Siena vs Florence

Old Nov 16th, 2009, 11:53 AM
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Siena vs Florence

Interesting show on the History Channel this weekend about the ancient rivalry between former powerful city-states Florence and neighboring Siena - equals in most ways in medieval days before Florence usurped its rival, becoming THE city of the Renaissance, etc. whilst Siena slumbered along as kind of a backwater.

The reason Siena lost out? Water - a bane of both medieval towns and modern megaloposes it seems.

Florence, becasue it was fed by the river Arno i would suppose, had little problem with water and getting water around the flat city.

Siena however was and is the quintessential Tuscan hilltown - a large town plopped on top of a huge hill - to me it was even surprising that in the 1400s or so Siena managed to create a water system by tapping pockets on water in the rocks under it - but for reasons i do not remember now that water supply dried up and viola Florence went on to win the war between the two - Florence became much more stronger and important because, the History Channel story said, mainly because of the water snafu in Siena.

Well regardless of the action cause for Florence eclypsing Siena the salient point to me at least for modern-day travelers is do not overlook also seeing Seina when planning your Florentine sojourn because it seems today's Siena, due to stagnation after being eclipsed by its rival, is kind of like what Florence must have looked like in medieval days - an older, to me dreamer smaller town. Florence is great, don't get me wrong but it is a real workaday town - to wit the mopeds screaming all about - i saw a sign recently in Florence saying that Florence had more mopeds per inhabitant than any town in Italy- mama Mia!

I have found Siena much more quiet and its back streets harking much more back to medieval days than Florence does. Though Siena lost out in history to Florence in terms of art, etc. that makes today's Florentine museums some of the most famous in the world, it makes up for this in medieval character to me.

And being a classic iconic hilltown means that you also get the sweeping views over verdant hilly Tuscany from many points in its upper old town - in Florence to get such views you must trek up to Fiesole and then not nearly the sweeping vistas as in Siena.

And the main square in front of the Duomo in Siena to me far exceeds, in exquisite beauty, any such square in Florence.

I have often read things here disdaining Siena - too big a hilltown, etc. but i take the point of view that in their own ways each Siena and Florence are remarkable and try to do the short day trip from Florence to Siena by bus - less than an hour and just a few euros - with about 2-4 departures an hour.

4 days only in Florence i would suggest could be 3 days in Florence and one day in dreamy Siena.

Opinions of Siena?
Palenque is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2009, 12:48 PM
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Oh, I loved Siena. I'm not an art buff and I found Florence to be way too crowded. I spent three nights in Florence and only a day in Siena - and really regretted not spending a night there. Just a lovely town to wander around and get lost. Great town square!
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Old Nov 16th, 2009, 01:00 PM
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Florence - for cruise ship types
Siena - for tour bus types
Pienza - for tourists
San Quirico D'Orcia - for those that know!
*********** - I'm sorry you will never know (too discrete for that)
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Old Nov 16th, 2009, 01:05 PM
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We day tripped to Siena from Florence. In retrospect, we should have spent the night. The tight alleys/roads and walkways would have been even more amazing (and confusing!) at night.

The other thing that simply stunned me was the Duomo. I haven't been to every church in Europe, but we've been to quite a few. This one had so much to see inside!
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