Siena takes great pride in its division into neighbourhoods, or contrade, ancient self-governing wards that formed a patchwork of tribal identity within the fabric of the city and that still flourish today, helping to foster tight bonds of community and contributing to Siena’s surprisingly low crime rate. Each of the seventeen contrade has its own church, social club and museum. Each, too, has a heraldic animal motif, from caterpillar to unicorn, displayed in a fountain-sculpture in its neighbourhood piazza. Allegiance to one’s contrada – conferred by birth – remains a strong element of civic life, and identification with the contrade is integral to the competition of the Palio. You’ll often see groups of comparse practising flag-waving and drum-playing around town.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Italy features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

An expert’s guide: where to stay in Venice

An expert’s guide: where to stay in Venice

Venice has been depicted and described so often that on arriving in the city you might have the slightly anticlimactic feeling that everything looks exactly as …

14 Oct 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 highlights that make Genoa Italy’s most delicious city

7 highlights that make Genoa Italy’s most delicious city

Genoa is way off most travellers’ itineraries, but it’s time this northern Italian beauty – and its outstanding local cuisine – gets the recognition it …

10 Aug 2016 • Natasha Foges insert_drive_file Article
A day-by-day itinerary for the perfect weekend in Florence

A day-by-day itinerary for the perfect weekend in Florence

If one city could be said to encapsulate the essence of Italy it might well be Florence (Firenze in Italian), the first capital of the united country. The moder…

05 Jul 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month