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Surrounded by rolling hills covered with olive groves and vineyards, immersed in a territory of great beauty and charm, Siena is one of the most beautiful centres of Tuscany, as well as one of the most visited Italian cities, and it is universally known for its artistic heritage, for the beauty of its historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and for the famous Palio, the historic horse race held every year on 2nd July and 16th August. Built on three hills, the city is full of by wide avenues and narrow alleys leading to Piazza del Campo, symbol of the city and the seat of cultural landmarks such as the Duomo and the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. In addition to the daily life that animates the streets and squares of the city every day, Siena offers to citizens and tourists many cultural events, concerts, cinemas, theatres and a wide range of sporting activities. And, last but not least, it is also home to one of the oldest universities in Europe.
Legend has it that Siena was founded by Senio and at the end of a long, mythological “Palio in the long run”. The colors of their horses, one white and the other black, formed the white and black flounce, coat of arms of Siena and symbol of the extreme character of the city. The story speaks instead of a center of Etruscan origin, then a Roman outpost at the time of the emperor Augustus with the name of Saena Julia. Around the centuries X and XI Siena is located at the center of important commercial ways thanks to the episcopal power followed at the time Carolingian, and at that time it expands its territory and secures its first alliances, becoming an important medieval city in both political and economic terms, subjecting the nobility of its countryside, to which he imposed the construction of palaces and residence in the city for most of the year.
Between the XIII and XIV centuries Siena lived the great European season as a major protagonist: its merchant nobility dictated law to the Champagne fairs, its bankers opened branches in London and Paris and had contracted from the Empire the collection of taxes, from the Papacy that of the tithes and the ecclesiastical taxes, they conducted loans, exchange, transfers of enormous sums of liquidity, they issued exchange letters and warrants. The Sienese Studio (which recently celebrated its 750 anniversary), entered the European cultural landscape with its faculties of Law, medicine and natural philosophy, like Padua and Bologna, Pavia and Paris.
“The Golden Age” was over and it was lost after a war
its independence from the Medici and the Master of the world of those years is memorable, Charles V (1559), Siena lost its state and was forced to the subordinate role of one of the small cities of Tuscany, under the aegis of the rival of always, Florence, capital of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Around the middle of the nineteenth century the city began to grow. From the middle of the century the new railroad connected it to Empoli. In 1883 the Spedali riuniti in Santa Maria della Scala became the first University Hospital in Italy. In 1904 the Great Exhibition of Sienese ancient art relaunched the image of Siena in the world, like at the beginning of the twentieth century the prestigious Accademia Musicale Chigiana was born, a leading institution in the world music scene.
The new millennium began with yet another effort of the city to adapt to new times, without forgetting its extraordinary past. And today it is one of the cities with the highest quality of the life in Italy. Art is what characterizes it, making it one of the most visited tourist cities: Piazza del Campo, the Duomo, the town hall and Torre del Mangia attract visitors from all over the world, and are just some of its wonders. Gothic art in particular, thanks to the contact during the 14th century with France and Venice, has given Siena one of its most interesting connotations, visible for example in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, and in some finishes of the town hall .
The food and wine sector will be able to satisfy all palates: legendary are the “Pici”, a sort of big handmade spaghetti dressed with rabbit or boar sauces, but also sweets, panforte and Ricciarelli above all, without forgetting the typical dishes of meat, cheese and vegetables from the surrounding countryside. Let’s not forget that the Sienese territory is also renowned for the excellent quality of its wines, the result of an ancient passion.
As far as the surroundings are concerned, few geographic areas in the world can boast an environment of similar beauty and richness. To the north you can appreciate the enchanting landscape of Chianti, with its vineyards, olive groves and small villages, real jewels set here and there make the scene even more precious; to the south, the Arbia valley leads to the hilly town of Montalcino, home to the famous Brunello. Going westward, you will approach the sea and the coastal towns, such as Castiglione della Pescaia, and the Maremma nature reserve. And then there is the magic of Val D’elsa, land “made to art”, and the unique landscapes of the Crete…. in other words, a blaze of colors, perfumes, flavors, emotions, that will enter your heart and will remain forever.
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