Siena, Italy, lies in the scenic hill country of Tuscany just 43 mi/70 km south of Florence. This picturesque, well-preserved medieval town has been a bitter competitor with Florence for much of its history, and it is a treasure trove of art, pageantry and architecture. Some might say it's a Gothic time capsule as well as a buzzing Tuscan town. Siena's history is a long and convoluted one, starting with the legend of Romulus and Remus, as the legend credits Remus as the founder of Siena. The city has Etruscan roots—the Romans didn't set up shop until the first century BC.

The city's architectural style is dominated by Gothic tones and can be traced back to the 12th century. It was during this time that Siena started to gain some financial steam and clout, thus attracting rivaling Florence to attempt to conquer this valuable area. Eventually, after some rather bizarre feuds, including catapulting dung and donkeys, the two were forced to reconcile and form an alliance. Historically, Siena was an economic powerhouse and a center for commerce. It is home to the world's oldest surviving bank, Monte Dei Paschi, which was founded in 1472.

Today when you visit, you'll be charmed by its rolling avenues, protected by large towering palaces and buildings in Siena's signature colors. It's walkable, small and cozy. Siena has just as much notable scenery as Florence, if not more. The city offers spectacular views of the countryside just outside the main walls and its Duomo cathedral is a complex of wonders in itself. The main hub of the city is Piazza del Campo, which houses the annual festive Palio horse race. Although most people only stay one night in Siena, two nights wouldn't be too long, especially if you're there during the races. You'll really get a sense of local energy and pride with a visit to Siena during Palio.

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