The Historic Centre of Siena
The historic centre of Siena is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a concentrate of all the city’s major attractions. Piazza del Campo, with its unique oval shell shape that makes it one of the world’s most beautiful squares, is the centre’s fulcrum. The arena for the Palio, it is surrounded by majestic medieval palaces; the Palazzo Pubblico with the lofty Torre del Mangia is but one example.
Thanks to the care and custodianship extended by the people of Siena to urban aesthetics and architecture – and to an edict, issued in 1300, that ordered builders to observe aesthetic canons coherent with Palazzo Pubblico – Piazza del Campo and the surrounding area still form an orderly, harmonious, finely-designed whole. The Palazzo was the seat of political power in Siena and, with Piazza del Campo as regards the Palio and affiliation with a contrada (quarter), neutral ground for city factions. Today, it houses the municipal offices, the Mayor’s office and the Civic Museum with its priceless collection of Sienese art. The Torre del Mangia, Italy’s third-tallest ancient tower, takes its name from Giovanni di Duccio, tower custodian and bell ringer, who was nicknamed Mangiaguadagni (literally, ‘eat-the-profits’) for his ‘prodigal habits’ and wastefulness.
Other not-to-be-missed monuments are the glorious Siena Cathedral, entirely faced in white and Prato Serpentine green marble, and the Baptistery and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, both of which house works by great Italian artists.