We took a day trip to Sienna, San Gimignano, and Pisa.

Siena (in English sometimes spelled Sienna) is a city in Tuscany, Italy. It is the capital of the province of Siena. The historic centre of Siena has been declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. It is one of the nation's most visited tourist attractions, with over 163,000 international arrivals in 2008. Siena is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a horse race held twice a year.

Siena, like other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900-400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called the Saina. A Roman town called Saena Julia was founded at the site in the time of the Emperor Augustus. Some archaeologists assert that Siena was controlled for a period by a Gaulish tribe called the Senones. The Sienna Republic existed for over four hundred years, from the late 11th century until the year 1555. During the golden age of Siena before the Black Death in 1348, the city was home to 50,000 people.

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. 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 Palio di Siena is a traditional medieval horse race run around the Piazza del Campo twice each year, on 2 July and 16 August. The event is attended by large crowds, and is widely televised. Seventeen Contrade (which are city neighbourhoods originally formed as battalions for the city's defence) vie for the trophy: a painted banner, or Palio bearing an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Sienna is also home to Europe's oldest continually-running bank, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, founded in 1472. Every year during the Palio, they open their archives to the public, which include bank records from the Medicis of Florence.

Read more about Sienna (link opens in a new window).