Siena

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Situated in the centre-south of Tuscany, the province of Siena extends over some of the most famous and fascinating Tuscan territories, such as the southern hills of Chianti, Val d’Elsa and Val di Merse, Val d'Arbia, Val di Chiana and Val d'Orcia, right up to the slopes of Mount Amiata.
The province’s capital, Siena, is a magnificent city of art with characteristic alleys, wards (rioni) and towers, handicraft shops and buildings that make it a not-to-be-missed tourist destination for Italians and foreigners. Moving through Siena’s lands and immersing yourself in this atmosphere is a magical adventure, a trip through many landscapes, from dense woodland to old farms, from clay hills to stupendous paths.

Furthermore, the territory preserves numerous remains from the Middle Ages, springing out along the Via Francigena, the great pilgrimage road to Rome that crossed Val d’Elsa, the city of Siena and Val d’Orcia.

Walking through this countryside, you can admire impressive abbeys such as Sant’ Antimo, Romanesque parishes (pievi) and characteristic small towns (borghi) such as San Quirico d’Orcia or San Gimignano, which preserve their original appearance to this day.

The Chianti area, home to the famous wine, is also an enchanting piece of Tuscany that hosts tucked away towns such as Castellina and dense vineyards, such as those of Radda in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti or Castelnuovo Berardegna, as well as delicious wine and food itineraries.
The landscape south of Siena leading towards the medieval centre of Asciano is dominated by the typical Crete, clayey land where erosion has created crevices, openings and cracks. It is an impressive area where the imposing Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore stands out. Val d’Elsa is also very impressive with its characteristic towns Colle di Val d’Elsa, Poggibonsi and San Gimignano, which cherishes an inestimable artistic heritage.

Val di Merse presents solitary but fascinating places, such as the ruins of the San Galgano Abbey, dating back to the 13th century. Also Val di Chiana grants emotions and wellbeing thanks to its thermal spa centres in Chianciano, Montepulciano and San Casciano dei Bagni.
Hills and gullies, Tuscan cypress trees, the river, olive groves and vineyards: this is the landscape offered by Val d’Orcia and protected by UNESCO. Here there are magnificent towns, including Pienza, San Quirico, Montalcino and Castiglione, while to the west, stand Mount Amiata and the solitary Rocca di Radicofani.

The first leg of the itinerary leading to the discovery of the territory is Siena, the city famous for its Palio, listed as world heritage by UNESCO for its singular artistic heritage.
The historical centre is dominated by Piazza del Campo, one of the biggest medieval squares. It is shell-shaped and is the stage for the famous Corsa del Palio (Silk banner horserace). Here stand monuments of great value, such as the 13th-14th century Palazzo Pubblico (the town hall), a true jewel of Gothic art and home to the Civic Museum; the Piazza Chapel, upon which stands the bell tower, Torre del Mangia, and Jacopo della Quercia’s marvellous Gaia Fountain (in actual fact, the Piazza holds a copy, while the remains of the original are preserved in the Museum complex of Santa Maria della Scala).

One of the city’s numerous art treasures is the Duomo (12th-14th century), one of the highest expressions of Romanesque-Gothic art, abounding in sculptures, paintings and works of architecture, also home to the Opera Metropolitana Museum, which showcases masterpieces by famous artists such as Duccio di Buoninsegna, Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Taddeo di Bartolo.
Two other of the city’s art treasures are the imposing Medici Fortress in red bricks, commissioned by Cosimo I in the mid 16th century and the elegant Loggia della Mercanzia, a transition architectural work from Gothic to Renaissance style. A place of great devotion is the House and Sanctuary of St Catherine of Siena, the patroness of Italy and Europe. The structure, created around the house, comprises of chapels and cloisters richly decorated by various artists.

Not to be missed is the Pinacoteca Nazionale housed in the elegant Palazzo Buonsignori, which showcases a collection of 13th-16th century works of the Sienese school.

In addition to the marvellous city of Siena, not to be missed are the Crete and the Parco Artistico Naturale e Culturale della Val d’Orcia, listed as world heritage by UNESCO for the beauty of its landscape, which inspired many Renaissance artists. Here stands a city of particular importance, Pienza. It too is recognised by UNESCO as world heritage for the wealth of its monuments and its rational organisation of space and perspective. Pienza is the “ideal city”, created upon the wish of Pope Pius II, according to Renaissance canons.

In the Valdichiana area stand other delightful towns. Montepulciano is located upon a hill from where it dominates the valley, with its rising and falling slopes in a typically medieval atmosphere. Chianciano Terme is important for its beneficial waters, which were famous as far back as in Etruscan times, and is home to the beautiful Museo Archeologico delle Acque (Water archaeology museum).

Chiusi is a small town with a worldwide reputed Etruscan museum.

In Val d’Elsa, a charming place is San Gimignano, also called the "city of towers" because of its numerous towers and tower-houses, which make its skyline unique; it was the symbol of medieval mercantile power. This characteristic medieval borgo, world heritage listed by UNESCO, guards a remarkable artistic heritage including the marvellous Collegiata (13th century), the Romanesque-Gothic style St Augustine’s church and the Palazzo del Popolo, home to the Civic Museum, upon which stands the Torre Grossa (Big tower).

There are many other characteristic towns in the territory, such as Montalcino, home to the famous Brunello wine, and the nearby St Antimo Abbey, a splendid example of Romanesque-Tuscan style with Lombard influences.

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