Siena and its Surroundings
"Siena is a city of Saints, Stories and Legends"
Siena, is a “shy” city, slow to reveal itself to those who visit it. A proud, jealous custodian of its glorious past, at the same time, it is a city that looks towards the future. Siena has so well-presented its middle age “flavour”, that it is called, by many Art historians, “The Capital of the Italian Gothic Style". In the late 1960s, it became the first city in Italy to close its centre to traffic. Thus, visitors can discover in peace its alleys, its churches and its breathtaking views.
You can start your visit of the Siena town centre from its imposing Duomo, a triumph of marble and pinnacles to be visited along with the nearby Museo dell'Opera della Metropolitana, where the original statues carved for its façade by Giovanni Pisano are found. In this same museum, the Rose window once on the apse of the Duomo, and the famous Maestà by the founder of the Sienese School - Duccio di Buoninsegna - are also preserved.
From the Duomo you can walk to the Campo, according to many authors, the most beautiful square in Italy. At the bottom of the square, is the imposing Town Hall, the Palazzo Pubblico. Among its many frescos the Maestà by Simone Martini and the allegory of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti are the most famous.
An old Tuscan saying has it that "Siena is full of bells". In fact, apart from the Duomo, the most beautiful churches in town are: Santa Maria dei Servi, from whose steps you can see the most beautiful view of the city; Santa Maria in Provenzano, the only Baroque church in Siena and San Francesco with the close by Oratory dedicated to S. Bernardino, not to mention San Niccolò al Carmine, where an amazing canvas painted by Domenico Beccafumi is to be seen.
We cannot forget Siena's most celebrated daughter: Saint Catherine who is the Patron Saint of Italy and Europe. In front of our Hotel is San Domenico. This church is also dedicated to S. Catherine and is a nice mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Her nearby house has an interesting cloister dedicated to the Italian towns and cities, the “Portico dei Comuni”.
After having walked along Siena's many interesting streets and alleys (one of the most beautiful is Castellare degli Ugurgeri, between piazza del Campo and San Cristoforo Church), we suggest you stop in one of the numerous "botteghe" (Old shops). Here the typical salami made with the meat of cinta Senese (a local, special kind of pig), or the Pienza or Crete Senesi Pecorino cheese can be tasted. They are tasty but simple traditional products which should be accompanied by one of our well-known red wines, such as: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano or Morellino di Scansano. Or try one of our whites such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano. You should not forget to try the typical Sienese sweets: Panforte, Ricciarelli, Cavallucci and Copate, which have been made in Siena since its founding. These should be accompanied by the local Tuscan dessert wine, Vin Santo.
Siena is not only a city of art: it also has many institutions that make it famous. The ancient Rocca Salimbeni is the headquarters of oldest bank in the world, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which was established in 1472. It may be visited by appointment.
Siena University is among the oldest universities in Europe is famous for its Humanities courses. Palazzo Chigi Saracini, once Count Guido Chigi Saracini's mansion, is now the home of Accademia Musicale Chigiana. It is famous for its music courses, events and concerts. This institution can be visited on weekends.
The sixteenth century Medici Fortress is now the headquarters of the Enoteca Italiana. This institution was created to guarantee and protect the name and brand of the numerous Italian wines. Many wine and food tasting events are organized here.
After having visited the city discover our very beautiful Siena Province!
North of Siena is San Gimignano. It is famous world-wide for its many medieval towers.
Outside Siena, heading North-East, you reach the Chianti area. The country road Strada Statale 408 leads the visitor to discover breathtaking views of the Chianti vineyards. Here you can stop and taste the wine, as well as delicious typical Tuscan dishes. The most famous castles and farm houses in this area are: Meleto, Brolio where the Baron Ricasoli lived, and the Rocca di Castagnoli.
Driving South you can discover the "Moon landscapes" of the hilly Crete Senesi. This is the land of the Cinta Senese (a typical kind of local pig), a very good Pecorino cheese and of white truffles.
Driving along the Strada Statale Cassia 2, you can drive though Val d'Arbia and climb towards Montalcino, where, according to experts, the best red wine is found - Brunello. This little town was the last stronghold of the Sienese Republic in the sixteenth century. After having visited it, head towards Monte Amiata, not yet well-known by visitors, but rich in vegetation. Its woods are full of chestnuts and mushrooms, while the people there dedicate themselves to beekeeping. From Monte Amiata you can drive down to Val d'Orcia, which is famous for its many Spas and thermal baths. Bagno Vignoni is probably the best-known because of its stone pool dating back to the ancient Romans. The beautiful town of Pienza, which on top of a hill, was the "utopia city" built by Pope Pius II, who was born there in 1405. Leaving Pienza, and driving along its gravel roads lined with cypress trees (“strade bianche”- white roads), you first arrive at Monticchiello, a charming little town, followed by the wonderful town of Montepulciano, built on top of a hill in the typical early Renaissance style. Nowadays, it is especially well-known for its famous red wine, Nobile di Montepulciano.
In our Province you find many Spas and thermal baths. Apart from the above-mentioned Bagno Vignoni, there are Rapolano Terme (only 25 kms out of Siena) and Bagni di Petriolo, which is found in the very green Val di Merse.