What to visit in Siena
NATIONAL PICTURE GALLERY
In Via San Pietro you will find the National Picture Gallery, which treasures pieces of Siena’s most famous artists: Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini, the Lorenzetti brothers, Domenico Beccafumi and many others.
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF THE ACADEMY OF THE FISIOCRITICI
All sorts of naturalistic, geological and zoological collections for the most curious minds. Some examples of what you will find are a whale skeleton, an ancient selection of poisonous and not mushrooms, and a two-headed lamb!
SAINT AUGUSTINE’S CHURCH
This church finds its origins in the 13th century but was restructured by Luigi Vanvitelli after a fire ruined it in 1747. Today it seems almost a gallery of art thanks to the many masterpieces you will find inside.
Via Mattioli was once full of convents which have now become part of the University ’s Botanical Garden, where you can find a variety of plants from every continent.
VIA DELLE SPERANDIE AND THE “FONTE DELLE MONACHE”
Via delle Sperandie was once a dead end, ending closed off by the city walls before the German Army demolished them during the last World War. Today you will find a panoramic viewpoint of the countryside and of Saint Eugene’s monastery, founded before the 11th century. Via delle Sperandie, named after the Benedectine nuns, means “Hope in God” and on this road there is the entrance to a hidden park full of surprises where you will also find the “Fonte delle Monache”. This “Fountain of the Nuns” is a hidden spot where the nuns washed their laundry without being seen.
PORTA SAN MARCO
Part of the 5th and last construction of the city walls, started in 1326 and completed and attached to Porta dei Tufi in 1415.
VIA DI CASTELVECCHIO
Walking down Via San Marco, you will arrive in Castelvecchio, the highest point of Siena, thus the point where the city was born.
THE DUOMO AND THE CATHEDRAL’S SQUARE
The top of the 130 steps to the entrance of the Duomo offers a panoramic view of Siena. Once inside, the floor of the Cathedral is a “Bible in images”.
In other words, 56 blocks of marble tell us a story of the Bible. From 1369 until 1547 famous artists like Matteo di Giovanni and Domenico Beccafumi brought this masterpiece to life.
In the Cathedral’s aisles you will admire the works of some of Italy’s most famous sculptors: Nicola Pisano, Donatello, Michelangelo and Bernini.
THE CRYPT AND THE DUOMO’S FORMER FOUNDRIES
The extension of the Cathedral was built over the Crypt, which was found almost accidentally. Its walls contain paintings of the 13th century which still keep their intense colors even after years hidden underground.
SANTA MARIA DELLA SCALA MUSEUM
The Santa Maria della Scala was once one of the oldest hospitals of the world, built on the Via Francigena to assist pilgrims on their way to Rome. Today it has been transformed into the Museum of Contemporary Art of Siena.
In the basements of the Santa Maria della Scala there is the Oratorio di Santa Caterina della Notte, where tradition tells that Saint Catherine went to rest after assisting the nurses in the hospital.
THE “BOTTINI”, SIENA’S ANCIENT UNDERGROUND AQUEDUCT
Many people don’t know that just under their feet as they walk through Siena’s medieval streets, there is an ancient underground path long about 25 km which was once used to bring running water to the houses in the 12th century.
Tours of these “Bottini” are organised by an association called “La Diana”. These tours must be reserved time ahead and depend on the water level in the tunnel.
PALAZZO CHIGI SARACINI
Legend says that during the Battle of Montaperti (famous battle between Siena and Florence won by Siena on September 4th, 1260) a drummer watched the battle form the tower and from there narrated the events to the people waiting below.