Nestled in the breathtaking Tuscan countryside, Siena is an amazingly well-preserved medieval city. As a quaint town of about 70,000 residents, Siena feels like a best-kept secret, giving you a great opportunity to create your own intimate Italian experience. In Siena, you will truly experience what life in Italy is really like.
Nestled in the Tuscan countryside 35 miles southwest of Florence, Siena is a relatively small city of about 70,000 inhabitants, 20,000 of whom are students at the Università degli Studi di Siena and the Università per Stranieri di Siena. Although Siena offers a large student population, the city has very few permanent American study abroad programs, compared to Florence. Living in Siena allows students greater immersion into Italian society and culture, while still providing easy access to the Tuscan capital.
Founded nearly 3,000 years ago by the pre-roman Etruscan civilization, which then became a Roman colony, Siena remains an important political, financial, and artistic center in Italy. Its rich cultural and artistic heritage and well-preserved buildings make Siena an ideal location for Late Medieval and Renaissance Studies and Art History.
In addition to its many important museums and monuments, Siena has a rich local culture and many important industries in tourism, viniculture, gastronomy, agribusiness and banking. The city is well-known for its 17 contrade or district organizations that compete each summer in the colorful Palio horse race that takes place in the city’s main square, the Campo. Siena is also the gateway to enchanting Tuscan villages, such as Montepulciano and Montalcino, the renaissance city of Pienza, and the Val d’Orcia.
Siena's large, shell-shaped principal piazza is a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Renowned worldwide for its beauty and architectural integrity, the Piazza del Campo also hosts the famous Palio di Siena horse races twice a year.
Built during the 13th century, Siena's famous black and white marbled medieval cathedral houses valuable Italian sculpture works from Donatello, Bernini, and a young Michelangelo.
In July students experience the world-renowned horse race, the Palio di Siena. This summer festival first began in the early 14th century and is marked by a series of intense bareback horse races between the seventeen contrade, or neighborhoods, of the city. The winning contrade receives the palio (a large silver plate), a silk banner, and months of intense celebrations.