Siena, located in the heart of Tuscany, is known worldwide for its huge historical, artistic and landscape heritage, and for for its substantial characteristic of medieval town, which make Siena one of the most beautiful cities d ‘Italy.
Siena is also well known for its Palio, a competition between the Contrade (medieval districts) of Siena in the form of a ride horse, whose origins seem to date back to the seventeenth century. The Palio of Siena, one of the most important events for all Siena citizens and soul of their city, takes place in the inner ring of the Piazza del Campo, the heart of the historic center, and it finishes with the master ride horse (called Carriera) which is done twice each year, on July 2 and August 16.
For these merits, in 1995, the historic center of Siena has been awarded by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Siena is also the headquarters of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, founded in 1472 and thus the oldest bank in business as well as the longest in the world.
Siena, between legend and history
The foundation of Siena, so legend has it, came as Romolo, founder of Rome, after he killed his brother Remo, decided to kill also Remo’s grandchildren, Senio and Ascanio, to avoid they were demanding the throne. The two young men fled galloping two horses, one white and one black, bringing with them the marble statue of the Capitoline Wolf, stolen from the temple of Apollo, to keep as a trophy and symbol of their origin. After a few days, they reached the bank of a small river, the Tressa, where they met a community of woodcutters and shepherds, and where they decided to stay. Considered their rank and their skill with weapons, it was not so hard, in a short time, become the leaders of the small community and created their fortress on the highest hill in the area (now called Castelvecchio, in the historic center of Siena). Meanwhile, Romolo sent two generals, Camelio and Montorio, to capture and bring the brothers to Rome. They found where Romolo and Remo lives, and there they built themselves their fortifications and gave beginning to a series of long confrontations. After some truces and new contentions, Rome sent Pirro and Flaminio, two ambassadors, who managed to bring peace and to unify the various forts and camps. To celebrate the birth of Siena on makes sacrifices to the God Apollo and the Goddess Diana: Apollo’s altar stood up black smoke, while that of Diana there was a white smoke.
That’s the way the city of Siena was born, and its emblem (Balzana), half black and half white, symbolizes the white and black horses of Senio and Ascanio, and the fumes of the festivities.
Historically, however, on puts forward the foundation of Siena by the Etruscans, having found in the historical center a few Etruscan sites, while the first document of the Siena community dates back to the 70 d.c:
Senator Manlio Patruito reported to Rome that he was beaten and ridiculed with a mock funeral during his official visit to Saena Iulia, small military colony of Tuscia. The Roman Senate decided to punish the main perpetrators and severely recall the Sienese to a greater respect for the Roman authorities.
Some of artistic information
Piazza del Campo is the nucleus of Siena since the time of the Romans, who had their court here.
The square was repaved during the Government of Nine, a semi-democratic group in power between 1287 and 1355, with a division into nine sections in memory of the Government and symbolizes the cloak of the Virgin that protects the city.
The court is dominated by the red Public Palace and its tower, called Torre del Mangia. The Public Palace, as well as the Cathedral of Siena, was built during the government of the Nine, which was the greatest economic and cultural splendor of Siena. The building still houses the offices of the Municipality, like the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The inner courtyard of the Palace leads to the Municipal Museum and the Torre del Mangia, on top of which, climbed the 500 steps, you can enjoy a splendid view of the city.
In the Museum “Museo Civico” some of the finest paintings of the Sienese school are preserved. The Consistory Hall offers one of the finest works of Domenico Beccafumi, who frescoed ceilings depicting the cycle of public virtue. In the Sala del Mappamondo and the Sala della Pace (or Nine) room then there are real masterpieces: the great Majesty and the equestrian portrait of Guidoriccio da Fogliano at the siege of Montemassi by Simone Martini and the Allegories of Good and Bad Government painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, considered one of the major painting cycles of the Middle Ages.