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Surrounded by olive groves and the vineyards of Chianti, Siena is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. Set on three hills, the city is drawn together by medieval alleyways and steep steps, whilst the Piazza del Campo stands at its heart, and the Duomo and St. Maria della Scala serve as additional cultural landmarks. Famed for the "Palio", the annual historic horse-races take place on 2 July and 16 August. It is also home to one of the oldest Universities in Europe, which ensures a vibrant Italian student atmosphere throughout the academic year and the centenary Monte dei Paschi Bank. In addition to the bustling daily life of the streets and squares of the city, Siena offers many cultural events.
A visit to the city is riched through its surrounding territory. In fact leaving the historical center, in a few minutes of travelling, we find ourselves immersed in the fascinating Tuscan landscape, where the enchanting hills and the little medieval villages make it unique in the world.
This geographical area is known all around the world to be the land of Chianti Wines.
Chianti has always been a wine producing area, that's why you can find many wineries, vineyards and olive trees all around. The wine production is a tradition that has ancient roots: the first notarial document which talks about Chianti wines dates back to 1398.
Besides the charm of the countryside that defines the beautiful landscape of the area, you will also find various historical castles, churches, towns and villages dotted around the hills.
Chianti was founded by the Etruscans and then by the Romans. In medieval times this area was the scene of battles between Siena and Florence, so that's why you can find many towers, abbeys and villages in Chianti, which were transformed into villas and residences in peacetime.
In the heart of the province of Siena, there is a perfect landscape, which composes the hills, the little villages and medieval towns like Pienza. This is "the ideal city" of Pope Pio II, which had been transformed by Enea Silvio Piccolomini and became Italy symbol of the renaissance period.
Vast, hilly and welcoming, the valley seems widespread in all its beauty before the traveler. For this reason many films have been made in this area. A few names are: "The English patient", "The Gladiator", “Under the Tuscan sun" and "Romeo and Juliet". All of Val d'Orcia was declared a world heritage site by Unesco in 2004.
This territory includes: Pienza, San Quirico d'Orcia, Castiglion d'Orcia, Montalcino and Radicofani.
The Crete landscape is the triumph of harmony and an image without time. Wind, rain, men and flock of sheep have designed this unique panorama over the centuries. So there aren't any monuments like squares, cathedrals or castles which identified this area. You'll only find intimate corners like one cypress tree or a dirt road which will lead you to an old country house or a small forgotten church.
This is where Tuscany "undresses" itself to offer its authentic character. Navigating among undulating hills of the Crete, each one of us will find places where the wind will breathe directly to our souls.
This area includes: Asciano, Buonconvento, Monteroni d'Arbia, Rapolano Terme, San Giovanni d'Asso and Trequanda.
San Gimignano can be seen from any direction. It is approached because of it being located at the top of the hill and has numerous towers. Of the approximately 72 towers found during the medieval period, we can only find 13 today. It is said there was one tower for every well off family, so they could show off their wealth through the tower's construction the real economic power. The city surrounded entirely by a wall, is still structured by Francigena, which runs in the direction from north to south.
Walking the narrow streets, rich in "ups and downs", one can admire its medieval beauty, the harmony of its historical center and its richness in art and culture. Let yourself be transported to this amazing place in the world, where you can still breathe the charme of the time gone by.
Wine and Food
The Sienese territory not only offers natural and artistic beauty, but also a large selection of dishes and typical products, that can be enjoyed either in a little inn in the center or in a wine bar. Many restaurants still keep the traditional Tuscan cuisine alive rich in genuine ingredients, probably coming directly from the land surrounding the city. It's easy to enjoy a fabulous Tuscan "ribollita", accompanied with a good red wine, a plate filled with typical local salami and cheeses or an excellent chianina steak.
In fact products like extra virgin olive oil, the appreciated wines from the province of Siena: Chianti Classico, Brunello of Montalcino, Nobile of Montepulciano and Vernaccia of San Gimignano are guaranteed quality. Regarding food, we can't forget to mentioned the famous "Pecorino cheese" of Pienza and the "Sienese Cinta salame". The image of the Sienese cinta was painted in Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco called "The effects of good Government" in 1338.
In various periods of time during the year, the excellent food and wine of the territory become the featured star of local events. These events will catch the attention of numerous visitors, tourist and food and wine lovers.
Siena is also famous for its sweet production. Recipes that transcend generations can be found in Panforte, Ricciarelli and Cavallucci famous in all of the world.