Siena is the most romantic town on mainland Italy and very evocative of the Middle Ages, both in the splendour of its Gothic architecture and its festivals, particularly the Palio which takes place in July and August in the Piazza del Campo. If you are visiting Tuscany at the height of summer, Siena standing on its hilltop is a much better bet than Florence sitting in its bowl. The two have been bitter rivals for centuries, and the brutality with which Florence crushed Siena's independence in 1555 after a siege lasting 18 months, still rankles. St Catherine of Siena (1347-80) is patron saint of Italy.
An enjoyable day can be spent just wandering through the narrow cobbled streets which radiate from the unique shell-shaped Piazza del Campo in the heart of the city. It is a city that oozes history, given that it was an independent republic in the late Middle Ages, with more inhabitants than Paris, and wealthier banks than any other Italian city.
The magnificent black and white striped gothic Duomo built in the early 13th century can not be missed, whilst other highlights include the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala, the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, and the Palazzo Pubblico.
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