Piazza del Campo © Phillip Capper
Siena is one of Italy's best-preserved medieval cities, and one of the major drawcards for visitors to the popular regions of Umbria and Tuscany. The city's historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is only accessible on foot. Siena's peak as a wealthy city-state dates back to the 13th-century, when the Duomo di Siena was completed along with the distinctly scallop-shaped Piazza del Campo, regarded as one of the finest public spaces in Europe. The town's university was founded in 1240, and to this day ranks as one of the most prestigious in Italy, while its student population enlivens the traditionally conservative local population.
Amid the winding lanes of the medieval city are many gorgeous churches and museums, filled with artistic riches. Chief among these are the 13th-century Gothic-styled Chiesa di San Domenico and the imposing Fortezza Medicea; while the Sanctuary of St. Catherine's of Siena is a pilgrimage site for many seeking benefits from the reputedly miraculous crucifix it houses.
All of Siena's streets are a delight to explore while on holiday but some of its most notable landmarks include the Torre de Mangia, Palazzo Pubblico, the Duomo, Palazzo Piccolomini, Pinacoteca Nazionale and Museo dell'Opera. Torre del Mangia is the bell tower to the left of Palazzo Pubblico which stands at 330ft (102m), the second highest in Italy. It is named after the first bell ringer who was known for his infuriating idleness. The Palazzo Pubblico still serves as Siena's town hall although sections of it are open to the public. The Palazzo Piccolomini, built in 1460 for the prosperous Piccolomini family, contains Sienese state archives and financial records. The Pinacoteca Nazionale gallery is noted for its collection of works by artists of the Siena School. Siena's spectacular Duomo is unsurpassed amongst Italy's churches, built in full Gothic style. The carved pulpit panels, by Nicola Pisano, are magnificent depictions from The Life of Christ. Many of the original statues on the church's façade are copies; the originals are in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo.