Located in the heart of Tuscany, Siena is one of the best preserved and most beautiful towns in Italy. A wealthy and cultivated town with a population of 54,000, it is famous for it's Piazza del Campo and the Siena Palio, a horse race held in the square twice a year. The palio is the famous hand-painted linen cloth that is awarded to the winner.
The austere Torre del Mangia, a monument to the independence of Siena, overlooks the square. The town has many impressive and ancient buildings, amongst them the gothic cathedral and the churches of St. Domenico, St. Francesco, St. Maria del Carmine and St. Maria degli Angeli. There are also numerous buildings dedicated to St. Catherine, the Patron Saint of Italy, who came from Siena.
There has always been a rivalry between Siena and Florence for political, economic and cultural importance. Florence impresses with the sheer scale of its awe-inspiring buildings, whilst Siena retains much of its medieval character from the Italian gothic era.