Located in the heart of Tuscany, in the midst of the green hills typical of this region, the city of Siena is one of the most loved destinations by all tourists, both foreign and Italian. The province of Siena includes numerous other well-known areas such as Chianti or the Val di Merse. The city is rich in history and art, but also in traditions like its Palio which is known throughout the world. Let’s find out the absolute must-see itinerary in Siena!
Piazza del Campo
Almost everyone’s visit to Siena starts, or ends, at its heart- Piazza del Campo. It is here that the prestigious and ancient Palio horse race is held twice a year. This massive square is fanned out like a shell with warm, red bricks. Fonte Gaia, an enormous fountain with marble sculptures by Jacopo della Quercia, is also here. Although not the original, it is equally spectacular.
The Palazzo Comunale and the Torre del Mangia also overlook this square.
Palazzo Comunale is home to the Civic Museum, which houses the Maestà by Simone Martini among many other various masterpieces. The Torre del Mangia is 87 meters high. The view from the top is absolutely priceless and will be well worth the strenuous ascent. (ticket for the Civic Museum and the tower is € 13).
The Duomo of Siena
A few steps from Piazza del Campo, we find the Duomo of Siena. It includes the Duomo, the Crypt, and the Piccolomini Library. The Cathedral in full Romanesque-Gothic style is an imposing building characterized by the dazzling white of the marble. Upon entering, you will be amazed by the beauty of the naves in white and green marble, enriched by the masterpieces of Donatello, Nicola Pisano, Michelangelo, and Pinturicchio. Another great work of art in the Cathedral is the floor itself with its magnificent marble and mosaics. In the right nave there is the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.
The Piccolomini Library is a real gem and is a must-see. Dedicated to Pope Pius II, the Library was entirely frescoed by Pinturicchio and his students. Some scenes of the Pope’s life are also represented in the frescoes.
Below the Duomo, we find the Crypt: a gallery of extraordinary frescoes from the Sienese School of the thirteenth century.
Just behind the Duomo, we find the Baptistery dedicated to San Giovanni. It was built later when in the year 1300 it was decided to expand the Cathedral. Access to the Baptistery is from Piazza San Giovanni. Inside, we find magnificent frescoes by Renaissance artists. The Baptistery preserves a marvelous work: the Baptismal Font by the likes of Jacopo della Quercia, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Donatello.
To visit the entire Duomo complex, you can purchase an “Opa Si Pass“.
Santa Maria della Scala
Right in front of the Duomo, you will find Santa Maria della Scala. This complex was one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. Given its position on the Via Francigena, this hospital welcomed pilgrims but also helped the poor and orphans. Today, it houses a museum holding even more priceless works of art.
What to Eat in Siena
The Sienese cuisine has its roots in rural traditions and is simple yet excellent. Olive oil, wine, meats, and cheeses are at the heart of Tuscan cuisine and Siena’s local meats and cheeses will surely delight your palate. Be sure to try the cantuccini cookies as well as the panforte.
This is only a very brief itinerary of the main attractions found in this amazing Tuscan city. As you’re visiting the museums and cathedrals, be sure to take the time to get lost in its marvelous alleys and stop in the less-touristy cafes and bars for a real taste of the city.
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