Holiday in Siena

At least once in their life everyone should go on a holiday in Siena, the worldwide icon of the medieval city.

The city is famous for the Palio, the Piazza del Campo, the Palazzo Pubblico, the Mangia Tower and the Duomo, and is home to masterpieces by Martini, Lorenzetti and Boninsegna, with its churches and ancient basilicas. And then there are the palaces of the nobles, the restaurants and Siena's traditional food and wine shops. There isn't one specific reason to visit, but millions. Every corner and view of the city is absolutely worth the journey. That's why holiday promotions for Siena are always available.

A visit to Siena should begin in the most beautiful spot: the centre, the famous shell-shaped Piazza del Campo. It is quite spectacular thanks to the sloping pavement made out of red bricks laid in a herringbone pattern that alternate with rows of grey stone. If you turn your gaze upon the magnificent Palazzo Pubblico, it's quite a sight to behold. The façade has a succession of three orders of arches from which rises the 120-metre Mangia Tower. All round you'll see elegant palaces, one after another, including the Cappella di Piazza, a chapel shaped like a loggia to the left of the Palazzo Pubblico. At the edge of the paved area the Gaia Fountain by Jacopo della Quercia opens before you. To admire the magnificent masterpieces in the City Museum, go to the first floor of the Palazzo Pubblico after crossing the narrow Cortile del Podestà. The museum has two must-see rooms: the Hall of World Maps with Simone Martini's Maestà, and the Hall of the Nine frescoed by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

Before moving on to Piazza Duomo, another hub of the city, visit the adjacent Piazza San Giovanni to have a look at the Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of Saint John) and its baptismal font, thought to be the work of Jacopo della Quercia. Behind the baptistry, Piazza Duomo begins, with its magnificent Duomo cathedral unmistakeable for its black-and-white striped marble façade, and the Palazzo Arcivescovile (Archbishop's Palace). Next to the Duomo you'll notice a building that the people of Siena wanted to be their new Duomo in the 14th century, but was never finished. Today it houses the Opera Metropolitana Museum. Going up to the second floor, at the top of the unfinished façade, you can enjoy one of the most evocative views in the city.

Siena is full of splendid period buildings, some of the most prestigious can be found walking down Via Banchi di Sopra. For example, one of the oldest is Palazzo Tolomei, which is on the square of the same name and dates back to the 14th century. Here, too, you'll find the baroque Church of San Cristoforo. Nearby are the Palazzo Salimbeni (headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank) and the Church of Santa Caterina, Siena's patron saint, made into a sanctuary in the mid-1400s. Along this road you'll find the oldest and most imposing of Siena's fountains, the Fontebranda, cited by Dante in the 30th canto of Inferno. The San Domenico staircase will lead you to the Basilica of San Domenico, where the truest portrait of Saint Catherine is kept.

As you journey on, you will discover Siena's cuisine by stopping in at the Carroccio tavern where you can eat outside if the weather is nice. If instead you'd rather spend the evening in a medieval setting with excellent cuisine from Siena, try Gallo Nero, close to the Duomo. Its warm, characteristic ambience make you feel like you've travelled back in time. Here or in one of the other many restaurants and taverns throughout the city you can try typical dishes and all of Siena's other delicacies like pappardelle (egg pasta) in hare or boar sauce, pappa al pomodoro (tomato mush) or panzanella (Tuscan bread salad). The pleasure of good wine has a long tradition here, so in the evening, Siena's many wine bars come to life. To taste some good wine, take a turn down the small streets which surround Piazza del Campo. If you're lucky, you can try to get in on one of the Accademia Chigiana's concerts and admire the elegant concert hall.

Last but not least is the Palio di Siena. It holds the essence, the history and the life of the people of Siena in all its different aspects and emotions. With remote origins, some rules still valid today date back to its official founding in 1644. The city's territory is divided up into 17 quarters with set boundaries which face off in a horse race. Now that you've had a virtual tour of the city, are you ready to do it for real by taking advantage of one of the many last-minute holiday promotions for Siena?

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