Old-World Romance in Siena
Discover the distinctly medieval city of Siena
Is your idea of a romantic destination a deserted beach? A stroll along the Danube or a sun-dappled cruise to Tahiti? Or if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path, you may wish to consider the distinctly medieval city of Siena for your next romantic journey.
Siena, with a population of 56,000, is situated in the heart of Tuscany (70 km. from Florence and 231 km. from Rome) along the Cassia Way. Once an Etruscan city and Roman settlement, this breathtaking city preserves its medieval origins in its ancient architecture, warm red brick squares and narrow twisting alleyways.
Although rich in history, Siena enjoys all the modern comforts with its charming hotels, cafes, wineries and small inns called trattorie. Pubs, wine bars, restaurants and open-air coffee shops abound in the famous Piazza del Campo. The shell-shaped square, built on the site of an ancient Roman forum, is the centre of Sienese city life and government. Every August, the famous horse race Palio di Siena is held here.
One of Siena’s oldest meeting places is the Enoteca Italiana, located inside the Fortezza Medicea. Built on the request of Cosimo De’ Medici in the second half of the 16th century, visitors can taste excellent rare wines and view the massive collection of precious labels stored for decades in the various exhibition rooms.
Palaces, museums and charming attractions
Siena has no shortage of fascinating historical buildings, churches, monuments and museums. Here is a sampling:
The Cathedral of Siena
Considered one of the finest examples of Italian Romanesque architecture, Siena’s cathedral, the Duomo, was built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The building hosts works by Donatello, Pisano and Arnolfo di Cambio. Beautifully preserved renaissance frescos by Ghirlandaio can be found within the Sacristy.
Museum Opera del Duomo of Siena
Located near the Cathedral, the museum houses Duccio’s famous Maesta (1308-1311) and various other works by Senese masters. Other important works include pieces by Pisano and Jacopa della Ouercia.
The Mangia’s Tower (Torre del Mangia)
Built between 1338 and 1348, the tower was named in honor of its first bell-ringer, known as Mangiaguadagni. Visitors can climb the 400 steps to the top of the tower for a breathtaking view of the city.
The Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens were created in 1588 so doctors of the time could study the therapeutic properties of many officinal plants. Today the garden is more than three times the size of the initial garden and holds thousands of exotic and non-exotic plants.
The delights of Siena go well beyond the city centre. The gentle hills of the Siena Chianti area are abundant with vineyards, centuries-old oak woods and charming Medieval villages. Local specialties include the famous Chianti wine, tasty cinta senese (a breed of pigs bred only in Chianti) and strong sheep cheese.
IF YOU GO
– By train: Siena is well connected to Rome and Florence by train.
– By bus: Buses are available direct to and from Florence (a one hour trip) and also from Rome (3 hours) and Milan (4 and a half hours)
– By air: The nearest international airport is Florence’s “Amerigo Vespucci” (FLR). It connects with all major Italian airports and 13 European destinations. From the airport there is a direct coach bus service for Siena offered by Train (tel. +39.0577.204111). You can also take the train to Siena from Florence S.M. Novella train station. Trains are also available from Pisa International Airport (PSA).
Note to drivers: Almost no traffic is permitted within the Siena city centre, but to facilitate visitors, several large car parks are located immediately outside the city walls. The “La Fortezza” car park is closest to the centre, and is free of charge. Commercial traffic is permitted within the city only in the morning hours, while in the afternoon pedestrians dominate.