World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Italy > Siena

Local time Siena


Siena History

A vital commercial and banking centre, Siena was a regional powerhouse until pesky Florence took the crown.

Legend has it that Siena was founded by Senius, the son of Remus. You can see statues of a she-wolf suckling the mythical twin brothers throughout the city.

The truth is that Siena started life as an Etruscan settlement, later becoming a Roman colony called Sena Julia.

It was the Lombard kings who really brought Siena into its own however. By the 12th century, Siena was flourishing as an independent community.

Siena grew wealthy, as it was an important stop on the Via Francigena - the pilgrim route from France to Rome.

The influx of travellers and merchants led to the establishment of hostels, shops, a university and banking facilities.

Constantly at loggerheads with fierce rival Florence, Siena overpowered the Florentine army at the Battle of Montaperti in 1260.

The Ghibellines lost power soon after however, and outbreaks of the Black Death beginning in 1348 killed two-thirds of the city’s population.

Despite these setbacks, Siena continued to build fine piazzas, churches and towers, and in 1472, the powerful Monte dei Paschi Bank was established.

In 1487, Pandolfo Petrucci snatched power. He and his descendants ruled the city with an iron fist until, following a lengthy battle, Siena surrendered to Spain in 1555.

To Siena’s chagrin, Philip II of Spain handed the city over to arch rivals Florence a couple of years later.

In 1861, Siena was integrated into the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.

Today, the city is a thriving market town and tourist magnet, thanks to its beautiful medieval architecture and extraordinary art treasures.

Did you know?
• The Palio bareback horse races have been held in Siena since the mid-17th century.
• Monte dei Paschi Bank is the oldest surviving bank in the world.
• The Historic Centre of Siena was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.

A digital image at

Book Accommodation

Featured Hotels


Hotel Italia Siena

Well situated for those arriving at the city by train, this friendly 3-star hotel is set outside the city walls and is convenient for drivers as it has a few private parking spaces. Rooms are clean and bright, and its superior and executive rooms have soundproof windows.

Hotel Athena

Inside the historic centre, just a 10-minute walk from the Piazza Campo, this smart hotel boasts a rooftop terrace where you can enjoy a cocktail and watch the sun turn Siena's buildings rose-coloured. Rooms have tiled floors, many also have balconies, and there is free Wi-Fi throughout.

Hotel Alma Domus

In the heart of the city centre, this hotel is actually part of ancient compound containing the Sanctuary of Saint Catherine. Watch the world go by from your balcony or take in the wonderful views of the cathedral. Rooms are basic but not shabby. Free Wi-Fi and a continental breakfast also included.

Campo Regio Relais

Renovated in 2012, this boutique hotel oozes style and luxury from its six well-appointed rooms. On a quiet cobbled street in the medieval old town, marble floors, frescoed walls and antiques abound. There are fabulous views from its terrace and from many of the rooms too. Enjoy a tot of grappa from its honesty bar.

Hotel Santa Caterina

Set just outside the city walls, at the Porto Romano gate, this small friendly hotel has medieval Tuscan charm and is furnished with antiques. There is a lovely garden, as well as a conservatory where breakfast is served. If coming by car, remember to book a parking space when reserving the room.

Hotel Garden

This hotel complex, situated around a 17th-century villa on the outskirts of the city, is convenient for business travellers. Set in parkland, it features a swimming pool, tennis courts as well as conference and banqueting facilities. You can also enjoy a terrace bar and cable television in every room.