• Siena

Siena is quality of life writ large and the first European town to close its centre to traffic way back in 1966. Siena, a place of international culture, whose University is a sprightly 750 years "young" and which is home to prestigious institutions such as the Accademia Chigiana, the University for Foreigners, the Accademia dei Fisiocritici and the Accademia degli Intronati. This is the town where not even a stone has been moved over the centuries and which exudes an atmosphere that can be found nowhere else because its people have kept alive the traditions of their fathers, such as those regarding the celebration of the Palio, renewing them each year with undiminished strength and vigour. Siena, a settlement of Etruscan origin, was a Roman colony with the name of Sena Julia; it was most important during the Middle Ages, being defeated later by the Lombards and then passing under the Carolingian domination. After a long period of Episcopal dominion (9th-11th century) the town reached its peak after becoming an independent municipality (1147), adopting a policy of expansion at the expense of the neighbouring territories. Confrontation with Florence was inevitable and the struggle lasted, with various ups and downs, until 1555, when after a long siege, Siena was conquered by the Florentines, losing its independence and becoming part of the Grand-duchy of Tuscany, sharing its fortunes until the Unification of Italy (1861).