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Even today inhabitants and visitors seem to feel as if they should pick a favourite between Florence or Siena. This never ending rivalry between these two majestic and powerful towns has its roots in the history of conquests and wars that both were involved in. The battle still rages over which city has the most interesting and splendid  monuments.  What is certain is that Florence bloomed in the Renaissance while the Gothic left its best marks in Siena.
Siena’s town centre, which is listed among the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO reflects its medieval origins with unrivalled buildings such as the Palazzo Comunale and the cathedral, its charming narrow streets running in semi-circles around Piazza del Campo and filled with museums and chuches.
Another attraction of this wonderful town is that there are excellent restaurants so you can satisfy your hunger, recharge your batteries and continue your exploring.
There are two different stories concerning Siena’s foundation. Legend tells us that Senius,son of Remus, founded it, explaining why it is the wolf that represents Siena. The historical version explains that it began as an Etruscan settlement and then passed into the hands of the Romans in the 1st century BC, taking the name Sena Julia. Only with the Lombards did the town flourish and grow in size..
In the Middle Ages Siena was divided into three parts- Città, Camollia and San Martino. Power rested with the local bishops and later on with the consuls.
In the 1200s many travelling from the north of Italy to Rome passed through Siena, as it was on a main road connecting both. Water was scarce in these times and to cope with the extra demand an extraordinary water system was built underground. The system was so immaculate in spite of the poor tools that builders had to dig with, that to this day it still supplies many fountains in the town with its water.
Siena in the 13th century was a thriving trade centre exporting textiles, saffron, wine, spices and wax to western European countries. Ghibelline Siena supporting the emperor and Guelph Florence then became fierce rivals both after control of Tuscany. It was finally in 1269 when Florence took control of Siena which from then on had to follow the international poliies established by Florence.
Siena’s most prosperous period was when the Council of Nine’s was ruling, an elected executive power controlled by the prosperous merchants. It was also the period of Sienese Gothic splendour when many of its finest buildings were built: the cathedral, the Piazza del Campo and the Palazzo Comunale. This period also saw the beginning of the Sienese school in which famed artists such as Duccio di Buoninsegna and Ambrogio Lorenzetti emerged.
The 1348 plague decimated Siena’s population.
Milanese Visconti took control of Siena in the last years of the 1300s, then came the patrician Pandolfo Petrucci, who gave Siena part of its ancient splendour. This prosperous period was interrupted by Charles V taking Siena and giving it to Cosimo I de’Medici. The Sienese were then prohibited from taking part in banking activity.
At present the majority of Siena’s economic resources are from tourism and the largest and most lucrative bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena which has been running for over 5 centuries now.
During the Medici‘s rule it was impossible to erect a building deviating from Siena ‘s Gothic style. During WWII Siena was easily taken by the French but there was very little damage done to the architectural structures in the town, which explains why the gothic air is almost completely intact.
Population growth in the second half of the 20th century led Siena to ban traffic in the town centre