Siena

SGMT Italy Siena | Cathedral corner
Two elderly ladies find a quiet corner away from Siena’s tourist hustle and bustle

 

 

Siena, a city in Tuscany, Italy, was a proud and wealthy city-state in the Middle Ages. After its final defeat by Florence, however, Siena became and remained poor for a very long time. That poverty did have an unexpected upside: because they never had the money to replace their beautiful medieval buildings with “modern” structures, much of their architecture remains preserved to this day. Indeed, Siena’s historic center has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Local legend says Siena was founded by Senius and Aschius — sons of Remus, brother of Romulus — who fled Rome when their father was murdered by their uncle. They rode black and white horses and carried with them the statue of the she-wolf suckling two infants, thereby giving Siena two of its symbols: the Balzana, the Sienese coat of arms with black and white bands, and the Capitoline Wolf, respectively.

Siena is also known for the Palio, a fierce horse race conducted on the Piazza del Campo every year in the summer.

“Siena retains a ward-centric culture from medieval times. Each ward (contrada) is represented by an animal or mascot, and has its own boundary and distinct identity. Ward rivalries are most rampant during the annual horse race (Palio) in the Piazza del Campo.” (Wikipedia)

“Sienese people are fiercely proud of their city and their neighborhood (contrada). The Palio…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.” (Wikitravel)

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Piazza del Campo

SGMT Italy Siena | Piazza del Campo

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This (above) is just one corner of the vast Piazza del Campo, Siena’s sloping, shell-shaped principal public square. I could never quite capture its entire width but you can see an aerial view of it here, taken from the Torre del Mangia. Nine travertine rays divide the piazza into ten sections; the number 9 is said to be symbolic of the Government of the Nine, under whose rule Siena achieved its highest stability and prosperity in the medieval era.

 

And this is the Torre del Mangia:

SGMT Italy Siena | Piazza del Campo | Torre del Mangia

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SGMT Italy Siena | Piazza del Campo

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Siena was the last stop of a full-day excursion that also took us to San Gimignano and Monteriggioni. By the time I got to Siena I was…not quite tired but saturated, and so I didn’t get to explore as much as I would have otherwise. I think it would be nice to actually spend the night there, perhaps stay in an old house, and pretend it was the Middle Ages.

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SGMT Italy Siena | Medieval building

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As always, a visit to an interesting place may leave you temporarily saturated but never quite satiated. Siena is one such place I would like to revisit, if I could. (During the Palio, if possible!)

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Siena's Piazza del Campo
Image of Siena’s Piazza del Campo by Ricardo André Frantz (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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