Beautiful medieval walled city in the heart of Tuscany
, at one time a powerful City-state rivalling nearby Florence
, and home to what is probably the oldest bank in Europe, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, founded in 1472.
At the heart of the old city is the shell-shaped terracotta bowl of the Piazza del Campo, where twice a year the city stages its famous horse race, the Palio, fiercely contested by the 17 contrade of the city.
Siena is a very peaceful city to walk around (although the Italians themselves are famously animated) and traffic is not permitted in the centre. The major monuments - the palaces, cathedral, museums - all merit a visit from anyone interested in the history of the region. Although popular with tourists, it benefits from being a little too far from Florence for most day-trippers. It is certainly worth the trip: while Florence may be full of beautiful things, Siena simply is beautiful.