Sienna

A historic and beautiful city in Tuscany, Italy. Famous for its art, museums and the Palio
(a horse race). The city has also been the decor of many movies. For instance Quantum of Solace where James Bond chased a guy on the rooftops of Sienna during the Palio.

In Italy, it doesn't matter how big the city is, all of them have a certain charm and are very interesting to visit.

We visited this city when we were on a road trip to central Italy. In Italy, it doesn't matter how big the city is, all of them have a certain charm and are very interesting to visit. Mostly because the cities are pretty old and bear a lot of history. I mean San Gimignano for instance. Not very big but truly intriguing history. Or Volterra. I mean, just the name itself right..? Fascinating.

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Palazzo Pubblico

We parked our car on one of the many car parks around the city center. From there it's not a long walk before you're in the midst of it all and are sniffing some genuine culture. Sienna is divided into 17 neighborhoods (originally formed as battalions to defend the city and know as a contrada (plural contrade) in Italian). You can check in which one you currently are because they all mark their boundaries by putting up their own flags on buildings.

We've literally never seen so many people on a single square.

We walked immediately to the Piazza del Campo, the principal public square of the city. Regarded by most as Europe's greatest medieval square and home to the Palazzo Pubblico (town hall) and the Torre del Mangia. Little did we know, it was the days before the Palio and we stepped right on the square when they were about the announce the riders. We've literally never seen so many people on a single square. Each neighborhood brings forward one rider. But there are more neighborhoods then starting positions, hence some don't get to play along. We all know Italians have quite some passion and pride in them, so the Palio is not just about the race itself, it's also the zenith of the continuous rivalry and competition between the contrade.

And then it's back to the silence again, waiting for another announcement...

Let me describe to you what we saw:
Hundreds, maybe thousands of people on a single square. At first silently waiting for the speaker to announce a contrada. After the announcement somewhere on the square, a big group of people starts to chant, probably their own contrade anthem or something alike. Then they start to move forward and "collect' the rider and his horse to accompany him back to their contrade. And then it's back to the silence again, waiting for another announcement... We were pretty impressed how fun this was. Despite the fact it was so crowded and really really hot.

Escorting the ridercontrade flags
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The chosen ones

After all the riders for the Palio were made public, people fled the scene like somebody just farted in their midst. We then continued our way into Sienna to behold at all the beauty it houses. We visited the Duomo. A medieval Roman Catholic church, built between 1215 and 1263 and one of the best buildings you will find in Sienna. The west façade is the most impressive one and has three massive portals. The in- and exterior of the building is decorated with black and white marble. Inside you will find various works of art.

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Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, also known as Duomo di Siena

Interior of the duomoWork of artJust amazing detail
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Inside the duomo

Average price around € 2.000/€ 3.000. But the good news is that you can share them with max 4 persons =)

After we saw most of the city we went back to the square to find it almost deserted. Now we had a good view of the sandy race course, which was already set up around the square. They also constructed the Palchi already. These wooden seats go on sale for an average price of
€ 350/€ 450 per seat, depending on the location. Really want to burn some money? Book a window in one of the rooms around the square to watch the race. Average price around
€ 2.000/€ 3.000. But the good news is that you can share them with max 4 persons =) Don't want to spend that kind of money? spots on the square are for free, but it's hard to see the race since the square has a bit of a declined position to the center.

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Piazza del Campo after the festivities


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