SIENA & SAN GIMIGNANO

SIENA

From Celle the drive takes about 2 hours.

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it flourished as one of the major cities of Europe, growing rich from banking and the wool trade. The fourteenth century saw a great amount of building; the Duomo, Palazzo Pubblico and the Campo were all begun then, but in 1348 the Black Death struck and this, together with subsequent political upheaval, saw the beginning of a drastic downturn in Siena’s fortunes.

CORSA DEL PALIO

The ‘Wildest Horserace in the world’ the race of the  silk banner” is a 90 second bare backed horserace with no equal in the world. The race began in the 13th century. The only official prize for the winning of the Il Palio is a hand-painted silk banner (the Palio) bearing a portrait of the Virgin Mary.

The culmination of months of preparation and four days of festivities, each race lasts only 90 seconds as the horses complete three 330-metre circuits of the roughly semi-circular Piazza del Campo.

The brilliant colour, pageantry and drama of the medieval procession and horse race have thrilled spectators in Siena’s Piazza del Campo for centuries.  This event is held on 2 July (commemorating the Visitation and the purely local feast day of St Mary of Providence) and 15 August (honoring Siena’s parton, Saint Mary) preceded by a lavish parade in Renaissance costume.

The city became little more than a rural market centre, and, as with San Gimignano, it was the growth of tourism that saw a return to wealth and prominence. Indeed, it was exactly this marked decline that accounts for the incredible state of mediaeval preservation that Siena exhibits today.

SAN GIMIGNANO

Probably the most famous small town in Italy, and there are few places that evoke the atmosphere of mediaeval Tuscany so powerfully. Only fifteen of the original seventy-two towers survive – towers that represented wealth and influence more than defence and security – the higher the tower, the richer your family.