A walk through the centre of Siena is one of life's pleasures. Nearly all traffic has been banned from the historic centre since 1966, and commercial vehicles are only allowed in during the quiet morning hours. This leaves the visitor free from the noise and fumes of many city centres, and prevents unwary tourists, staring at the magnificent buildings and sculptures, from stepping in front of a passing motorist. Legend has it that the town was founded by the son of Remus, one half of the twin brothers that founded Rome, and you will see many frescoes, sculptures, and images of the twins suckling from the she-wolf around the city to commemorate this. For a panoramic view of the city, climb the 500 plus steps to the top of the Torre del Mangia, and be amazed at what is often described at Italy's loveliest city.
Location: A city at the heart of Tuscany
Standing atop three hills, Siena has a commanding presence of the area. It is situated about 200 kilometres north of Rome and 70 kilometres south of Florence, and is in the centre of the Tuscan region. In the city centre, the only method of travel is by foot, but excellent local bus services and train links will reliably and regularly take you out of the city and onward to nearly any Italian destination.
Business: At the forefront of biotechnology
The city has recently seen huge growth in scientific investment, and the Swiss owned Novartis Vaccines has opened a research institute employing over a 1,000 people from the area. Many hotels cater for conference facilities and minor exhibitions, but for larger exhibitions, you need to travel around 20 kilometres outside of the city for a suitable venue.
Culture: Brimming with history and beauty at every turn
The Piazza del Campo is the heart and soul of Siena. The square is dominated by the Torre del Mangia, and is the gathering point for all visitors to the city. It is here the infamous Palio horse races are run in July and August. This medieval race pitches each of the city neighbourhoods against each other in a highly contested bid to win the painted banner—or Palio—of the Virgin Mary to display within their local museum.
Activities: Be immersed in history but don't get lost in it
For many visitors, the vast amount of historical artefacts, buildings, and artwork is the main reason for visiting, but why not spend a little time enjoying the more modern sights the city can offer. An evening out is normally based around dining and enjoying the ambience: try something different and head for one of the small music venues, and see some live jazz or blues in a setting you will never forget. Take a few hours out from your trip and get a bus or taxi to the Chianti region to walk through fields of sunflowers, and taste the famous wines of the region whilst being told about their history.