It’s a common knowledge that Italy is a modern country with a lot of opportunities and events, but traditions are also very honored here. A good example is Sienna, a city in central Italy’s Tuscany region, which despite its popularity with tourists doesn’t lose its individually and traditions.
According to local legend, Siena was founded by Senius and Aschius, two sons of Remus and thus nephews of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. Supposedly after their father's murder by Romulus, they fled Rome, taking with them the statue of the she-wolf suckling the infants (Capitoline Wolf), thus appropriating that symbol for the town. Additionally they rode white and black horses, giving rise to the Balzana, or coat of arms of Siena with a white band atop a dark band. Some claim the name Siena derives from Senius. Other etymologies derive the name from the Etruscan family name Saina, the Roman family name Saenii, or the Latin word senex "old" or its derived form seneo "to be old".
The first noticeable thing about Sienna is that it’s surrounded by the brick wall and the only enter are the big gates. The town hasn't got any green tree inside!
Siena is a university city. Almost half of the population of the city (about 20 thousand people) are students and University of Siena is one of the oldest in whole Italy. Just imagine that in spite of the majority of young population Siena saved all its architecture! it’s mostly due to the government of Siena which issued an aesthetically important law, according to which all facades should be executed in the same style, have specified intervals and distances, be combined in the architectural design.
That’s why the main square piazza de Campo amaze the toirists so much.A huge fan disperses nine segments, it forms a shell itself. The terrain is obliged to such an original decision by a lot of rain flows, which descend from the hills, forming a peculiar relief. Also during the arrangement of the square, the authorities ensured that the buildings did not violate its plan. Thus, the basilica of Peter and Paul (chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo) was demolished only because it stood out slightly in comparison with the houses of the local aristocracy.
The Palace of the Commune (Palazzo Pubblico) is the central building of Campo Square. During the construction of the Palazzo Pubblico, the architects repeated the bend of the square. The central part has four floors and one tier above the side wings. In the center of the fourth floor there is a white circle with the monogram of Christ. The roof of the building is a bit like a fortress: there are rectangular teeth on it.
Glutton Tower (Torre del Mangia) closely adjacent to the Palace of the Commune and is located on its left side. So strangely the townspeople called the building in honor of the first guard of the sights, Giovanni di Balduccio. He was known for his irrepressible appetite, and therefore he spent all the money on various delicacies. Torre del Mangia is one of the tallest towers of the Middle Ages: if you consider lightning rods, its height is 102 m. You can climb the observation platform, which is located at a height of 88 m, having overcome four hundred steps. From here there is a magnificent view of the surroundings.
The Chapel di Piazza (cappella di Piazza) is located on the first floor of the Obzhora Tower. It is faced with white marble, effectively standing out against the background of the terracotta tower. Made in the Gothic style.
The Fountain of Joy (Fonte Gaia) is equipped opposite the city hall. It does not immediately strike the eye, and is more like a pool lined with white marble, which can be well seen only on one side of the square. The fact is that the fountain is fenced from three sides with marble walls. They are decorated with bas-reliefs depicting biblical scenes, as well as the Mother of God with the baby Jesus. On the front pilasters you can see two women. One of them gave birth to Romulus and Rem (Romulus and Remus), the founders of Rome, the other brought up (according to legend, the son of Rem was founded by Sien, Senius).
And it’s not the end, but it’s enough about the architecture. The other impressing thing is races.
The Palio races (Il Palio) are held in Siena twice a year - on July 2 and August 16 and are a completely unique phenomenon, because the Palio traditions have remained virtually unchanged for many centuries.
Jumps are preceded by a special ritual Corteo Storico, which is exactly the same as the medieval one. The jumps themselves last no more than one and a half minutes. 10 horses rush around the famous Plaza del Campo three times, the total distance is about 1 kilometer. By tradition, riders ride bareback and often fly off a horse in sharp turns. A horse can win races and alone - the victory is awarded to the horse. The rider, in case of victory, receives a cash prize, and the Conraddo goes to Palio, a silk flag with the image of Madonna and the baby. 10 horses representing 10 counter-raids (districts) take part in the Palio. In total, in Siena, today there are 17 counts, previously there were up to 80.
Contrada has been formed in the Middle Ages and play a significant role in the life of the Siena. Contrada lives like one big family, sharing joy and sorrow together. Of course, every contrad has allies and opponents. Belonging to the contrade remains after marriage; born boys belong to the father's contrade, girls - to the mother's contrade. The Cond of the Goose and the Wolf are no allies, and the Con Counts of the Caterpillar, Dragon, Giraffe and Forest have no official opponents. About a month before the race, Siena begins to be decorated with Contrade flags. Residents also dress up in caps and bandanas of appropriate colors. 3 days before the race, respectively, on June 29 and August 13, the top 10 of 30 horses are selected and a draw is held to determine which horse will represent which counter. Which exactly 10 out of 17 counts will take part in the Palio, is determined by alternating the performances of 7 contrades and by drawing lots for the missing three contrades.
I would really like to visit The Palio races one time cause this show really worth every penny you spend on the tickets to Siena, and moreover the town itself is really impressing. For anyone who loves history and the atmosphere of Middle Ages Siena will be the perfect place to go.
Siena is a live example of what is the love to the traditions. It definitely won’t leave you indifferent!