Siena Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Siena
SituationSiena, chief town of its province, lies in the uplands of Tuscany, between the Colline Metallífere and the Chianti hills. Its soil yields a natural pigment formerly much used by painters ("burnt Sienna").HistorySiena was a place of no consequence in Roman times, when it was known as Saena Julia.
After the death of Countess Matilda of Tuscia in 1115 Siena - like Pisa, Lucca, Florence and other cities - gained its independence. The government of the town remained in the hands of the local Ghibelline nobility, and this brought it into conflict with the Guelf city of Florence, its great rival in power and wealth, with which it was constantly at odds. After the fall of the Hohenstaufen Emperors, in 1270, Charles of Anjou won control of the town and made it a member of the Guelf League of Tuscan towns. In 1348 Siena was stricken by an outbreak of plague. A period of domestic troubles culminated in the establishment in 1487 of personal rule by Pandolfo Petrucci (known as il Magnífico, the Magnificent), whose strict but beneficient régime is praised by Machiavelli. In 1555 Siena was taken by the Spaniards, who ceded it in 1559 to Duke Cosimo I of Tuscany.ArtThe great period of Sienese art was in the 13th and 14th centuries. The cathedral and numerous palaces in the town are outstanding monuments of Gothic architecture. The good brick-earth found in the surrounding area led to the extensive use of brick in building. The Sienese painters of the 13th and 14th century (Duccio, Simone Martini, the brothers Ambrogio, and Pietro Lorenzetti), with their delicate and graceful style, surpassed even the artists of Florence. Iácopo della Quercia (1374-1438) was one of the founders of Renaissance sculpture, whose influence was still felt by Michelángelo.
Siena lies on three hill ridges which meet in the center of the old town, and accordingly is divided into three wards or terzi (thirds): to the south the Terzo di Città (with Via di Città as its main street), to the north the Terzo di Camollia (main street Banchi di Sopra) and to the east the Terzo di San Martino (main street Banchi di Sotto). The three main streets meet at what is called the Croce del Travaglio (Cross of Work), by the Loggia della Mercanzia. Since the valleys between the hills have no streets cutting conveniently across them, the route from one part of the town to another almost inevitably goes by way of the Croce del Travaglio. The central area of Siena is closed to private cars.
Siena's Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is considered by some to be Italy's finest churches and is a major tourist attraction. The façade created by Giovanni Pisano is particularly impressive.
Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala
The Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala in Siena stands opposite the façade of the cathedral; it takes its name from the steps (scala) leading up to the cathedral. The Sala del Pellegrinaggio has frescoes depicting the care of the sick in the 15th century.
Opening hours: Mar 15 to Nov 5: 10am-6:30pm; Closed: Sun
Nov 6 to Mar 14: 10:30am-4:30pm; Closed: Sun
Nov 6 to Mar 14: 10:30am-4:30pm; Closed: Sun
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €4.70
Church of the Santíssima Annunziata
Adjoining the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala in Siena is the Church of the Santíssima Annunziata (also known as Santa Maria della Scala), which was radically rebuilt in the 15th century. It contains some works of sculpture of the 15th-17th centuries and a small treasury.
Opposite the north side of the cathedral in Siena is the Palazzo Arcivescovile (Archbishop's Palace), built in 1718-23 in 14th century Gothic style - a surprisingly early example of Neo-Gothic, designed to preserve the architectural unity of the square. The ground floor of the palazzo has the same kind of facing in two colors of marble as the cathedral.
The Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, constructed on a plan adapted to the bend in Via di Città, was originally built in the 12th century and was completed in the 14th. It was enlarged in 1787 and thoroughly restored at the beginning of the 20th century. The facade with its Gothic windows and massive battlemented tower is one of the finest in Siena, with an attractive contrast between the gray stone of the two lower floors and the brick of the top floor.Since 1930 the palazzo has been the home of the Accadémia Musicale Chigiana (Academy of Music), which in addition to its regular activities organizes master classes and, in summer, concerts which are open to the public. In the interior are pictures by Botticelli, Neroccio, Pinturicchio, Sodoma and Spinello Aretino.
The Pinacoteca Nazionale (National Gallery) occupies one of the most elegant palazzi in Siena, the battlemented Late Gothic Palazzo Buonsignori (early 15th century), to the southeast of the cathedral. The gallery, the original basis of which was an 18th century private collection, offers an excellent general impression of Sienese painting from the 12th to the 16th century, with pictures by almost all the painters working in Siena. Notable among them are works by Guido da Siena (13th century; "Raising of Lazarus", "Entry into Jerusalem", "Transfiguration", "St Peter Enthroned"); Duccio di Buoninsegna (c. 1255-1319; "Virgin and Child", "Madonna dei Francescani"); Ambrogio Lorenzetti (14th century; "Virgin and Child", "Entombment", "Madonna Enthroned", "Annunciation"); Pietro Lorenzetti (14th century; "John the Baptist", "Four Apostles", "Allegory of Sin and Salvation"); Giovanni di Paolo (1403-82; "Flight into Egypt", "Crucifixion"); Pinturicchio (c. 1454-1513; "Holy Family"); and Sodoma (Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, 1477-1549; "Flagellation", "Judith and Holofernes", "Descent into Limbo"). Also of interest are the cartoons by Beccafumi (on a scale of 1:1) for the marble inlays in the pavement of the cathedral.
Southeast of the National Gallery, in the Prato Sant'Agostino, is the Church of Sant'Agostino, originally belonging to an Augustinian house, which was built in 1258 and altered at the end of the 15th century and again in 1755. In the Baroque interior (aisleless) are pictures by Perugino ("Crucifixion", 1506); Matteo di Giovanni ("Slaughter of the Innocents", 1482); and Sodoma ("Adoration of the Kings", 1528).
Piazza del Campo
The central feature of the old town of Siena is the Piazza del Campo, a spacious scallop-shaped square dominated by the massive facade of the Palazzo Púbblico (Town Hall). Its unity and harmony make this one of the finest of all city squares. Divided by strips of light-colored stone into nine sections of brick pavement, the square slopes up to the semicircle of houses which bounds it on the northwest. At the upper end of the central section is the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy). The richly decorated rectangular fountain basin, a masterpiece by Iácopo della Quercia (1419), was restored in 1868; the original reliefs are now in the Palazzo Púbblico. The harmonious effect of the Piazza del Campo is largely due to the fact that the handsome houses on the opposite side of the square from the Palazzo Púbblico show very similar stylistic features to the palazzo. Particularly striking is the Palazzo Sansedoni (1216-1339), to the right of the Fonte Gaia.
The Siena Town Hall stands proudly on the edge of Piazza del Campo, and features a significant tower. This Gothic structure was built in the late 13th and early 14th C.
Loggia della Mercanzia
Near the Croce del Travaglio, the square at the meeting-place of the three main streets of the old town of Siena, is the Loggia della Mercanzia (1417-38), seat of the old commercial court. It shows the transition from Late Gothic to Renaissance; the upper floor was added in the 17th century. On the pillars supporting the arches, which have richly decorated capitals, are statues of SS Peter and Paul by Vecchietta (1458-60) and SS Victor and Ansano by Antonio Federighi (1456-63). The benches inside the loggia have figures of great Romans and allegories of the Virtues.
At the northeast corner of the Piazza del Campo, with its main front on the Banchi di Sotto, stands the Palazzo Piccolómini, built by Pietro Paolo Porrina in 1469 to the design of Bernardo Rossellino for Nenni Piccolómini, father of the future Pope Pius III. This handsome Renaissance building now houses the Archivio di Stato (National Archives), with historical documents, Government records, manuscripts, etc. Of particular interest are the tavolette di Biccherna, wooden panels painted by some of the most noted Sienese painters of the day as covers for the ledgers of the municipal treasury.
Logge del Papa
A little way east of the Palazzo Piccolómini can be seen the elegant Logge del Papa, a three-arched loggia by Antonio Federighi (1462) - so called because it was commissioned by Pope Pius II (Eneo Silvio Piccolómini) in honor of his family.
Santa Maria degli Servi
The Banchi di Sotto and the streets which continue in the same direction lead to the Church of Santa Maria degli Servi, at the southeast end of the old town. It was originally built in the 13th century but was altered in the 15th-16th centuries in the style of the period. The plain facade was left unfinished; the Romanesque campanile which flanks it has four orders of windows, increasing in number from level to level so as to enhance the effect of perspective. Within the aisled church, on the right, is the "Madonna del Bordone" (depicting the Virgin and Child with two Angels), by Coppo di Marcovaldo (1261). In the second chapel in the south transept is a famous fresco, the "Slaughter of the Innocents" by Pietro Lorenzetti (c. 1330), and on the altar is Lippo Memmi's "Madonna del Pópolo" (c. 1317).
A short distance south of Santa Maria degli Servi stands the Porta Romana (1327), an imposing gate in the old town walls.
From the Croce del Travaglio the Banchi di Sopra and its continuation run north. On the left-hand side of the Palazzo Tolomei, one of Siena's oldest palazzi, built in 1205 and altered in 1267. The two-story facade has double Gothic windows with elegant tracery.
Opposite the Palazzo Tolomei in Siena is the Church of San Cristóforo, originally Romanesque but completely remodeled in the 18th century. The church has a fine wooden Crucifix of the 14th century and on the high altar a Baroque marble sculpture by B. Mazzuoli of San Bernardo Tolomei (d. 1348).
National Archaeological Museum
To the northwest of the Palazzo Tolomei the Museo Archeológico (Archeological Museum) has material ranging in date from the Stone Age to the Fall of the Roman Empire, mostly from the city and surrounding area, with a particular concentration on the Etruscans. The exhibits include marble and terracotta urns, ash-chests, bronzes and an excellent collection of coins.
A little way east of the Fonte Branda, in Via Santa Caterina, is the Sanctuary of St Catherine. St Catherine of Siena (1347-80), the daughter of a dyer named Benincasa, prevailed on Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome in 1377. The best known of her visions was her "mystic marriage" to the Infant Christ, a favorite theme with painters. The fine Renaissance doorway has the Latin inscription "Sponsae Kristi Catherinae Domus" ("House of Catherine, Bride of Christ").
To the west of the Museo Archeológico in Siena, near the town walls, stands the Church of San Doménico, a severe brick building in Cistercian Gothic style. Originally built in 1226, it was subsequently much altered and enlarged; the battlemented campanile, in a style alien to Cistercian architecture, was erected in 1340. The church has an aisleless nave with an enclosed rectangular choir and a surprisingly high and spacious transept, from which the two chapels flanking the choir are entered. The effect of the interior is mainly due to its lack of decoration, which enhances the impression of space. In the northwest transverse wall of the nave is the entrance to a vaulted chapel with the earliest known likeness of St Catherine of Siena (1347-80), a fresco by Andrea Vanni (c. 1400).The Cappella di Santa Caterina, built on to the right-hand wall of the nave, contains two masterpieces by Sodoma, "The Ecstasy of St Catherine" and "St Catherine Fainting" (both c. 1525), and a marble tabernacle by Giovanni di Stéfano (1446) with the head of the Saint, who died and was buried in the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. On the high altar in the choir are a ciborium and two figures of Angels bearing candelabra (c. 1475) by Benedetto da Maiano. In the first side chapel on the right can be seen frescoes by Matteo di Giovanni, and in the second chapel on the left wall-paintings by Matteo di Giovanni and Benvenuto di Giovanni. From one of the windows in the apse there is a superb panoramic view of the city.
Below the apse of San Doménico is the Fonte Branda, a fountain which is mentioned in the records as early as 1081. The present form of the fountain-house with its three Gothic arches is mainly due to Giovanni di Stéfano.
A little way north of the Palazzo Tolomei along the Banchi di Sopra is the Piazza Salimbeni, with the Palazzo Salimbeni, a fortress-like Gothic building of the 14th century. Its handsome three-story facade has the advantage of being seen from a suitable distance, which is rarely possible in the narrow streets of Siena. The Palazzo Salimbeni is now occupied by one of Italy's oldest banks, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena founded in 1472 and established in the city since 1624.
To the right of the Palazzo Salimbeni is the Palazzo Spannocchi, built by Ambrogio Spannocchi, Treasurer to Pope Pius II; the architect was Giuliano da Maiano. This elegant Renaissance building is fronted by loggias of 1880 by Giuseppe Partini.
To the northeast of Piazza Salimbeni stands the Gothic Church of San Francesco, a Franciscan foundation begun in 1326 but not completed until 1475. Like San Doménico, San Francesco shows the architectural style of the Mendicant Orders, with an aisleless nave and no apse at the east end. The campanile was added in 1765. The interior, with its open timber roof, is painted in alternate bands of black and white, imitating the marble facing of the cathedral. Along the walls hang the banners of the old craft guilds. In the left transept are a magnificent fresco of the Crucifixion (c. 1330) by Pietro Lorenzetti and frescoes of St Louis of Toulouse (1274-97) before Pope Boniface VIII and the Martyrdom of Franciscans at Ceuta by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (c. 1330).
Oratorio di San Bernardino
This oratory, adjoining the Church of San Francesco, was built in the 15th century on the spot where the Franciscan friar San Bernardino of Siena was accustomed to preach. On the upper floor are fine 16th century frescoes by Sodoma, Doménico Beccafumi and Girólamo del Pacchia ("St Louis", "Presentation of the Virgin", "St Antony of Padua", "St Francis of Assisi", "Visitation", "Assumption" and "Coronation of the Virgin" by Sodoma; "Marriage of the Virgin", "Madonna with Angels" and "Death of the Virgin" by Beccafumi; "Birth of the Virgin", "San Bernardino of Siena", "Gabriel" and "Annunciation" by Pacchia).
Chiesa di Fontegiusta
In the northwest corner of the old town, at the Porta Camollia, is the Chiesa di Fontegiusta, a hall-church built in 1482-84 by Francesco di Cristóforo Fedeli and Giácomo di Giovanni. In the brick facade is a fine marble doorway by Urbano da Cortona (1489). The church contains a beautiful marble tabernacle (16th century) and, on the left-hand wall, a fresco by Baldassare Peruzzi, "The Sibyl announcing the Birth of Christ to the Emperor Augustus" (c. 1528).
Forte di Santa Barbara
From San Domenico we can go either northwest along the Viale dei Mille, past the Stadium, or north round the Stadium to a beautiful park, the Passeggio della Lizza, with a monument to Garibaldi (1896). At the west end of the park is the entrance to the Forte di Santa Barbara, a fortress built by Duke Cosimo I in 1560, which is now used for open-air performances.
Participants (members of the ancient city) compete for the banner in bareback and procession horse races held on July 2 and August 16.
Map of Siena Attractions