Siena is a city in the region of Tuscany. It is the capital of the province of Siena.
The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site in 1995.
Siena’s cathedral, the Duomo, begun in the 13th century, is one of the greater examples of the Italian Romanesque architecture. Its main façade was completed in 1380. Unusual for a Christian cathedral its axis running north-south. This is because it was originally intended to be the largest cathedral in the world, with a north-south transept and an east-west aisle, as usual.
The famous Gothic octagonal pulpit by Nicola Pisano (1266-1268) supported on lions, and the labyrinth inlaid in the flooring, traversed by penitents on their knees is main. Within the Sacristy there are some perfectly preserved renaissance frescos by Ghirlandaio, and beneath the Duomo in the baptistery is the wonderful baptismal font with bas-reliefs by Donatello, Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia and other 15th century sculptors. The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo contains Duccio’s famous Maestà (1308-1311) and various other works by Sienese masters. More Sienese paintings are to be found in the Pinacoteca.
The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the town square, which houses the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, is another architectural treasure, and is famous for hosting the Palio horse race. The Palazzo Pubblico, a great work of architecture, houses another important art museum. The museum presents an Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s series of frescos.
Piazza Salimbeni houses the Palazzo Salimbeni, a notable building and also the medieval headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of the oldest banks still existing and a major player in the Sienese economy.
The Accademia Musicale Chigiana is housed in the notable Gothic Palazzo Chigi on Via di Città and this is the famous conservatory of music of the city.
On July 2nd and August 16th the Palio di Siena is held. The Palio is a traditional medieval horse race, run around the Piazza del Campo every year. This event is attended by large crowds, and is widely televised. Seventeen Contrades (which are the city neighbourhoods originally formed as battalions for the city’s defence) vie for the trophy: a painted flag, or Palio bearing an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ten of the seventeen run in each Palio: seven run by right (having not run in the previous year’s corresponding Palio) with three drawn by lot from the remaining ten. A horse is assigned to each by lot. Even if is often a brutal and dangerous competition for horse and rider alike, the city thrives on the pride this competition brings. This event is not without its controversy however, and recently, there have been complaints about the treatment of the horses and to the danger run by the riders. In order to protect better the horses, steps have been taken to make veterinaries care more easily available during the main race. Also as in the most dangerous turns in a formula one race cushions are used to protect both riders and horses.
Unesco world heritage site since 1995!
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