Siena in Tuscany

Siena, home of Il Palio, the famous horse race

History, art and culture

Duomo di Siena. Siena Duomo TuscanySiena was founded by the Etruscans and was a Roman colony at the time of the Emperor Augustus. In Mediaeval times with the Lombards and the Franks, the city began to exercise a certain degree of power.

Proud and wealthy during the Middle Ages it was an independant state and quite often at war with it’s neighbour Florence. The period when Siena was at her zenith was between the 12th and 16th centuries.

The “Council of Nine” ruled from 1287 to 1355. This was one of the most peaceful periods in the city’s history and also saw a healthy economic and cultural revival. Thanks to this newfound wealth and tranquillity, many new buildings like the Cathedral, the Baptistery, the Churches of St Francis and St Domenic were built along with the Palazzo Pubblico. Some of the works of this period were by such illustrious artists as Simone Martini, the Lorenzettis, Duccio and many others.

Recommended Hotels in Siena

Hotel Price Range User Score
**** Hotel Athena € 99 p.n.p.r. 7,9
*** Locando di San Martino € 129 p.n.p.r. 8,2
***** Grand Hotel Continental € 319 p.n.p.r. 8,8
See all 58 Hotels in Siena

Il Palio

Siena Il Palio
Siena Il Palio

Sienese people today are still fiercely proud of their city and their neighborhood (contrada). The Palio, the famous horse race, is all about neighborhood pride and rivalry. It also constitutes the unbroken continuation of a Medieval tradition associated with religion, pageantry, trash-talking, bragging, and occasional violence.

The Sienese  take it very seriously and it is in no way just Flags of neighbourhoods in Siena Tuscany Paliofor tourists. In fact, you are likely to be less welcomed during the Palio than at any other time, and there isn’t the slightest doubt that Siena would run the Palio with great enthusiasm regardless of whether any visitors ever showed up. The chance of no tourists or other visitors turning up is not likely to happen. It’s is probably one of the bussiest periods of the year. The whole main square is packed with people.

July 2 and August 16 are the dates when the Palio di Siena is held.

Art in Siena

Madonna and Child by Duccio, 1284 at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, SienaOver the centuries, Siena has had a rich tradition of arts and artists. The list of artists from the Sienese School include Duccio, and his student Simone Martini, Pietro Lorenzetti and Martino di Bartolomeo. A number of well known works of Renaissance and High Renaissance art still remain in Siena galleries or decorate churches in Siena.

The Church of San Domenico in Siena contains art by Guido da Siena, dating to mid 13th century.

Duccio’s Maesta which was commissioned by the City of Siena in 1308 was instrumental in leading Italian painting away from the hieratic representations of Byzantine art and directing it towards more direct presentations of reality.

Madonna and Child with saints polyptych by Duccio, Siena, 1311-1318And his Madonna and Child with saints polyptych, painted between 1311 and 1318 remains at the Pinacoteca Nazionale in Siena.

The Pinacoteca also includes several works by Domenico Beccafumi, as well as art by Lorenzo Lotto, Domenico di Bartolo and Fra Bartolomeo.

Getting There

By plane

Siena’s Ampugnano airport is located 9 km from the city. At the moment, connections from Olbia, Vienna and Munich are available. For additional information tel 0577-392226. A shuttle service connection is currently available between the airport and Piazza Gramsci TRA-IN (tel. 0577-204224).

Most travellers arriving by plane will land at airports in Florence or Pisa.

By car

From the north, take the Chiantigiana from Florence (SS 222 – 72 km) that elegantly crosses the hills of Chianti or the highway (SS 2 superstrada Siena/Firenze – 68 km). From the south, Siena can be reached by taking the Autoway from Rome (A1 Roma-Firenze, exit Valdichiana), turning right on state highway #326 (Bettolle-Siena – 240 km). Free parking can be found near Fortezza Medicea, northwest of the city stadium – and around it.

By train

From the north, some trains go directly from Florence to Siena, and otherwise it is possible to take any train that stops in Empoli and find train connections from Empoli to Siena every 30-60 minutes. From the south, direct connections to Siena depart from Chiusi or from Grosseto. The train station in Siena is located approximately 2 km from Siena’s historical centre, a five minute bus ride – buses leave regularly from Piazza del Sale. Buses numbers 3, 8, 10, 17, 77 leave from the station to Piazza del Sale and bus #17 departs from Piazza del Sale for the train station. If you don’t mind walking uphill, you can also walk to the centre in about 20-30 minutes: Exit the train station, turn left, walk past the bus park and then uphill, bearing right at the traffic circle, staying on the road called Viale Giuseppe Manzini. When this road sharply bends to the right, follow the curve around where the road becomes Via Garibaldi, which will take you into the city.

Livorno in Tuscany

Livorno: Pittoresque Tuscan gateway to the Mediterranean

Picture of Piazza Grande at Lvirona TuscanyThe history of Livorno (or Leghorn) is revealed through its districts characterised by the Medicean canals, which are still navigable and all lead you to it’s historic centre. Once defined as an ‘ideal’ town during the Italian Renaissance, nowadays the Venice district is the district that preserved most of its original town planning and architectural features such as the bridges, the narrow lanes, the noblemen‘s houses and a dense network of canals which once linked the port to its storehouses.

Allthough many buildings and historic places have been bombed in WW2, the port with it’s fortresses and towers is largely spared.

The “Piazza della Repubblica” in Livorno contains two important monuments of Italian politicians. Besides being the main square it is also a bridge: in fact, under the bridge there is an old, big canal. Piazza della Repubblica is the largest bridge of Europe. (see picture above)
Continue reading Livorno in Tuscany

Cortona in Tuscany

La Vita é Bella in Cortona

City of Cortona, Tuscany by nightFrom a high Tuscan hill, fifty miles from Florence between Arezzo and Perugia, rises the equally ancient and nobile city of Cortona. The history of Cortono, the city that has became famous among millions due to “La Vita e Bella” (Life is Beautiful) by Roberto Benigni, dates back to Etruscan times.

Once you’re inside this beautiful town you get some magnificent panoramas to every point of the compass including views of Lake Trasimeno.

Aerial view of city of Cortona in TuscanyThe best way to discover Cortona is on foot as the town is pretty small and parking or driving is close to impossible. The narrow lanes and alleys winding up and down the slopes within Cortona can be confusing; it’s a good idea to get a street plan before you start exploring this inviting town.The town is small enough to make it your destination for a day-trip including a nice glass of wine and fine meal in one of the small bars or restaurants on the charming squares.

Outside the city walls parking areas, some even free, are available.

Under the Tuscan Sun

Under the Tuscan Sun in Cortona Umbria ItalyOne of the best-selling books about Italy in recent years, Under the Tuscan Sun is set in Cortona, and is a new tourist attraction for the town. There is also a film with the same title that is loosely based on the book by Frances Mayes.

To give you an idea about the book, we’ll provide you with the details as printed on the jacket of the book:

UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN is one woman’s enchanting account of her love affair with Italy and the home that changes her life.

Frances Mayes – widely published poet, gourmet cook and travel writer – opens the door on a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. She finds faded frescoes beneath the whitewash in the dining room, a vineyard under wildly overgrown brambles – and even a wayward scorpion under her pillow. And from her traditional kitchen and simple garden she creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes, all included n this book.

In the vibrant local markets and neighboring hill towns, the author explores the nuances of the Italian landscape, history and cuisine. Each adventure yields delightful surprises – the perfect panettone, an unforgettable wine, or painted Etruscan tombs.

Frances Mayes’s sensuous memoir takes you into the heart of Italy and tells of a renewal, not only of a house, but also of the spirit.
(© Chronicle Books)

Best Holiday Stays in Tuscany

Don’t settle for just any hotel. Enjoy the full experience of a real Tuscan villa

Best holiday stays in TuscanyWhen looking for a nice place to stay in Tuscany I stumbled across this site with the most amazing accommodations. It’s called La Vera Toscana, the real Tuscany, and looking at the pictures of the villas and agriturismos I must agree with the name. I will personally check out one of them this summer: Casa Sola

Most agriturismos or locations have the option to follow a wine course or to learn some italian cooking as well.

Check out the high class villas and historic residences in Tuscany.

Excellent choices for your visit of all the beauty that Tuscany has to offer like Florence and Siena.



Casa Sola was brilliant. Nice quiet house in the middle of the Chianti vineyards. Some great Chianti from the estate for a fair price. Lovely hill towns near the estate. The real Tuscan life. Florence, Siena and the Chianti wine route are just around the corner.