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Siena grew thanks to the Via Francigena, and the activity of powerful bankers and merchants. It was an independent Republic until 1555, eventually dominating much of southern Tuscany. Constantly struggling against Florence, to which it was later subjected, in the mid-16th century, the city achieved its maximum splendour between the 13th and 14th centuries, an era when its urban layout was consolidated. Indeed, the most significant monuments and works of art in its history date to this period. The Cathedral, Piazza del Campo, and the ancient spedale (hospital) of S. Maria della Scala, together with the works of great masters of painting such as Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers, are amongst the best examples, although not the only ones, of the intellectual and artistic richness expressed by this illustrious city. Meanwhile, the Palio, the horse-race that is run twice a year in Piazza del Campo, is of very ancient origin. The historic city centre, amongst the best-preserved in Tuscany, has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1995.

What to see in the local area