The city of Siena

Thinking about studying in Siena Italy? Read on for some information about this fascinating town.

The City of Siena Staying in Siena Piazza del Campo Museums and Churches The Contrade The Palio Testimonials of the city of Siena

The City of Siena:

Located in the beautiful region of Tuscany, Siena is composed of gorgeous medieval architecture, cobblestone roads and alleyways, and countless historical sites while being surrounded by beautiful green pastures and vineyards. Students and travelers are always fascinated with its beauty and incredible history.

The city is not significantly large but offers many things to do and see if you are studying in Siena which makes it the perfect place to stay. All of the city center is pedestrian area. Siena is the city of the Blessed Virgin and the heraldic symbol of the "Balzana", the black and white. At the center is the Piazza del Campo where you will find many people sitting and relaxing or eating at the restaurants surrounding the square.

In the districts, you will find the museums and oratories of the Contrade and possibly hear drum practices or songs of the Palio which are part of ancient rituals that invoke modern cheer. At night, footsteps of shoes on the peaceful streets couldn't be closer to the serenity of the green valleys just outside the enclosed walls of Siena built hundreds of years ago as we see it today. Siena also hosts the Duomo, the cathedral with breathtaking view from the Facciatone, the Pilgrim's Hall at Santa Maria della Scala, the Piccolomini Library, the prestigious musical academy – Chigiana.

Bottini and the mystery of Diana, the famous underground river, and so much more. The overpowering fortress is the ideal place for jogging and also holds the Enoteca Italiana, with its most precious wines of the whole country. The smells from the trattorie, the sound of craftsmen and locals speaking Italian, and the splashes from the local fountains will allow you to immerse yourself in Italian culture.

These are reasons why "Cor magis tibi Saena pandit", which means "Siena welcomes you with her heart which is bigger than her doors", as engraved above Porta Camollia.

The City of Siena.

Staying in Siena:

Siena is a city of contrasts – from medieval treasures found within its historic walls to modern shops and facilities located around the city.

Enjoy the tranquility found in the hidden back streets or experience lively Palio preparations, festivities, and celebrations which go on throughout the city and in Piazza del Campo throughout the year. Siena is a University city and has a large student population (both Italians and foreigners) with plenty of places to go and things to do in your free time if you are studying in Siena – from bars and clubs to restaurants and pizzerias; from theaters and cinemas to museums and art galleries.

Siena is also not too far away from other major cities in Italy such as Rome, Florence, Pisa, and Venice. It offers the perfect opportunity to live in a beautiful and safe part of Italy while also being able to travel with easy accessibility to other parts of the country.

Siena is probably best known for the Palio, a horse race conducted twice each year in the summer (July 2 & August 16).

It is the most compact of the cities, built on three ridges that radiate out from the Piazza del Campo almost like a mysterious three-legged sea creature embedded in a rock. Each leg forms one of the "terzi", or thirds, into which the city has traditionally been divided. There are "Terzo di Città", "Terzo di San Martino", and "Terzo di Camollia".

Everything is then neatly enclosed within a ring of well-preserved medieval walls.Country: Italy, Region: Tuscany, Province: Siena (SI), Mayor: Bruno Valentini (since May 2013), Elevation: 322 m, Area: 118 km², Population: 55.000 + 20,000 Italian University students + undefined number of foreign students temporarily living in Siena, Density: 447/km², Time zone: CET, UTC+1, Coordinates : 43°20′N 11°20′E, Gentilic: Senesi, Dialing code: 0577, Postal code: 53100, 53010, Patron: St. Ansanus

Staying in Siena.

Piazza del Campo:

This square is the principal public space located in the heart of Siena and serves many purposes. Established before the 13th century, this open site used to be a chief marketplace now renowned worldwide for its beauty and medieval architecture.

The Palazzo Pubblico, Torre del Mangia, Fonte Gaia, as well as various restaurants and stores surround the piazza. You will see many locals, students studying in Siena and foreigners sitting in the piazza relaxing with friends and family or enjoying a nice meal. People spend time in the Piazza del Campo all throughout the day and late through the night which makes it the perfect meeting spot and place to be if you want to meet new people or be part of the crowd. Often times there will also be activities or celebrations held in the Piazza. Among these festivities is the course of the Palio of Siena, a horse race held twice a year.

The Piazza del Campo is a beautiful site to be held and is very important part of the city of Siena.

Museums and Churches:

Siena is widely known for its incredible history and breathtaking architecture and artwork. In this city, you will find many churches and museums that are open to the public and contain an astonishing amount of important historical works and fascinating stories.

Siena is filled with fine paintings and sculptures from the Early Middle-ages, Tuscan Gothic, and pre-Renaissance periods. Among these include the Battistero, Duomo di Siena, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Museo Civico, Accademia dei Fisiocritici, Museo di Storia Naturale, Oratorio di San Bernardino, Santa Maria della Scala, Santuario di Santa Caterina da Siena, Museo dell'Acqua, and several more. Each Contrada, or district, of Siena also contains its own personal museum and church. There are many sites to be seen and much to be learned while living here in Siena.

Museums and Churches of Siena, Italy.

The Contrade:

As of today, there are 17 Contrade of Siena. There were originally 59 Contrade, but consolidation over the centuries has seen the number reduced to today's 17. They are each named after an animal or symbol and each has its own long and complicated history involving heraldic and semi-mythological associations.

The names of the current Contrade are: Giraffa (Giraffe), Istrice (Porcupine), Leocorno (Unicorn), Lupa (She-Wolf), Nicchio (Shell), Oca (Goose), Onda (Wave), Pantera (Panther), Selva (Forest), Tartuca (Turtle), Torre (Tower), Valdimontone (Ram).

These districts were set up in the Middle Ages in order to supply troops to the many military companies that were hired to defend Siena as it fought to defend its independence from Florence and other nearby city states. As time has gone by, however, the Contrade have lost their administrative and military functions and have instead become simplified areas of localized patriotism, held together by the emotions and sense of civic pride of the residents. Their roles have broadened so that every important event - baptisms, deaths, marriages, church holidays, victories at the Palio, even wine or food festivals - is celebrated only within one's own Contrada.

Every Contrada has its own museum, fountain and baptismal font, motto, allied Contrada (only Oca has no allies) and rival Contrada (only four - Bruco, Drago, Giraffa and Selva - have no declared rivals). We encourage those studying in Siena to try to find all the fountains of the Contrade.

The Contrade of Siena, Italy.

The Palio:

The origin of this event dates bak to the 13th century, when a feast and horse race were held in gratitude to the Madonna for Siena's victory at Motaperti in 1260. The Palio is held twice a year during the summer – July 2nd and August 16ht.

Ten out of the 17 Contrade compete each time. The seven who do not compete in one are guaranteed a spot in the next race, and then three other Contrade are drawn at random.

A week before the race, the Piazza del Campo is covered with earth to create the track. The jockeys may not be members of any Contrada. There is a lot of dealing and double dealing that goes on prior to the race. Captains of the Contrade negotiate to get te best rider for their district, but jockeys also strike deals between each other.

Three days before the race, there is a public draw to assign the horses to the ten competing districts. Once allotted, they cannot be changed. The horses are then led to special stalls within each Contrada and are placed under 24-hour surveillance. On the day of the race, each horse and jockey are blessed in their appropriate Contrada church. The race is preceded by a parade, with Contrada members dressed in medieval costumes waving flags and beating drums.

The jockeys continue making deals on the starting line and scramble for position. Once the race begins, chaos occurs and Contrada members and civilians become even more involved as they cheer and pile against one another ot watch the race. The race involves three laps and lasts about 90 seconds.

If a jockey falls off his horse, which often happens, it does not matter because the horse that finishes the race first is the winner, rider-less or not. The next best thing to winning the race is seeing your rival lose it. The winning Contrada becomes the "new-born baby" and the Cotnrada that hasn't won for the longest period of time is the "grandmother".

A dinner is held by the winning Contrada with the horse as the star guest. In the months after the race is over, victory dinners and celebrations are continually held and preparations for the next Palio begin. Yet with all the pageantry the horse race involves, it is the Contrade that are the soul of Siean, not the Palio.

The Palio of Siena, Italy.

Testimonials of the city of Siena:

Candace Call (BYU): "I can genuinely say that I have fallen in love with Siena. The people and culture here are so amazing. I wish I never had to leave. Siena has so many beautiful sites to see and things to do. It is not a huge city, but it is very fun and safe. It is also in the perfect location because it is easy to travel to other major cities in Italy on the weekends. This has been the adventure of a lifetime."

Lindsey Homes(Chicago, Illinois): "Siena is a beautiful city and is extremely easy to navigate. There is great food and nightlife here and a great transportation system. It will definitely be hard to leave!"

Chrissy Nash (COD): "Living in Siena is one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever been a part of. Experiencing a different culture is something everyone should try once in their life. For me, it has made me want to travel more and live in different places which is something I never wanted to do prior to coming to Siena."

Anonymous: "Siena is beautiful, safe, and fun. Living here has been great and easy to get around."

Anonymous: "Living in Siena with an Italian speaking family provides me with more opportunity to learn the language and culture of Italy. Personally, I love Siena. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. It has a very home-like feel to it mixed with a lot of history."

Anonymous: "Siena is simply amazing! The perfect place to be, live and study!"

Anonymous: "Living in Siena was a little hectic at first and taking the bus was confusing but I like my host family and Siena."

Katie T: "Siena is such a beautiful place to live in. It’s always interesting here and the sights never get old."

Pablo Dumas: "Besides attending an incredible school, I also happen to live in a marvelous city: Siena. The school does a great job of showing you the highlights. You can even take tours to nearby cities! I give my experience here a 10 out of 10 with a double thumbs-up."