They say that Siena is the most charming city in Italy. I wouldn’t exactly agree and enjoyed the small medieval cities in Spain much more, but Siena is certainly a lovely place.
Siena was first settled by the Romans as a military outpost under Augustus in the 1st Century CE. It grew into one of Italy’s most important trading and banking centers peaked in the 14th Century and has been somewhat static ever since. The population inside the walls of Siena today is less than it was at its peak in the 14th Century.
One of the most important causes of Siena’s decline was disease – the Black Death arrived in 1348 and killed two-thirds of the population. The plague hit as Siena was building extensions to its cathedral, and left the city without enough workers or money to finish the project. You can still see the unfinished section today.
The best way to get a taste of life in Siena is to join the locals in out in the town square, called the campo (which means “field” in Italian) in the evenings.
The bricks on the ground of Siena’s Campo are in what is called a herringbone pattern, and it’s the same pattern that Filippo Brunelleschi used to keep the dome in Florence from falling down.
Residents of Siena are loyal to their neighborhoods until their dying day. Each neighborhood is named after a different animal — the panther, the eagle, the rabbit and more, and each neighborhood has funky street lights painted in its own colors. The Sienese don’t play when it comes to their neighborhoods, and they will talk to you about why theirs is the best for hours on end.