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About Tuscany: Siena

A Day in Siena

A 15 minutes’ drive from the Castello di Grotti allows visitors to get into Siena. The most convenient parking area (guarded) is the one by the Fortezza Medicea (the 16 th century mighty fortress that the Medicis had architect Baldassarre Lanci build as soon as they gained control over the city).

Today one may enjoy milder experiences under the fortress’ vaulted ceilings where the Enoteca Italiana organizes wine-tasting venues. This is also where the "Settimana dell’olio" prize-giving takes place: olive oil being, along with wine, one of the most precious and celebrated products of the Province of Siena.

Visitors should be aware that every Wednesday morning (up to 2 p.m.) a lively open-air market takes place in the adjoining area: parking may be a bit difficult, but the market stalls – with all their varieties of goods – are well worth a visit.

Once past the Church of San Domenico - where a famous fresco representing St Catherine (1347-1380) never fails to evoke the important role played by this religious figure in the history of the Papacy – visitors are drawn to the inner areas of the city through the via Banchi di Sopra. The Palazzo Salimbeni on the left (now the seat of the ever-so Sienese banking enterprise – the historic Monte dei Paschi ) and the impressive Gothic Palazzo Tolomei further down on the right, seem to prepare the ground for the great visual explosion represented by Piazza del Campo.

This has been Siena civic center since the mid-14 th century: a contemporary of St Catherine, the Franciscan monk St Bernardino used the square as a stage for preaching his famous sermons. Writer Iris Origo has devoted one of her earlier studies to St Bernardino: he was also responsible for the founding of the monastery of the Osservanza just North of Siena.

The Palazzo Pubblico presides over the amazingly-shaped Piazza del Campo. Sitting at one of the cafés that line the square, visitors may enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and mull over medieval Sienese achievements. The construction of the Palazzo Pubblico – that still today hosts the City Council – took about a century. The Torre del Mangia, the slender belfry that allows for unforgettable vistas atop a steep climb of stairs was completed just before the Black Death broke out during the 14th Century. The interior of the palace has frescoes by top-artists of the Sienese school: Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Simone Martini being among the most prominent.

Once exiting the Palazzo Pubblico and taking left, visitors will climb the gentle slopes of Via di Città.

The Contemporary Art Museum is hosted at the Palazzo delle Papesse - Via di Città, 126 - (probably designed by Bernardo Rossellino,in the second half of the 15 th century, at the request of Caterina Piccolomini, sister of Pope Pius 2°).Further up the street is the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, presently the seat of the well-known Music Academy (Accademia Musicale Chigiana) and of the recently restored art collection of Count Galgano Saracini. By reaching via del Capitano and turning right, one will reach the awe-inspiring Piazza del Duomo.

The Duomo representsone of Italy’sgreat Gothic churches (despite some of its still Romanesque elements). The construction was begun during the 12 th century and finished one century later. The stunning polychrome marble façade is to be largely ascribed to Giovanni Pisano who is also responsible for the statues of philosophers and prophets (whose originals are now held at the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana, steps away from the Cathedral itself.)

Sometime around 1339, the city’s administrators planned for an enlargement of the Cathedral: it should have been called "il Duomo Nuovo". But the Black Plague stopped such an ambitious project: its remnants may be seen in the Piazza Iacopo della Quercia, on the Eastern side of the present Duomo. In the summertime open-air concerts are organized within this fantastic space, evocative of human dreams.

The interior of the Cathedral, with its black-and-white walls and pillars, is well worth a visit. The striking inlaid-marble floor (the 56 panels are kept covered during much of the year, but the Tourist Information Office would know the dates for their display); the marble pulpit sculpted by Nicola Pisano; the Libreria Piccolomini (decorated by Pinturicchio and depicting scenes from the life of Enea Silvio Piccolomini, Pope Pius 2° ) are amongst its outstanding features.

The Baptistery of St John is down one flight of stairs from the Cathedral and represent an interesting example of Gothic art. The font is said to have been designed to Iacopo della Quercia.

The Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana – Jacopo della Quercia – Siena - Is hosted within the extant parts of what should have been the "Duomo Nuovo". Such artworks as Duccio da Buoninsegna’s "Majesty" (early 14 th century) and Iacopo della Quercia’s sculptures deserve a visit.

The Ospedale di S.Maria della Scala - Piazza del Duomo - Siena - 0577 224811 - Until recentlywas theonly public hospital in Siena. Originally a hospice for pilgrims on their way to Rome. Located on the South-West side of the Piazza del Duomo it now has been turned into a highly sophisticated arts center. One of its remarkable features is the huge Sala del Pellegrinaio (early 15 th century). The walls are covered with interesting frescoes by Vecchietta and Domenico di Bartolo: they depict everyday life as was typical of such a welfare institution.

Perhaps the day is drawing to its close. Yet here are other artworks and monuments that it would be worth visiting:

Palazzo Chigi Saracini - via di Città 89 - Siena - 0577 246928. – Now home to the Accademia Musicale Chigiana – Collection of Sienese art.

Museo Archeologico "Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli" - Palazzo Pretorio – del Duomo – Siena. The museum bears the name of the famous Sienese archaeologist and hosts objects from the 6 th century B.C. to medieval times.

Museo Archeologico e della Collegiata - Piazza della Libertà – Siena - Archaeological Museum (mainly Etruscan) that holds also important Seines artworks.

Museo Civico - Palazzo Comunale – Duomo 2 - Siena - 0577 292263 – One of the most important public gothic buildings containing masterpiece of the seinese story and art.

Palazzo Piccolomini - Banchi di Sotto 52 – Siena – By Bernardo Rossellino - Museo delle Tavolette di Biccherna – Sienese painters from 1258 to 1682 .

Pinacoteca Nazionale - Palazzo Buonsignori - Via San Pietro, 29 – Siena – Painters from XII cent. to XVII cent. Duccio da Boninsegna, Simone Martini, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Pietro Lorenzetti, Michelino da Besozzo, il Neroccio, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Sano di Pietro, Pinturicchio, Domenico Beccafumi, lo Scarsellino, Federico Zuccari, il Sodoma, Duerer, Andrea Mantegna, Rutilio Manetti,

Accademia dei Fisiocritici - P.zza S. Agostino, 5 - tel. 0577 47002 – Accademy founded in 1691. Geology, zoology and human anatomy

Antiquarium di Poggio Civitate – Museo Etrusco - Piazza della Cattedrale – Murlo, Siena - 0577 814099 - - Etruscan site prosperous from the 7th to the 6th century B.C. Excavations are still under way at Murlo (South-East of Siena).

S. Nicolò al Carmine - Pian dei Mantellini - rimodernata dal Peruzzi ( XVI sec.) conserva le reliquie del Beato Franco da Grotti (v. la cappella a lui dedicata presso i Castello di Grotti).

Le Logge del Papa – Banchi di Sotto – Build by Papa Pio 2° (Enea Silvio Piccolomini)







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