In Europe, 76 destinations off the beaten path
Looking beyond Rome, Paris or London? Consider Europe's lesser-known destinations, such as Monschau, Germany, a town so quaint you can hardly believe it isn't a theme park or San Marino, one of Europe's oldest and smallest countries (drive through it slowly).
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Siena, Italy( Fabio Muzzi / AFP / Getty Images )
Medieval Siena stretches over three steep hills in the heart of the Chianti region of Tuscany. It's renowned for its Gothic cathedral as well as its Piazza del Campo, whose paving stones were laid in 1347.
Twice a year, the piazza is transformed. A dirt track is laid around the perimeter in the days before the Palio, always July 2 and Aug. 16. The race a tribute to the Madonna, Siena's patron saint is of uncertain origin but dates back as far as the 13th century.
The Palio itself is a silk banner dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Each year, Siena artists compete to design the flag for the July contest, and international artists do the same for the August race.
-- Alan C. Miller
Read more: In Siena, victory is everything
Pictured: Siena's main square.