red takes care of the southerly part of Terzo di Camollia (from Piazza della Indipendenza out Porta Fontebranda).You can call for a radio taxi at tel. 0577-49-222 (7am-9pm only); they also queue at the train station and in town at Piazza Matteotti.

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