In scenic hill country just 55 kilometres south of Florence this picturesque well-preserved medieval town lies in the right in the middle of the Tuscany wine region. A bitter competitor with Florence for much of its history Siena is a treasure trove of art pageantry and architecture.
Inhabited continuously for over a thousand years, Siena flourished in the Late Middle Ages when the merchant oligarchy known as the Nine spent vast sums in order to create the most beautiful and impressive city in Tuscany. The many churches, palaces and military fortifications which survive from this period bear witness to the magnificence and sophistication of Sienese civilization. Most interesting are the wonderful black-and-white Gothic Duomo (dont miss the magnificent Bernini statue of Mary Magdalene hidden away in a niche or the dazzling mosaics on the floor), the Palazzo Pubblico (for its impressive frescoes) and the Torre del Mangia you can climb for a nice view over the city.
If youre there at the beginning of July or in the middle of August try not to miss the world-famous the palio . A tradition dating from the Renaissance it takes place in the Piazza del Campo a marvelous shopping plaza in the shape of a half-shell whose circumference is topped on race day with a layer of dirt to create a track.
For those interested in nightlife – Siena is a fantastic city in which to eat – amble into any restaurant and you won’t be disappointed.
Drinking wise – the Irish pub is a good place to start – packed full of foreign students i.e. those who speak English it’s good craic. Afterwards head down to the Barone Rosso which is cool but has nasty toilets – then amble to the Heineken Bar at the very end of town – it’s owned by a nutter who is married to a Greek Lady and he insists on drinking ouzo with you once he gets to know you.