Siena is undoubtedly one of the jewels of Tuscany and one of the most famous cities in Italy, of which at least once in life we have pronounced its name. But besides the famous Palio, are you sure you really know it? Here are 7 things to know about Siena.
1. Piazza del Campo in Siena
Piazza del Campo in Siena is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world. It has a characteristic shell shape with 9 wedges, a detail that can only be admired from the top of the Torre del Mangia. Since 1300 it has been the center of Siena's life and has served as a market and also as a gathering place of the people of Siena during important political moments, parties and merry-go-rounds. As it happens twice a year during the famous Palio.
Today Piazza del Campo is the tourist place par excellence of Siena, an obligatory point where restaurants and souvenir shops dominate, without however obscuring the beauty of the square. The slight slope makes it even more impressive the shape of the Palazzo Pubblico with the Torre del Mangia, while the whole square is surrounded by the beautiful and imposing facades of the noble palaces. It is expected that the tourist perform a ritual in which you sit or lie on the ground to admire the piece of sky that opens above the square. That however is also a way to rest after all the ups and downs that the streets of Siena force to walk through. At the top of the square is the Fonte Gaia, the most beautiful of the Sienese water sources. What is admired today in Piazza del Campo is a copy of the source that Jacopo della Quercia carved between 1409 and 1419.
2. The Palazzo Pubblico of Siena
The Palazzo Pubblico of Siena is the place par excellence of the political power of Siena. In fact, from the Government of the Nine (which in 1300 made Siena as beautiful as we see it) until today, all the rulers of Siena have resided here. If only nine "politicians" have managed to imagine and make this wonder come true, we should expect something better from the hundreds of administrators who crowd our municipalities these days.
The Palazzo Pubblico of Siena is considered one of the most beautiful civil buildings in Italy, it has always been admired for its majesty and harmony. A beauty that was perceived already during the construction and that pushed the city government to issue an edict that forced the owners of the houses of Piazza del Campo to build the buildings in the stylistic consistency with the Palazzo Pubblico but not as much more beautiful or larger. In the Palazzo there is the Civic Museum of Siena, with the famous frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti representing the Allegory of Good and Bad Government.
3. The Torre del Mangia in Siena
If you suffer from vertigo, perhaps it is not appropriate to venture up to the 88 meters of the Torre del Mangia, but we warn you that you will miss an exceptional view. From up there, in fact, the show is truly breathtaking. You can see all of Siena: from Piazza del Campo, to the Duomo a little further away, to the distant hills.
The tower is named after Giovanni di Duccio, the first keeper who enjoyed his life spending all his earnings eating in the inns of Siena. The Sienese had rebaptized Mangiaguadagni (earnig-eater), from which Torre del Mangia. Legend has it that during the construction at the foot of the tower have been buried lucky coins and that at each corner of the tower there are stones with Latin and Hebrew inscriptions, with the task of keeping thunders and storms away from the Tower.
4. The Civic Museum of Siena
The Museo Civico di Siena contains one of the most famous allegories in the world: that of the Bad and Good Government, painted on the walls by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. In 1337 the Government of the Nine commissioned Ambrogio Lorenzetti to decorate the room where visitors were welcomed with a fresco representing the ideals that guided the government of Siena. For the first time in the history of art, a pictorial cycle is painted in which the prevailing theme is not religious but civil.
The result is the Allegory of Good and Bad Government, an extraordinary account of how the way to govern (Separation of powers, citizen participation and military force) is the element that decides the welfare or decadence of a society. The other great protagonist of the Museum is The Majesty of Simone Martini, which the Nine made to paint to witness the great devotion that the Sienese have towards the Virgin.
5. The Duomo of Siena
Usually you arrive at the Duomo after visiting Piazza del Campo. Still with the majesty of the Piazza and the Palazzo Pubblico in the eye, one is not expected to be amazed yet. What’s the greatest and most beautiful that Siena can offer? The answer is simple: the Duomo with its facade dominated by white and black. But regardless how much beauty you may find in it, this is not the best part of this church dedicated to Maria Assunta. The most important jewels are inside: the floor, full of esoteric symbols and religious stories: there are all the traditional Sibyls, but also the Massacre of the Innocents, King David and Hermes Trismegistus, the life of Moses and the sacrifice of Jephthah. In the left aisle, before the transept, the Piccolomini Library opens, frescoed by Pinturicchio and that despite the name has never hosted the books of Pope Pius II. Immediately after the Library there is the Piccolomini Chapel, where Michelangelo worked from 1501 to 1504 sculpting the 4 statues of the lower niches. Do not miss the Pulpit, created by Nicola Pisano, with biblical scenes and of the Life of Jesus.
6. The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (Siena)
From the right side of the Duomo you can access the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (or Metro) which collects the works coming from the Duomo and the Diocese of Siena. It is impossible to list the complete series of the exposed masterpieces, but some of them will convince you to visit this museum: the Tondo di Donatello which a Madonna with Child are depicted, the Madonna with the Child enthroned and Cardinal Casini, the work of Jacopo della Quercia the Majesty of Duccio da Buoninsegna, the ten statues of the saints of Giovanni Pisano which were once exhibited in the Cathedral, the Nativity of the Virgin by Pietro Lorenzetti, the Dead Jesus of Sodoma (extraordinary) and much more.
7. The Baptistery of Siena
Just behind the Duomo of Siena, from 1325 the Baptistery contends against the cathedral the role of the most important religious place in the city. For many centuries under the ogival vault of the Baptistery all the Sienese have been baptized, illustrious and not. On the three naves the sight is fully enchanted by the frescoes of Benvenuto di Giovanni (The Miracles of St. Anthony of Padua - 1460), Pietro degli Orioli (The Lavender of the Feet) and Lorenzo di Pietro called the "Vecchietta" (frescoes of the vaults with Articles of the Creed 1447/1450). But the protagonist of the Baptistery is the Baptismal Font in bronze and marble, placed right in the center of the Baptistery. They put their hands and left their mark Jacopo della Quercia, Giovanni di Turino, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello, who also made the bronze angels that decorate the ciborium.