Siena & Monteriggioni

 

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Siena-Cathedral

We visit Siena on Day 2 of our Tuscany Yoga Retreat! Please enjoy some information about amazing Siena!

Siena is a town in central Tuscany that counts 59,000 inhabitants and it is the capital of the Siena province. It is one of the most fascinating towns in Tuscany, not only for its sights, but also for its surroundings.

It preserves its medieval character to a remarkable degree, and has been largely unspoilt by new buildings. Piazza del Campo is one of the most famous squares in Italy, where the great Palio horserace takes place. In fact Siena retains a ward-centric culture from medieval times. Each ward (contrada) is represented by an animal or mascot, and has its own boundary and distinct identity. Ward rivalries are most rampant during the annual horse race (Palio) in the Piazza del Campo.

In the first half of the 14th century the Sienese school of painting produced several artists such as Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, Pietro and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, whose works are shown in the Pinacoteca, in the Palazzo Pubblico, and in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.

The streets is Siena are steep as it was built on a ridge, so it is often necessary to cross a deep valley in order to get to the other side of the town. Consequently you need several days to visit every treasure of the town, which has to be done necessarily on foot.

From the hilltop of the town, there is a wonderful varied panorama which includes Monte Amiata and the metalliferous hills, as well as the clay downs of Asciano and the wooded district of Montagnola. To the north, the scenery changes once again, with the densely cultivated hills of the Chianti.

Notable people were born in Siena, as it has always been a lively cultural center: Mauro Pagani, musician, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Saint Catherine, Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli, archaeologist and many more.

Assassin's Creed II panorama

Monteriggioni

Monteriggioni is, without doubt, one of the most classical and best known Italian walled town. Since the Middle Age its fame was so big that also the great poet Dante Alighieri makes sign to his ’round enclosure’ in the Divine Comedy (Hell, chant XXXI vv. 40-41). The town walls, nearly intact, cover a length of 570 meters and are alternated by 14 towers andtwo gates. The Senese Gate is at the base of a square tower while the Florence Gate is opened in the curtain and defended from one of the towers of the fortified perimeter.

The town was built by the Senesis in the years 1213-1219 on a hilltop overlooking of the Cassia Road. Its ideal position allowed to control the Elsa and the Staggia Valleys in direction in Florence, the historic enemy of Siena, that at that time was rapidly expanding its territory.

The hill where Monteriggioni rises is natural, even if it could seem a great ‘motte’ (from the name of the classical Norman castles ‘Motte-and-Bailey’ built on artificial hills and gifted of enclosure), and the circular, almost perfectly, layout of the walls was obtained simply following the sketch of the ground’s curves of level. In the planning was tried of to limit the weak points for excellence, the gates, entrusting the only connections with the outside only to a  east to west crossing road. To Monteriggioni the military building work appears physically distinguished by the inhabited area confined to its inside but well separated from the walls from a ‘territory of respect’, although in the ancient times the inhabited area has been more intense than today and consequently with a more narrow band of separation. The hamlet that we can admire our daysis essentially authentic, being ever been object of building and tourist speculations. The only changes to its aspect happened in the first years of the 16th century when, trying to conform the fortifications to the development of the new fire weapons, were lowered the towers andaccumulated earth at the base of the walls with the purpose to get a bastionated effect.

Recently a part of the wall walk of the town walls has been restored and made accessible. From the top of the walled circuit, it is possible to admire the surrounding countryside towards Chianti and the Valdelsa and to enjoy a unique view of the town and its fortifications. More info: http://www.monteriggioniturismo.it/en/museum-and-walkway.html

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