From the Duomo to Piazza del Campo and beyond. Italo takes you to discover Siena, one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany.
Discover Siena, one of Tuscany’s most fascinating cities; a place rich in art, history and strong traditions linked mainly to its rival “contradas” and the famous Palio. Take a trip back in time to the beautiful cityscape characterized by the world-famous reddish hue of the buildings, the Terra di Siena. Relish the charm and atmosphere of a city that has remained intact as it was in the Middle Ages and which preserves strong bonds between its citizens and a deep sense of belonging to the contrade, the city’s historic neighborhood districts.
From the beautiful Piazza del Campo with the Palazzo Pubblico to the Torre del Mangia to the black and white grandeur of the Duomo, walk through the city’s narrow streets and immerse yourself in nature on the paths of the surrounding hills. Experience the olive groves and vineyards, and enjoy Siena’s culinary delights and excellent wine.
Things to see in Siena
Here are the ten most important things to do and see in Siena
- Piazza del Campo
- Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia
- Duomo di Siena
- The Piccolomini Library
- Siena’s Baptistery
- Museo dell’Opera del Duomo di Siena
- Basilica di San Domenico
- Palio di Siena
- Rocca Salimbeni
- What to eat in Siena
Begin your tour of Siena starting from the city’s tourist, historical, and cultural center: Piazza del Campo, one of the most beautiful squares in the world. Laid out in the shape of a seashell, the square has nine segments and a slight that heightens the imposing effect of the surrounding buildings, including the Palazzo Comunale, the Torre del Mangia, the Palazzo Chigi-Condari, and the Loggia Della Mercanzia.
In addition to the imposing facades of the noble palazzi, in the square, you can admire a splendid fountain, Fonte Gaia, a copy of the original sculpted by Jacopo Della Quercia in the early 15th century. You can also enjoy a meal in one of the numerous local restaurants and shop for a memento of your trip in one of the souvenir stores. Be sure to perform a tourist ritual in the center of the square: sit on the ground and admire the sky above you.
In Piazza del Campo, you can admire the majestic Palazzo Pubblico, one of Italy’s most beautiful civil buildings. The building houses the Mayor’s office and a number of municipal offices. It was built between 1288 and 1342 by the “Government of the Nine”, which required all citizens to conform to the architectural style of the palazzo. Inside, you can visit the Civic Museum with frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti representing the Allegory of Good and Bad Government and La Maestà and Guidoriccio da Fogliano by Simone Martini. You will be impressed by this splendid 14th-century palazzo that preserves masterpieces of the period, evidence of the golden age of medieval Siena.
For a truly unique view, climb the four hundred steps and reach the top of the Torre del Mangia and admire the splendid panorama of Siena at a height of 88 meters. It is a truly breathtaking sight; you can see the entire city from above, from Piazza del Campo to the Duomo and afar to Siena’s hills.
The Palazzo Pubblico is open for tours from November to 15 March from 10 am to 6 pm and from 16 March to October from 10 am to 7 pm. The cost of the full ticket is €9, reduced admission for eligible categories is €8.
Siena’s Civic Museum is open from November through 15 March from 10 am to 6 pm and 16 March through October, from 10 am to 7 pm. The cost of the ticket is €10 without reservation, €11 with reservation.
The Torre del Mangia is open from 16 November to 28 February from 10 am to 4 pm and from 1 March to 15 November from 10 am to 4 pm. The cost of the full ticket is €10.
Continue your city tour and after Piazza del Campo and its sumptuous palazzi, you arrive at Siena’s Duomo – the Cathedral of the Assumption, a masterpiece of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture. Admire the stunning exterior facade characterized by black and white marble bands alternating with red marble elements.
Inside, continue your tour admiring the dome, the splendid vaults, the arches of the nave, the Baroque chapel of the Madonna del Voto by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the pulpit by Nicola Pisano, and the inlaid floor, a marble narrative depicting 56 Old Testament scenes, allegories, and virtues.
Inside the cathedral, in the left aisle, admire the Piccolomini Library, decorated with frescoes by Pinturicchio, and the Piccolomini Chapel, where Michelangelo worked from 1501 to 1504 to sculpt the 4 statues in the lower niches. Do not miss the Pulpit, crafted by Nicola Pisano, with its biblical scenes and the life of Jesus.
Once you have finished visiting the Cathedral, enter the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo and admire Duccio di Buoninsegna’s stained glass windows and Maestà, Donatello’s famous Tondo with the Madonna and Child, Giovanni Pisano’s ten sculptures of saints, and Jacopo Della Quercia’s Enthroned Madonna and Child and portrait of Cardinal Casini.
From Piazza del Duomo, behind the Cathedral, you arrive at the Baptistery of Saint John, which has rivaled the cathedral as the city’s most important religious site since 1325. It is noteworthy that all Siena’s citizens, illustrious and otherwise, have been baptized here for many centuries. Inside, on the three aisles, you can admire Benvenuto di Giovanni’s frescoes, The Miracles of Saint Anthony of Padua from 1460, frescoes by Pietro degli Orioli, The Washing of the Feet, and The Articles of the Creed created between 1447 and 1450 by Lorenzo di Pietro known as “Il Vecchietta”.
In the center of the Baptistery is the most important work to be seen, the Baptismal Font in bronze and marble by Jacopo della Quercia, Giovanni di Turino, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello, who also created the bronze angels that decorate the ciborium.
For all info on opening hours and charges for visiting Siena Cathedral, the Piccolomini Library, Siena’s Baptistery, and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo di Siena, please check at operaduomo.siena.it.
Outside the 14th-century walls, visit the Basilica Cateriniana of San Domenico, one of Siena’s most important Gothic churches, linked to the figure of Saint Catherine of Siena. Here you can admire the Majesty of Guido da Siena and the cycle of frescoes of Sodoma, disciple of the great Leonardo da Vinci. In Saint Catherine’s Chapel, you also find the reliquary with the Saint’s head. This church, indeed, is rich in works of art of inestimable value. After you finish your visit, outside the Basilica you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Duomo and the Torre del Mangia.
If your trip to Siena coincides with one of the two palios, 2 July and 16 August, witnessing the event will leave you speechless because it is a centuries-old celebration in which all the townspeople spontaneously participate. From the crowds pouring into the Piazza del Campo to the spectacular character of the event, from the parades to the flag-wavers to the horse race, it’s an experience unlike any other in the world.
Siena’s Palio is a competition between the Contrade , the city’s neighborhood districts, in the form of a medieval equestrian tournament. The race, traditionally called the carriera, takes place twice a year: on 2 July, the Palio is in honor of the Madonna di Provenzano, the Visitation Festivity in the ancient calendar, and on 16 August it is held to celebrate the Assumption.
Last but no less important, a must-see site in Siena is the Palazzo or Rocca Salimbeni, the headquarters of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank.
The building is open free of charge on the morning of 2 July 2 on the day of the Palio di Provenzano and on 15 August, the day before the Palio dell’Assunta. Monday through Friday, from 9.30 am to 2.30 pm, you can visit the Cortile della Dogana and the ground floor of Rocca Salimbeni, which houses the bank’s Historical Archives and many works of art.
Siena offers a rich and vibrant food and wine scene that you absolutely cannot miss! Sample the pici, the famous handmade pasta, and the gnudi, giant gnocchi made from ricotta cheese, spinach, parmesan cheese, and other spices. If you’re a meat lover, try the tagliata; it is prepared with high-quality beef, black pepper, coarse salt and extra virgin olive oil. The hills surrounding Siena produce superb olive oil, and great wines such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Montepulciano, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano are local to this area. Panforte and ricciarelli, Siena’s typical desserts, are not to be missed.
To Siena with Italo
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