Palazzo Publico in Siena's Piazza del Campo a bright sunny day

Siena Tuscany

We are located within the Sienese municipality in Tuscany and Siena can be accessed just 20 minutes to the south of the property. Siena was founded by the Etruscans and became a Roman colony known as Saena Julia. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it flourished as one of the major cities of Europe, allowing Tuscany to grow rich from banking and the wool trade. The fourteenth century saw a great amount of building within the city; the Duomo, Palazzo Pubblico and the Campo's foundations were laid then, but in 1348 the Black Death struck and this, together with subsequent political upheaval, saw the beginning of a drastic downturn in Siena's fortunes. Indeed, it was exactly this marked decline that accounts for the incredible state of mediaeval preservation that Siena exhibits today.

Siena is built across a range of small hills, a unique position which gives it a pleasant atmosphere of being a collection of smaller towns. The Campo is the focal point of the city, the meeting place and the market place as well as being the venue for the Palio (see Il Palio section below). The Campo is divided into nine segments, alluding to the Council of Nine who ruled the city in its heyday, and is surrounded with buildings of great beauty.

The Duomo (Cathedral) can be found just off the Campo and is a first class example of a medieval cathedral, originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure. The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with addition of red marble on the fa├žade. Black and white are the symbolic colours of Siena, etiologically linked to black and white horses of the legendary city's founders, Senius and Aschius.

Il Palio

The famous event of Il Palio, held twice a summer in the historic Tuscan town of Siena, is a bareback horse race in honour of the Virgin Mary. The Piazza del Campo main square holds 25,000 people for the race and you don't need a ticket! Ten of the 17 different areas of Siena 'contrade' compete in the race. Nothing is as important as winning, money and old allegiances are brought into play. Each contrade has a fierce rival and losing is a disgrace. It also includes Alfieri or flag-wavers in medieval costumes. At around sunset a canon is fired to signal that the race will soon begin.

The best part of Il Palio is milling around well into the evening as the winning Contrada celebrates long into the night with the Jockey held high! All the losing Contradas have communal feasts in their native streets on huge tables. It is wonderful meandering around the back streets after the race, the heat of the day has gone and you hear the classical Italian sounds of music, conversation and clinking wine glasses.