Italy is renowned for its breathtaking churches, each filled with invaluable art and intricate architectural features. The Duomo di Siena, located in Piazza del Duomo, is a prime example of this. Considered one of the most illustrious examples of Italian Romanesque-Gothic cathedrals, the Siena Cathedral was consecrated in 1179 and stands on the site where a temple dedicated to the goddess Minerva once stood.

Interior of the Cathedral

Stepping inside the Duomo di Siena is a highlight for any visitor to the city. The interior is bright and captivating, with a dizzying array of dark green (almost black) and white striped marble columns, colorful frescoes, and glittering gilded ceilings. The cathedral’s interior is a feast for the eyes, with countless details to explore and admire.

Notable Features

Several elements within the cathedral are particularly noteworthy:

  1. Nicola Pisano’s sculpted 13th-century marble pulpit: This intricately carved pulpit is a masterpiece of medieval sculpture.
  2. Cappella del Voto (The Chigi Chapel): Located in the right transept of the cathedral, this alcove houses the statues of Saint Jerome and Mary Magdalene by Bernini, as well as the 13th-century painting of Madonna del Voto, adorned with a crown of gold and gemstones.
  3. The Chapel of Saint John the Baptist: Found in the left transept, this chapel features a statue of the saint by Donatello and 16th-century frescoes painted by Pinturicchio.
  4. Piccolomini Library: Painted by Pinturricchio with the help of a young Raphael, the library contains vibrant 16th-century frescoes and an intricately gilded ceiling. The space also displays a collection of ‘illuminated’ codices, or liturgical texts, from the 15th century. The library is located inside the cathedral, adjacent to the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist.
  5. The Piccolomini Altar: Situated to the left of the Piccolomini Library entrance, the altar is decorated with statues of four saints (Peter, Paul, Pius, and Augustine) sculpted by Michelangelo.

The Cathedral Floor

As you walk through the Duomo di Siena, be sure to look down and admire the impressive inlaid marble floor. The detailed panels, which cover practically the entire church floor, were created between the 14th and 18th centuries using two techniques: ‘graffito’ (a process for chiseling, drilling, and filling the marble) and ‘marble intarsia’ (the inlaying of colored marble). These floor panels are truly amazing works of craftsmanship, with even Giorgio Vasari (known for his frescoes in Brunelleschi’s Dome and for designing the Vasari Corridor in Florence) considering them to be ‘the most beautiful…largest and most magnificent…that ever was made.’

The scenes and images depicted in the marble panels include:

  • The Sibyls: Ten panels created between 1482 and 1483, depicting the female prophets of antiquity, including the Erythraean Sibyl.
  • The Wheel of Fortune (1372)
  • Slaughter of the Innocents (ca. 1481)
  • The She-Wolf of Siena: The original dates to 1373 and is housed in Museo dell’Opera.

Ticket Options and Travel Tips

When planning your visit to Il Duomo di Siena, consider the following ticket options:

  1. Regular Admission (4.00€): Includes access to the Cathedral and Piccolomini Library.
  2. Special Admission (7.00€): Includes access to the Cathedral (during the Uncovering Floor Period) and Piccolomini Library.
  3. Combo Ticket (Opa Si Pass) (12.00€): Includes access to the Cathedral, Piccolomini Library, New Cathedral Panorama Viewpoint, Crypt, Baptistery, Museum, and Oratory of San Bernardino.

Keep in mind that a good portion of the marble floor is covered for much of the year. To see it in its entirety, plan your visit during the ‘Uncovering Floor Period.’ Check the official Opera della Metropolitana di Siena website for current opening times and prices, and note that a special admission price applies during this period.

Online ticket purchases can be made via the Opera della Metropolitana di Siena website. However, when purchasing online, you must choose a date and time for your visit. The online service gives you the option of printing your tickets at home, having them mailed to you, or picking them up at the ticket counter when you arrive. Be aware that various fees apply when purchasing your tickets online, including a 1.00€ per ticket ‘online booking fee.’

The Opa Si Pass combo ticket can offer great savings, potentially saving you about 12.00€ per person. During our visit, we found it easy to purchase our combo tickets at the main ticket counter at the Duomo; the ticket line was short and fast-moving, and we weren’t locked into a set time for visiting the sites we wanted to see. The combo ticket is valid for 3 days from the date of purchase.

Exploring More of Siena’s Religious Sites

After marveling at the beauty of Il Duomo di Siena, take the time to explore some of the city’s other remarkable religious sites:

Baptistery of San Giovanni

Located beneath the cathedral, the Baptistery of San Giovanni is a stunning example of Gothic architecture. The baptistery’s interior features intricate frescoes, a magnificent marble font, and a beautiful altar. Don’t miss the stunning bronze reliefs by Donatello and Ghiberti that adorn the baptistery’s walls.


The Crypt, also located beneath the cathedral, is a fascinating space that dates back to the 13th century. The crypt houses the remains of several early Christian martyrs and features well-preserved frescoes depicting scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

Museo dell’Opera del Duomo

The Museo dell’Opera del Duomo is a must-visit for art lovers. This museum houses an impressive collection of works that were once displayed in the cathedral, including sculptures by Donatello and Bernini, as well as the original stained-glass windows from the cathedral’s façade.

Enjoying Siena’s Charm

Beyond its stunning religious sites, Siena offers visitors a wealth of experiences to enjoy. Wander through the city’s winding streets, lined with charming shops and cafes, and soak up the atmosphere of this medieval gem. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample some of the region’s delicious cuisine, such as pici (a thick, hand-rolled pasta) and panforte (a traditional Sienese dessert made with dried fruits and nuts).

For a truly unforgettable experience, time your visit to coincide with the Palio di Siena, a twice-yearly horse race that takes place in the city’s main square, Piazza del Campo. This exhilarating event, steeped in tradition, sees jockeys representing Siena’s 17 contrade (districts) compete for glory in a bareback horse race around the square.

Discovering the Beauty of Siena

Siena is a city that captivates visitors with its stunning architecture, rich history, and vibrant culture. At the heart of this enchanting destination lies Il Duomo di Siena, a masterpiece of Italian Romanesque-Gothic design that showcases the incredible talent and craftsmanship of the artists and artisans who created it.

As you explore the cathedral and its many treasures, take the time to appreciate the intricate details and the stories they tell. From the mesmerizing marble floor to the soaring frescoes and the exquisite sculptures, every element of the Duomo di Siena is a testament to the beauty and power of art.

Beyond the cathedral, Siena offers a wealth of experiences to enjoy, from its charming streets and delicious cuisine to its fascinating museums and lively festivals. Embrace the opportunity to learn about the city’s unique atmosphere and discover the many wonders that await you in this enchanting corner of Tuscany.

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