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Siena

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Inhabitants in 1991: 56.956

The municipal territory of Siena extends or 118,71 square kilometres on the central heights of the Toscano high plains, between the valley formed by the river Arbia and the river Elsa. The city of Siena probably had origins as a Roman military colony, but its importance as an urban centre is from the Longobardi era; around the year one thousand it was subdivided into three originating nuclei of Castelvecchio, Castel Montone and Castello del Poggio Malavolti (and in fact was indicated with the plural name of Senae) which successively were the origins of the allocations of the “tersieri” (thirds) City, San Martino and Camollia. A free community of great importance in the Late Middle Ages. With the Leopoldina reforms of 1777 the communal territory of Siena was subdivided into three distinct communities: Siena (limited to little more than that inside the urban walls), and the two suburban communities of Masse di Città and Masse di San Martino; in 1869 the community of Masse di Siena was constituted, formed by the suppressed municipalities of Masse di Città and Masse di San Martino; in 1876 Siena incorporated a portion of the municipality of Masse, which in 1904 was suppressed and its remaining territory aggregated definitively to the municipality of Siena.

Probably inhabited from the Etruscan era, then a “civitas romana”, made Christian from the end of the IV century and in the following one became Episcopal Seat, it was with the Longobarda domination that there was the first notable development of the city, when in 678 it was governed by a royal steward and, to prove its important growth, opened a dispute which lasted for centuries with Arezzo receiving larger diocesan limits (tending evidently to make their political and religious limits coincide). The news regarding the urban nucleus in this period is very scarse, but the surrounding walls probably enclosed the Cathedral and the fortified centre later called the Castelvecchio. The Franchi Counts took over from the Longobardi functionaries in the IX century, but in the Carolingian period and post Carolingian, even if the city continued to function in the Ecclesiastic ambient they were not able to impose themselves as a strong kingpin territory in the civil ambient. In the countryside the economic and political life however was then organised around the castles and the Lordly power, who tended to substitute the royal representatives and that of the citizens in exercising the judicial, military and fiscal rights. From the end of the X century the potentiality of the Via Francigena, principle road connecting Rome and the north, sowed the seeds for a rapid development for Siena. Along the Francigena, which crossed the city, the hamlets began to grow up in the XI century, like that of Camollia, gradually inserted within the encircling city walls. The first notice of the organisation of Siena into a Consul municipality goes back to the years between 1125 and 1130 and during the same century there began a phase of expansion for the city (in the ambient of which an object of prime importance was reached in 1137 with the acquisition of half of the silver mines of Montieri), marked by the imposing of its sovereignty on numerous castles or with friendship or alliance pacts; this opposing politics in the territory to the north by Firenze, with which they reached the armed conflict between 1141 and 1158.

An official ratification of their expansionistic successes was sought by Siena from Emperor Federico I, to whom they remained faithful in the years of the anti Imperial leagues (taking advantage of this to depose the Bishop of his temporary power in 1167); this however cost renewal of the hostility with Firenze, from which they emerged with a new peace accord in 1176 which caused the loss of the half of Poggibonsi and an unfavourable definition of the Chianti borders. Nevertheless, Siena managed to obtain new declarations of sovereignty in its territory and grew from an institutional and economic point of view. In 1181 the right to mint coin was given to them, an indication of the strengthening of the exchange and the intensification of commercial operations. All of this corresponded to an urban growth and a strong immigration increase. At the beginning of the XIII century the contrasts for power began to emerge, there were, on the one side the old management classes, that is the aristocracy consuls of the committee families or citizens, and on the other the arts people, and merchants who were emerging and hopeful for the management of the public things. The whole of the century is characterised by the internal political events, by the struggles of the Siena population to reduce the political power of the “great”, struggles which however did not at all compromise the civil and economic development of Siena, which among other things in 1240 inaugurated its University. In 1277 the proclamation of the so called “Peoples Statute”, with which the magnates were deprived of the right to occupy posts in the municipal government and sanctioned the juristic formulation of the victorious people. Loyal to the Imperial party, Siena had become by the middle of the XIII century the most important Ghibellina city of the internal Toscana, and in coalition with other pro Sveva family forces they managed in 1260 at Montaperti to inflict a hard defeat on their rivals Firenze. After the battle of Benevento (1266) and the ascending to the Sicilian throne of the Angioina lineage, the Toscane Guelfi retook predominance marked by the victory of Colle Val d’Elsa (1269) over the Siena troops. The arguments among the internal districts were calmed and in 1287 the government called “of the Nine” took power, constituted by members of the most conspicuous popular Guelfa families, destined to last in its rigid oligarchy form until 1355.

It was between the 1200s and early 1300 that Siena matured its transformation into Mercantile centre and Manufacturer of great importance. The economic development is underlined by the intense urban activity: a new extensive surrounding wall was programmed in 1326; the Palazzo Pubblico on of the highest examples of Toscana Gothic, was started in 1288; the ambitious project of the construction of a new Cathedral, later interrupted, was conceived in those years; several of the most significant buildings were built between the 1200s and 1300s, like the Palace of the Captain of Justice, and those of the Chigi-Saracini, the Sansedoni, the Salimbeni, and the Tolomei. The plague epidemics which followed in the second half of the 1300s starting from the most serious in 1348, interrupted the fervour of this activity. The population was reduced by almost two thirds, while the countryside was devastated by the raids of the mercenary troops, Siena found itself also facing years of grave grain crisis and growing social tension. In 1371 when the fight for power was at its most fierce between the oligarchy of the rich people (the Noveschi), the new forces of the middle classes (the Dodicini) and the great magnate families, never definitively subdued, there was one of the first rebellions of the working classes in the Medieval, the Bruco uprising, quickly brought into line by a bloody repression.

Almost at the end of the 1300s, while the territorial expansion of Firenze came closer to the interests of Siena, the latter sought protection in the short lived Lordship of Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1399-1404). Subsequently constituted Governor dei Dieci, Siena made peace with Firenze furbishing help in 1410 against the King of Napoli and obtaining from this alliance the notable advantage of reacquisition of several Ports and the Maremma. In the course of the XV century the city became Archbishop’ Seat thanks to the Siena Pope Pio II Piccolomini. New disorders and political contrasts disturbed the city’s life with six changes of political regime between 1464 and 1487, the year in which Pandolfo Petrucci, head of the exiled Noveschi made himself Lord of Siena forming a government in which all the political components had to be represented. His family remained in power until 1523. In 1530 the Imperial troops of Carlo V occupied the city, and a government was recreated which expressed the interest of the great merchants, but in 1552 the occupying Spanish were forced to get out, while Siena allied with France and with the exiled anti-Medicea Fiorentini led by Piero Strozzi. Besieged in 1554 the city surrendered only one year later. The armed resistance however continued, trusted to the government in exile at Montalcino, where a quantity of Siena families had gathered, until the definitive surrender in 1559.

Siena became part of the Mediceo State with autonomous administration directed by a governor. In a subordinate position with respect to the capital, the city it went through a long period of decadence with the Medici (in 1749 the population was reduced to less than 15,000 inhabitants), from which it partially recovered under the Lorena, who gave a notable push to agriculture and commerce. Perhaps this is why Siena did not participate in the rebellions against the Leopoldina reforms, but even accepted the occupation by the French in 1799 in good faith, believing in the innovative new waves brought by this enlightenment from the other side of the Alps: and in fact some initiative provision was tried, above all in the administrative and cultural area, but in the end Siena found itself complaining regards the spoiling of the museums and archives and because of heavy taxation. With the Lorenese dynasty restored, Siena participated with particular momentum in the liberal rebellions of 1831 and even more so in the Risorgimento mobilisation of 1847-48: In 1859 Siena was the first Toscana City to vote for annexation to the realm of Italy, with such a large majority to make it seem that other than Italian sentiment there was also the old desire to liberate themselves in some way from the dominant Fiorentini. The national unity brought new thrusts to the economy and the life of the city, thanks also to the installation of a railway line with the greater opportunity to reach new markets for the agricultural and industrial products from Siena.

In the following decade, in particular the period between the two wars, the cultural role of the city was re-enforced with the foundation of various worthy institutes and the important growth of the Universita. During the last war, Siena, who gave a valiant contribution to the partisan struggle, suffered for the occupation and reprisals, it had among other things the good fortune to maintain its city centre practically intact from war destruction and was liberated by the allied troops on 13 July 1944. In the post war period the city was administered uninterruptedly by the Left party, who had a particularly high electoral consensus. To overcome negative situations, like the unstoppable crisis which started in the 50s with the agricultural sharecropping which had characterised its countryside for centuries, and in the last twenty years a constant demographic inclination determined by a series of causes, Siena today is considered a model city not only for its singular urban harmony and the architectural beauty which qualifies it, but also for the social climate which is breathed in this urban centre by the man measured dimension, capable of maintaining many centuries old traditions alive and permeated with a factious solidarity which manages to give identity and heart-warming certainty.

Among the illustrious persons born in Siena are: Santa Caterina (1347-1380), Pope Alessandro III (c.1110.-1181), the blessed Giovanni Colombini (1304-1367); artitìsts Duccio di Boninsegna (c.1255.-1344), Simone Martini (1284-1344), Ambrogio e Pietro Lorenzetti (both died presumably in 1348), Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439-1502); poets Cecco Angiolieri (c.1260.-1310) and Bindo Bonichi (c.1260.-1338), writer Gentile Sermini (XV cen.), the reformist theologians Bernardino Ochino (1487-1565), Lelio and Fausto Sozzini (1525-1562 and 1539-1604), man of letters Pietro Fortini (1500-1562), writers and playwrights Alessandro Piccolomini (1508-1578), Girolamo Gigli (1660-1722) and Iacopo Angelo Nelli (1673-1763), economist and statesman Sallustio Bandini (1677-1760), writer Federigo Tozzi (1883-1920), historian Armando Sapori (1891-1976).

Siena is an elegant city, for which much credit must go to the city authorities in the medieval period who were particularly attentive to the aesthetics of the urban plan.
Modern-day Siena is one of the most liveable cities in Italy.
It is a centre for cultural and research activities, and is visited every year by thousands of tourists drawn by its rich historical heritage and the delights of Sienese cuisine. These include the legendary pici, a large hand-made form of spaghetti eaten with rabbit or wild boar sauce, or simply with a hot garlic and tomato one. Then there are the excellent chicken or pork scottiglie, plus cheeses and vegetables from the surrounding countryside, where internationally-known wines are also produced. Finally, there are the city's famous sweets: ricciarelli, panforte, and panpepato, made from ancient recipes and flavoured with spices that take us back in time to Renaissance cuisine.

Places to visit:
Piazza del Campo: theatre of the famous Palio surrounded by 16 palaces and dominated by the Palazzo Pubblico it was cited for the first time in a document of 1169; its current configuration is that of the 1300s when both the piazza and the palaces which face onto it were remodelled and put in order. The most important, the Palazzo Pubblico was derived from the adaptation of the customs house in 1284; it was enlarged around 1295 and again in 1327, and later with the annexation of the prison. In 1500 the great Council Chamber was transformed into a theatre. On the left of the Palazzo Pubblico the Torre del Mangia was abutted around 1340, symbol of the municipal authority, which took the name of he who in that time sounded the hours. The first stones placed for its construction were sculpted with Hebrew, Greek and Latin letters so that the Tower “should not be hit by a thunder bolt or a storm” At the foot of the Torre del Mangia is the Cappella di Piazza, constructed by Giovanni de Cecco on the design of Domenico di Agostino, in 1465 Antonio Federighi made some modifications to it. The Palazzo Pubblico hosts the Civic Museum, which boasts precious frescoes and paintings on wood by famous artists from 1300 to 1500. Palazzo Marsili Libelli, 1400s construction has the coat of arms of the Piccolomini on its façade. It is now the Seat of the Superintendency of the Architectural and Ecological assets, Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, in 1200s Gothic style was remodelled in 1800 and is now the Faculty of Science, Economy and Banking; Palazzo di San Galgano, from 1474 ordered by the same name Abbey; Palazzo Piccolomini in via Banchi di Sotto, from 1470 main residence of that extremely powerful family, it was designed by Bernardo Rossellino and reminds one of the form of Palazzo Rucellai in Firenze. Today Palazzo Piccolomini is Seat of the State Archive.
Palazzo Tolomei, of the same name piazza it is the oldest palace destined only as a private residence, it already existed in 1200, and was remodelled during the middle of that century.
Palazzo Salimbeni, from XIII-XIV century restored in 1800 and from 1866 Seat of Monte dei Paschi di Siena (Bank).
National Picture Gallery, in the Gothic Palazzo Buonsignori, formed by an outstanding collection which comprises all the Siena art. Among others, are exhibited the masterpieces of Duccio da Buoninsegna, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Simone Martini and Pinturicchio.
The Cathedral dell’Assunta, in Romanic-Gothic style it was constructed between the XII and XIII centuries. Pope Alessandro III from Siena consecrated the Cathedral on 18 November 1179. The work progressed until 1339 when it was decided to erect, adjacent to the preceding one, a new construction, very lavish, done to compete with the Firenze Cathedral. Successively, for reasons of the plague which had brought the city to its knees, the new project was abandoned, and the work was reopened to complete the Cathedral. The structure of the Cathedral is not perfect in that the initial project had numerous interruptions and diverse people in charge of the construction, however, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful Medieval churches in Italy. Its interior is rich with works of art exercised by more than 40 artists, among whom Pinturicchio, Urbano da Cortona, Antonio Federighi, Domenico Beccafumi realized 35 paintings of Biblical subjects; Baldassarre Peruzzi realized the main altar. The bell tower, of Romanic structure was built up on an ancient tower of the Bisdomini family. There is no exact date for its construction, however it is indicated as being later than 1265 the year of the construction of the dome of the Cathedral.
Museum of Cathedral Works, was constructed in 1870. Hosts many masterpieces of various artists, among which stands out the “Maesta” by Duccio da Buoninsegna.
Santa Caterina in Fontebranda, 1400s church with single nave interior. It is frescoed with the story of the Saint. The church is the oratorio of the Noble district dell’Oca.
Santuario Cateriniano, near the church it hosts paintings which cover the life of the Saint and certain of her personal objects.
Fonte Branda, is the most famous font of the city. Already noted in 1081, it has been remodelled several times over the centuries.
S.Domenico, started in 1226, and finished more than a century later, it is an imposing and severe construction in Gothic-Cistercense style. It is dominated by an elegant crenelated bell tower. The Egyptian cross, single nave interior is rich with paintings about the life of Saint Caterina.
S.Francesco, church constructed in 1326, enlarging an already existing little church, it was completed in the second half of the 1400. During the centuries it has undergone several restorations and rebuilding works. The interior Egyptian cross, single nave preserves precious frescoes and other works of art.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Translated by Ann Mountford
Picture by Sandro Santioli


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