Siena was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900–400 BC). According to a legend, Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. The city is known for its artistic and architectural treasures as well as the Palio, a horse race that occurs twice a year.
Siena is situated over three hills. In the heart of these hills is the huge Piazza del Campo, site of the former Roman forum. The piazza was rebuilt during the late 13th century. The nine sections of the brick pavement of the piazza represent the Council of Nine, politicians who ruled from 1287 to 1355. The piazza symbolizes the cloak of Madonna sheltering Siena and protecting her from evil.
The Siena Cathedral or Duomo, begun in the 12th century, is one of the great examples of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture. Its main facade was completed in 1380. It was originally intended to be the largest cathedral in the world. Inside the cathedral are perfectly preserved Renaissance frescoes and works by Donatello, Ghiberti and other 15th century sculptors.
Siena is also home to The Basilica of San Domenico which is also known as St. Catherine's Cathedral. The church houses many relics of St. Catherine, whose childhood home is nearby.