The Sienese are fiercely proud of their history, and with good reason. Their city played a crucial part in Roman and Italian history, from Etruscan civilization to the time of the de Medicis.

A highly developed Saina tribe of Etruscans first settled the area more than 2500 years ago. They built hill-forts to protect themselves from invasion and developed an irrigation system that turned the valleys of central Italy into an important agricultural region. It is unclear whether the Romans took over or merged with the Etruscans, but what is known is that the Roman city of Saenna Julia was founded on a former Etruscan site. According to legend, the founder was Senius, the son of Remus, one of the twins who supposedly founded Rome. The town emblem of a she-wolf suckling the infants Romulus and Remus allude to this version of the town’s mythical roots.

Under Roman control, Siena faded into relative unimportance because it was not located near any major roads or strategic positions. It was not until the Lombards invaded the region and rerouted an important crossroads that Siena came into prominence again. By the time the Franks took over the city in 774, Siena was well on its way to becoming a center of trade and money-lending. For the next 400 years, the city was ruled by bishops and organized under a feudal system, but the power of the Church and the nobles gradually waned. By the 12th-century, most of the power lay with the city’s Commune, which was open to commoners. By 1179, Siena had a written constitution, with elected consuls serving as head of state.

During the 1200s and 1300s, Siena flourished as the city battled with Florence for cultural dominance. Construction started on the Duomo cathedral and Siena University, now famous for law and medicine, was founded. However, in 1348, the town was struck by the Black Plague and never quite recovered. However, today, Siena has regained some of its former importance and acts as a major center of Italian culture in the heart of Tuscany.