Siena: Experiencing the Palio, Exploring the Duomo and Savoring Tuscany

The crowds waiting for race to begin.


Siena: Politics, Alliances, and Rival Neighborhoods:

10410573_793744457343486_3534411101775369471_nTuscany is known for it’s wine and cultured cities.  A region where the wealthy noble families exerted control over their own fiefdoms during the 13th century.  These city state republics were the foundation for today’s major cities: Siena, Florence, Lucca, Montalcino.  And their wealth financed some of the world’s greatest artwork and architecture.  Siena was prosperous as a financial and trading center and it was during this era that the  Piazza del Campo and the Duomo were built.

The Palio, is an event who’s history dates back to the 1600s.  Contradas represent local political neighborhood alliances within Siena.  And every summer, during July and August, the Contradas gather to vie against each other in one of the most famous horse races in history.  But it is more than just a horse race. There are religious processions to bless the event.  Feasting and celebrating in the streets at night.  Contrada flags flying along their borders.   And huge crowds gather, lining the Piazza del Campo to see which Contrada will win the race.


The Gothic Siena Duomo

The Duomo in Siena, is a perfect example gothic architecture with an amazing black and white marble campanile, or bell towers. This repetition of black and white symbolizes the colors of Siena.  It was during the 13th century that construction began on the Duomo, with hopes of building one of the largest churches in the world. Siena was a very wealthy powerful city state and architecture was a method used by the city to display their wealth.  Inside the Duomo are many paintings by Sienese masters which rivaled Florentine artists.

Where to stay when visiting Siena

The city of Siena sits in the midst of the Tuscan countryside. The neighboring towns of Montepulciano, San Gimignano, and Montalcino are also located in the Siena Province.

The surrounding area is dotted with family owned castles and agriturismos. One unique property is the Montalto Castle which is located 31 KM (20 miles) from Siena.

Montalto has been in existence in one form or another since the 11th century.  During 1546, Siena ceded the castle to the Palmieri family in exchange for the family protection and alliance.

Today the castle is still owned by descendants of the Palmieri family and has undergone extensive renovations to make it a welcoming destination for your holiday in Tuscany. The castle has a series of cottages, villas and rooms set on the castle grounds.

The area is immersed in history of an ancient feudal system, renown for delicious locally grown food, undulating hills covered in vineyards, and a slow lifestyle. A historic region where you can see village towers that were built during the Renaissance, ancient farmhouses overlooking their silvery grey olive groves, and grizzled farmers driving along the winding roads.  And the perfect place to enjoy all of this : Try the Siena properties listed on our website .


We sent blogger Valentina of ” Too Much Tuscany”  to Siena and she stayed at the Montalto Castle while she explored Siena. The photos are a product from her first hand experience.

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