Siena in a Day Tour
Siena was Tuscany’s leading Medieval city. During the Renaissance it fought for supremacy with nearby Pisa and Florence. Eventually the Medici armies of Cosimo I defeated both Pisa and Siena, and the area fell under Florentine rule. The Duchy of Florence was created, and Duke Cosimo I ruled with an iron fist. Even today you can find the Medici crest in most Tuscan cities and villages, a remnant of the golden age of Medici power.
Siena is most known for her Palio horse race in which neighborhoods or Contradas challenge each other to a bareback horse race through the streets of the city and culminates in her grand city square, Piazza del Campo.
With Tuscan Vineyard Tours you will walk in the very same square, climb the looming tower of city hall and gaze in wonder at the elaborate mosaics in her Cathedral. A stop in Tuscany’s premiere enoteca will be a delight for wine lovers. Vineyards near Siena lay claim to several DOCs and DOCG including Chianti Colli Senesi, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Music lovers will be pleased to see the local conservatory. The Chapel of St. Catherine will be a delight to discover. She is little known but important figure in Catholic history, and patron saint of Siena.
Siena in a Day
- Visit Siena Cathedral – Entrance Included
- Chapel of St. Catherine – Entrance Included
- Piazza del Campo
- Climb Torre del Mangia – Entrance Included
- 2 Course Lunch W/Local Wine
- Enoteca – Wine Tasting Optional
- Music Conservatory
- Free time for Shopping
2-4 Participants / €210 Per Person
3-4 Participants / €190 Per Person
5-6 Participants / €180 Per Person
7-8 Participants / €170 Per Person
This walking tour begins in Siena. Transportation can be arranged at an additional cost
Siena is the Medieval Tuscan jewel, its apex being the late middle ages (1300-1400) when it was vying for power against the nearby city-states of Pisa and Florence. In 1559 Florence, under Duke Cosimo I de Medici, was finally able to decisively crush the city and incorporate it into its jurisdiction, in the enlarged state of Tuscany. As a not so gentle reminder, he placed an enormous Medici family crest on the facade of city hall. Some residents such as the count Scipione Costanti were so indignant of this outcome that they left Siena for nearby cities not under the Duke’s domain. He selected the city of Montalcino where his descendants Santi and Tito Costanti planted a vineyard of the first Sangiovese clone which they vinified into a single-varietal wine.
Proudly they returned to the city of Siena for an exhibition of fine wine with two bottles, one from a 1856 vintage, the other 1869. The land surrounding Siena and falling under her jurisdiction include vineyards not only in Montalcino but Chianti Colli Senesi, part of Chianti Classico as well as Montepulciano. All are highly regarded Tuscan wine designated areas (DOC). The city retains its Medieval flavor in her preserved streets, still filled with residences and neighborhood shops. It is not a candy coated tourist attraction, but a living breathing city which draws millions of visitors, yet gracefully refrains from being a sanitized theme park where only the tourists roam and trinket shops abound.
Saint Catherine (Born 1347), Siena’s patron saint represents her city well. She was well known for her intellect and is still considered one of the great thinkers and writers of Catholicism and was consultant to the Pope during the time of the Great Western Schism. She was also a gifted and charismatic speaker, with both male and female followers. Her symbol appropriately are the book and the lilly. “Man, whether in the cloister or in the world must ever abide the cell of self-knowledge, which is the stable in which the traveller through time and eternity must be born again”. Powerful words that still resound. The baptistry behind the massive and magnificent cathedral is dedicated to her as are the steps which lead to it and are said to be the place where she encountered the devil who in his rage pushed her down the steep marble staircase. The spot is today marked by a cross.
Without a doubt the city is known for its unique shell shaped town square, Piazza del Campo and the towering Torre del Mangia, playfully named after its first guardian, Giovanni di Balduccio who had a tendency to spend all his money on food and wine. At 102 meters, the tower was built to the respectful exact height of the the cathedral so not to usurp the Church’s importance in Sienese life. In fact the balance of powers of church, state and general public is beautifully illustrated in the Good Government fresco inside city hall which one can still visit. Depicted are Sienese of all strata working in harmony for the good of society. In the piazza a great deal of city life occurs. Weddings and feasts are held in the open courtyard of city hall, the loggia. Known as Cappella di Piazza, it was commissioned in 1352 as a devotion to the Virgin Mary by the Sienese survivors of the Black Death. A clock was later added as well as an elegant Renaissance marble vaulted ceiling. Lining the square are elegant restaurants and cafe’s with some of the city’s most prized residences above them. From those coveted balconies and windows the locals watch the Palio, the city’s infamous horse race, an event equally filled with beauty and brutality. From temporary bleachers, those fortunate enough to get a seat cheer the riders representing the city’s neighborhoods or “Contradas” competing for the finishing line and year long bragging rights. There is not only skill, but chance and sometimes bribery that determine the winner in this dangerous bareback horse race. The winner and his horse (matched by pure happenstance) are invited into the city’s cathedral to receive a special benediction in the presence of the entire city.
Throughout the year each neighborhood raises funds to support a local rider and horse to participate in the race. Festivals and dinners are held and are open to the public. Typical Tuscan food, wine and camaraderie abound. Pride runs very deep in the neighborhoods, each of which has a animal as a mascot. There is no mistaking which Contrada one is in, since each of them displays their mascot, perhaps in the form of a sculpture, fountain or a relief. During the time of the Palio, banners as well as jester like light fixtures in traditional neighborhood colors grace each Contrada. A drum corp and flag bearers proudly parade through the streets dressed in Medieval costume. The youth are coached to handle the brightly decorated flags while the more mature males of the neighborhood are recruited to take part in the drum corp. There is a palpable excitement as the sound of approaching drums reverberates in the streets and one catches sight of the vigorous youths in their finery as the flags wave in the narrow streets and are tossed about with skill and bravado. As they spill into the city’s Piazza del Campo they invigorate the space and dazzled with movement and music. The Medieval spectacle has not lost its enchantment even in our modern times…