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Siena and San Gimignano Tours

By Viator, June 2015

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Few European cities live as harmoniously with their past as Siena. This most beloved of Tuscany’s hilltop settlements preserves its medieval layout, focusing on the unique crooked half-moon Piazza del Campo, one of Italy’s great public spaces. There are no cars in the town center to shatter the illusion and once a year the past comes thundering to life in the form of the Palio, a medieval horse race which pits neighborhoods against each other.

The city’s stunning medieval cathedral with its distinctive black and white stripes is another reminder of Siena’s proud centuries of independence. And while you’ll find even the humblest church boasts its own art treasures, the greatest concentration of Siena’s distinctive late medieval-early Renaissance style, swimming in ravishing gold leaf, is found in the Pinacoteca.

But Siena is just one of the glories of this area. Dotted across the landscape are the high walls of hill towns which once repelled marauders, but now welcome travelers. Little Monteriggioni, for instance, with its quiet, winding streets and perfectly preserved fortifications. Or San Gimignano, to the north-west of Siena. This town enjoys a world-wide reputation disproportionate to its size, its fame resting on its extraordinary grouping of medieval towers (14 in all) which dominate the surrounding countryside. This UNESCO World Heritage site is also noted for its association with the great Italian writer Dante Alighieri, and for its churches abounding with fine Renaissance artworks.

If you’re staying in Florence, you can see Siena and San Gimignano and surrounding areas on a day trip. But remember it’s not just the visual delights which are worth savoring; some of the finest, freshest Tuscan cuisine is served up here, and being Chianti country, you’ll want to sample fine wines in the numerous historic, picturesque vineyards. Honey and olive oil are among the other local specialties.

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