Itinerary: Siena, Tuscany
Siena, the beautiful Medieval Tuscan town and its treasures
Siena is one of the most charming and popular art cities in Tuscany and in Italy. A few hours strolling along its streets will be enough to realize that. Siena is an art city full of history, surrounded by ancient walls and bordering with the Chianti area. This Medieval town boasts many well-preserved Gothic buildings some of them date back even to the eleventh century. Millions of visitors from all over the world come and visit Siena every year and admire its beautiful squares, impressive historical palaces, churches, and monuments or wander along its picturesque narrow streets and alleys. It also boasts a renowned University. Siena is listed among the UNESCO Heritage Sites.
Among the many attractions, let's name some of the most important ones that you cannot miss. First of all, we advise you to follow a walking city tour in order to breathe its atmosphere at best.
Let's start from Piazza del Campo (pic n°1), the unique shell-shaped square that preserves lots of centuries-old buildings and traditions. Twice a year, in July and August, this square becomes the stage of the world-famous 'Palio of Siena (pic n°4)', a unique event that brings the whole city back to the Middle Ages. "Palio" is a horse racing competition among the different 'contrade' (city quarters). All the local citizens, together with lots of tourists and aficionados, are involved in this engaging spectacular tradition. Participating is difficult as the city is usually overcrowded on those days, but this once-in-a-lifetime experience is always worth a try!
Piazza del Campo (pic n°1) is a unique and beautiful square. It is surrounded by gorgeous Medieval red-brick buildings, among which Palazzo Sansedoni and Palazzo Pubblico (or Comunale) stand out.
Palazzo Pubblico is a must: the inner Cortile del Podestà is a jump back in history, and the Civic Museum hosted on the first floor is a great place where to discover some masterpieces of the Sienese art. The main attraction, though, is Torre del Mangia, whose name comes from its first keeper Giovanni di Duccio (nicknamed Mangiaguadagni). It is 88 meters high, and you can climb it up by paying a small entrance fee, which will allow you to enjoy a spectacular view over the whole city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
Another not-to-be-missed destination is Piazza del Duomo, a square rich in real architectural and cultural beauties. The most imposing building is Duomo (pic n°2), a thirteenth-century Gothic-style building that preserves incomparable works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Pisano, and others (pic n°3). A symbol-filled floor, beautiful frescos, and fine architectural works, together with the distinctive black-and-white façade, are the main elements of this beautiful Cathedral.
Libreria Piccolomini (pic n°2), accessible from the interiors of the Cathedral is a real treasure, featuring an interesting history, ancient manuscripts, and awe-inspiring frescos on the walls and the ceiling. It was built to house the books of Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pope Pius II). Today only some choral tomes are on display.
Other beautiful buildings standing on Piazza del Duomo:
- Museo dell'Opera di Siena, which preserves some unique works of art, including the famous Tondo di Donatello, a round relief depicting the Madonna and Child (pic n°6)
- Battistero di San Giovanni, the grandiose baptistery built in the fourteenth century with wonderful frescos inside
- Complesso Museale di Santa Maria della Scala, a former hospital that was turned into a museum. The museum is on the fourth floor and includes many different rooms and buildings, such as Pellegrinaio, Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata, and the Archeological Museum. It is like a city within a city.
Most of the attraction in Piazza del Duomo can be visited purchasing a combo ticket.
Walking along Banchi di Sopra (the main street of Siena) you can admire Palazzo Salimbeni or visit the Pinacoteca Nazionale (the Art Gallery) with many remarkable fine quality Sienese paintings from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century.
Do not miss the local food: many kinds of Tuscan cheese, cold cuts and the famous 'cinta senese' (the delicious local pork meat). Try also the tasty Christmas sweets, such as Panforte or Pan Pepato. Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG is the most important local red wine of Siena.
Some pictures of Siena:
Piazza del Campo (pic n°1); Duomo of Siena (pic n°2); Interior of Duomo (pic n°3); Palio (pic n°4); Libreria Piccolomini (pic n°5); Round relief by Donatello depicting the Madonna and Child (pic n°6);