Whether you come down from the green hills of Chianti, or you come from south, through the “moon” landscape of the Crete which sweetly shade from grey to brown, letting foresee the reddish brown of Maremma, Siena reveals itself with a homogeneous, sturdy and compact brick red glissando, climbing along the hills up to the sky. It’s the brick cloak which extending evenly over the town roofs (protected by a specific town law): from afar it seems to be before a noble and invincible stronghold. Nobility has characterised the history of this wealthy, cultivated and pugnacious town; and it characterises also its inhabitants. This nobility is at any corner of its winding streets in the town centre, around Piazza del Campo, real vibrating heart of the town.
Piazza del Campo has a “shell” shape and is famous all over the world not only for its Palio, which takes place twice a year (2 July and 16 August); it stretches along a slope which, far from being a “fault”, exalts the determination and capability of the Sieneses to bend the “harsh nature” to their will and architectonic taste. Over the place the austere Torre del Mangia (1338 – 1348), 102 metre high, symbol of independence and pride, is still today the Town Hall. However, austerity is typical of the whole town which literally teems with ancient palaces, vestiges of a past made of burning fights for political supremacy and bitter arguments among the different families: Tolomei, Salimbeni, (today head office of Monte dei Paschi di Siena), Chigi-Saracini, Sansedoni, Palazzo Arcivescovile and Palazzo del Capitano, all built between the 12th and 15th centuries. These are the indelible signs of a “local pride”, fundamental component of the Sienese soul, at the base of the proud survival of land identity and of the special bond all Sieneses, despite the heavy influx of tourists, feel for their land, much more than in any other Italian town.
Siena is also the town of Saint Catherine, patron saint of Italy, and its devotion shows up in its stunning churches, starting from the Cathedral with a remarkable Gothic façade (made by Giovanni Pisano and Giovanni di Cecco), a real box of treasures, all for one the marble intarsia by Beccafumi, and the adjoining Baptistery; but also with an eye to the churches of S. Domenico, S. Francesco, S. Maria del Carmine and S. Maria degli Angeli, gothic and renaissance jewels which, like many historical fountains, bring further prestige to one of the most beautiful and lovely preserved Italian town.