Jun 23, 2022
Are you visiting Florence but also want to know more of what Tuscany has to offer? Siena is just perfect for a day trip! It is not far from Florence and there are a lot of spots that will capture your interest and get to know the history, culture and food better. The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is surrounded by beautiful monuments and buildings to visit. This is what you shouldn’t miss when in Siena!
Siena’s Cathdral is one of the finest Gothic-Romanesque churches in Italy and it’s beauty is not only from the outside - the inside is breathtaking too!
Outside you will see three portals with the central one dominated by a bronze sun and the facade is in black and white marble, which are also the colors of the city.. The floor grabs the most of attention made of esoteric and religious symbols.The floor is mostly covered for reservation purposes but you will find it uncovered during the days of the famous Palio. The church also houses paintings and sculptures made by Donatello, Pinturicchio and Nicola Pisano.
The Duomo Crypt is located beneath the Duomo. While it doesn’t look the most appealing on an architectural point of view, the frescoes are simply fantastic. The frescones we there since 1270 and depict scenes from the New Testament, including the Nativity, Annunciation, Kiss of Judas and Crucifixion. The crypt was almost completely forgotten and the expansion work of the cathedral made it invisible. It wasn’t until 1999 when during excavations the crypt was rediscovered and re-opened to the public in 2003.
The baptistery is not a part of the Duomo Complex, as we are used to find in other Tuscan cities like Pisa and Florence. The marble facade on the outside is simply stunning but unfinished - the marble facade is built in Gothic style, while on the inside you will find the baptismal font in bronze, marble and gold created by the main sculptors of the time: Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Jacopo della Quercia.
The shell-shaped famous city center - Piazza del Campo, as the locals call it is an important spot for all of the civic and political life of Siena, as well as the location for celebrations. Here you can see Fonte Gaia, a fountain decorated in marble by Jacopo della Quercia. The fountain is formed by wolves which represent the mother of Romulus and Remus, to celebrate the link to ancient Rome. The original sculpted panels are not on the square - they were removed for preservation purposes but you can now see them at Santa Maria della Scala, located in Piazza del Duomo. Piazza del Campo is also where the famous Palio di Siena takes place, twice a year. Ten horses representing the main districts, race around the square for the famous Palio event that involves the whole city in days of celebration.
The city center, Piazza Del Campo is surrounded by beautiful palaces and the Palazzo Pubblico is the most important of these - also known as the City Hall of Siena. This is where Siena’s political power stands and where all laws of Siena have been decided. Nowadays this is still the city hall. Here you will find the Civic Museum of Siena which houses famous paintings and frescoes, including the “The Maestà” by Simone Martini and “Allegory of Good and Bad Government” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
The Torre del Mangia is located next to the Palazzo Pubblico and it was built at the same height as the Cathedral, to symbolize that the church and state have equal importance in the city. The tower has two levels: a long red-brick structure and a stunning marble loggia. The top was added in 1352 as a vow for the Virgin Mary after the Black Death. It takes 400 steps to climb to the top of Torre del Mangia from where you can see one of the most beautiful views of the entire city, and in the horiziont, the beautiful Chianti hills.
In Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena or the National Art Gallery of Siena is where you will find a rich collection of masterpieces from the famous Sienese school of artists. It is located next to the Duomo, in a very quiet and picturesque street and it is made of two main areas: the first floor is where you will see late-medieval artworks where you can get a glimpse of what will happen later, in the Renaissance. The other room houses masterpieces by Simone Martini, Duccio di Buoninsegna, the Lorenzetti brothers and other talented representatives of the Sienese school. These rooms are the reason why Siena and Florence were at the center of the renewal of Italian art tendencies. If you are an art lover, you can also see how Siennese and Florentine art were very different: Sienese art was less realistic, while Florence was crowned to be the founder of the Renaissance for being focused on proportions and spatial representations.
If you are visiting a few days before the Palio, you will see that Siena has a vibrant civic life - people singing and eating in the streets as a celebration of the upcoming Palio race. The streets are full of small artisan shops where you can shop for souvenirs, leather and clothes. And let’s not forget about the food! You can’t leave Siena without trying Ricciarelli and Panforte if you are a fan of sweets while the Tuscan pici is perfect if you want to try a different flavor of Italian pasta and pair it with a glass of Chianti Classico!