Siena is steeped in many traditions, many dating back to the medieval times. One of the city's most enduring is the contrade system that divides the town into 17 districts. Each district or contrada has its own church, colors, traditions, and symbols - usually in form of medieval animal mascots.
Loyalty to one's contrada is fierce as is the competition among them - particularly during the Palio. Twice every year, in summer, on 2nd of July and 16th of August, 10 of the 17 contrade compete in this exhilirating 60-second horse race around Il Campo. The Palio is arguably one of Italy's most spectacular festivals and is beamed live over national television.
If it's impossible to be in Siena to witness the Palio live, there's a 20-minute documentary at the city's only cinema, Cinema Moderno on Piazza Tolomei, showing between May and October. Unfortunately, I visited Siena in November, so it was "off-season." If all things fail, get a DVD copy of the Jamed Bond movie, Quantum of Solace. The opening action scenes characteristic of James Bond movies were filmed in Siena during the Palio. The downside is, the cameras were more focused on Daniel Craig rather than the race itself.
Battistero di San Giovanni - the basin
The basin for the baptisation is made in the shape of an octagon, built between 1417 and 1430
and it shows stations of the life of John the baptist
( I hope, THIS is the right english expression for " Johannes der Täufer " in German )
Gelati on the stairs
Next to the portal and stairway leading to the Baptistry by the Cathedral is a gelato and bakery shop. Being the tourists we were, we had to have our standard gelato break in the afternoon. Gelato! The bakery items looked impressive, too!
Torre del Mangia
Palazzo Pubblico in Piazza del Campo... is the symbol of the city.
You can climb up to the 105 meters of the tower to enjoy an incredible view !!
The name Torre del "Mangia" comes from its first bell-ringer.
Piazza del Campo
Italy's loveliest piazza occupies the site of the old Roman forum, and for much of Siena's early history was the city's principal marketplace. It began to assume it's present nine segment fan-like shape in 1293 when the Council of Nine, Siena's ruling body at the time, began to acquire land with a view to creating a grand civic piazza. The red brick paving was begun in 1327 and was completed in 1349. The piazza has been the centre of city life ever since, with executions, bullfighting and the twice yearly Palio festival. Cafes, restaurants and fine medieval palazzi now line the piazza's fringes.