After visiting Italy on a number of occasions, we finally made a point of visiting one city we’d read and heard a lot about…Siena. Now that we’ve been there, we’re wondering why we didn’t go sooner.
It’s a lively city whose historical center, like many of Italy’s well-preserved communities, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it can trace its existence back to the Etruscans. Over the course of its history, Siena was inhabited by the Romans, later controlled by the Lombards and then the Franks. For a time it was part of the Republic of Siena and in 1555, it fell into the hands of Philip, King of Spain who ceded it to the Medicis and the Duchy of Tuscany before finally becoming part of the unified nation of Italy in 1861. With so much history to be found, there is no shortage of significant sites to see, though just strolling through the city is enough to entertain someone for an entire day. If you’re looking for more, here are the highlights of Siena’s attractions:
Piazza del Campo
People in Piazza del Campo
Piazza del Campo – The main ‘square’ and heart of Siena where the locals and tourists hang out, and where twice each year the city’s contrades (districts) compete in the Paliodi Siena, a very unique horse race. Piazza del Campo is shaped like an ampitheatre and has a 360˚ view of medieval buildings, including the Palazzo Pubblico (City Hall) and the Torre del Mangia.
Palazzo Pubblico – Located next to the Torre del Mangia in Piazza del Campo, the 13th century City Hall served as the government offices of the Republic of Siena. Palazzo Publicco houses the Museo Civico (Civic Museum). Of note within the palace are the 14th century frescoes which decorate the walls.
Regular admission = 8.00€
Reduced rate for reserving in advance = 7.50€
Combo ticket (purchase at the Torre del Mangia ticket office): Museo Civico + Torre del Mangia = 13.00€
Torre del Mangia – At about 285 feet tall (~335 feet if you take into account the lightning rod at the top), this 14th century bell tower is the defining landmark of Siena’s skyline. Located in Piazza del Campo, visitors are welcome to climb the tower for the panoramic view.
Tickets for the tower must be purchased at the Torre del Mangia ticket office.
Regular admission = 8.00€
Combo ticket: Museo Civico + Torre del Mangia = 13.00€
Il Duomo di Siena – The Cathedral of Siena also called the Duomo Vecchio (the Old Cathedral) is another of Italy’s impressive architectural confections. The building dates to the 13th century and is filled with fantastic architectural details, including sculptural works by Bernini, Donatello and Michelangelo. (more on the Duomo in a future post)
Duomo Nuovo – The unfinished expansion of the Old Cathedral that was to become the New Cathedral in the 14th century. The top of the archway offers a panoramic view of Siena.
Battistero di San Giovanni – The 14th century Baptistery of Saint John located behind the Duomo. Contains beautiful frescoed walls and a famous baptismal font.
The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo –The Duomo Museum, located in the Duomo Nuovo holds a collection of sacred relics and religious art.
Basilica di San Domenico – The 13th century church on the hill dedicated to St Catherine of Siena. Housing artwork pertaining to the life of the saint, it’s best known for the shrine and reliquary containing St Catherine’s relics.
Sanctuary of Santa Caterina – The family home of Caterina di Giacomo di Benincasa. Known as Catherine of Siena, she is the patron saint of Italy and Europe.
Santa Maria della Scala – Located directlyacross Piazza del Duomo, this is the former medieval hospital, now a museum displaying religious art.