Learn more about the best sights of Siena with pictures and descriptions
Siena is a beautiful city in the province of Tuscany, which has long been competing with Florence for the place of the most cultural, fascinating, scientific or commercial center. This, by the way, has stimulated the development of the city. Siena became for me a small town with an interesting history, thanks to the preserved photos and sights that convey the spirit and atmosphere of the Middle Ages.
Today I will try to introduce you to this incredible place of Tuscany and tell you where you can have a good vacation with children.
Cultural and historical sights
For many centuries the Sienese have tried to cherish the Gothic appearance of the city, the creation of which dates back to the XII-XV centuries, for which they are very grateful. After all, it’s one of the few cities that has preserved its history in its landmarks. Siena was also able to preserve the inviolable fine arts of the time. Among the graduates of the Siena School there are many famous and talented artists. I’ll share what it was that struck me about the sights of Siena.
Palazzo Poglico, the palace that houses the municipality of the city, is simply impossible to pass by. It was built at the beginning of the fourteenth century and liked its long, slightly concave façade, topped with battlements, a bit like a fortress. The elegance of the palace appearance was achieved by the large, open-work laced windows. The hand of the talented craftsman can be seen in the large sun disk with the monogram of Christ on the facade of the building. The palace also attracts visitors with its white marble chapel in honor of the Virgin Mary and the 102-meter corner tower-belfry of La Mancha, unusually ornate and slender, the upper part of which is marble. After climbing the 500 steps, you could admire the most beautiful panorama of the city on the observation deck.
Palazzo Salimbeni is another historic structure, very similar to an old fortress, which is occupied by the office of Italy’s oldest bank “Monte dei Paschi di Siena”. The palace of three floors was built in the XIV century, but already in the XIX century it was rebuilt in neo-Gothic style and decorated with some elements resembling battlements, blind arches and triple vaulted windows, the inspiration for which the architect took from the Palazzo Pubblico he saw. Already in the following century, the building received a new Gothic appearance thanks to the architect Pierluigi Spadolini and on behalf of the bank’s executives. On the middle floor you can notice the wonderful windows, and on them are impressive lancet arches and coats of arms of noble families of the city.
I was struck by the architecture of a luxurious seventeenth-century manor house, Villa Cetinale . At first it was a modest farmhouse, then towards the end of the XVII century the architect Carlo Fontana gave the building a baroque style, and for two and a half centuries, the estate was owned by the Chigi Dzonadari family. Only in the second half of XX century, the villa was bought by Englishman Anthony Lambton and carefully restored. He also puts in order the garden around it, which has six alleys with various monuments and statues.
It is advisable to take the time to see more of these structures:
- Palazzo Sancedoni in front of the Palazzo Municipio, Quigi Saracini near the main square of Campo, Quigi Zondadari and d’Elci degli Alessi in Campo Square, Piccolomini in Banchi di Sotto, Spannocchi in Via Banchi di Sopra and Tantucci in Salimbena Square.
- The City Gate of San Marco in Via Massetana.
- The double entrance gate to the Panther counter in the historic part of the city.
- The Abbey of San Galgano, 30 km from Siena.
The center of Piazza Salimbeni is rich in many historical sites, and the monument to Sallusto Bandini is one of them. It was erected in honor of a prominent religious figure, politician and economist of the eighteenth century, who occupied a place of honor in Italy. Sallusto did a lot for Siena, for example, he founded the city library, donating many collections of books and scientific works. The statue, made of marble and decorated with columns and stucco elements, dates from 1882, its creator was the sculptor Tito Sarrocci .
The façade of a house in Piazza Conte attracted the attention of a homemade icon of the Virgin Mary, called the Madonna of the Crow. It was so named because in 1348 in the same place a dead raven was found, which was the harbinger of the terrible plague. Of Siena’s 80 contras, not many survived the plague. This monument reminds many of the city’s history.
Also look around the city for interesting monuments:
On Campo Square, I was very pleased to be able to visit the Municipal Museum of Siena, located in the building of the ancient Palazzo Pubblico. The museum has real masterpieces of the masters of Siena school of XIV-XVI centuries, such as sculptures, coins, weapons, jewelry, earthenware and pottery.
In the department called the Peace Room one can see the grandiose Maesta and the famous Guidoriccio da Fogliano by Simone Martini.
In the adjoining Room of Nine, where the legendary Council of Nine met in the XIII-XIV centuries, there are frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, which very beautifully decorate the walls.
It was surprising that two whole buildings were set aside for the art gallery, the National Pinacotheca. The main one is represented by the medieval Buonsignori Palace, built in the fifteenth century in the late Gothic style, which is evident in the elements of the facade. The other is the 14th century Palazzo Brigidi, formerly owned by the Pannocchieschi family. Inside you can find a diverse collection of paintings by Giuseppe Ciaccheri, di Paolo, Memmi, Buoninsegni, Sodoma and both Lorenzetti. Among the exhibits in the gallery are many works by famous Dutch, Flemish and Germans, as well as a permanent exhibition of Sienese sculpture from the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries.
Spare no time for a tour as well:
- Santa Maria della Scala Museum Complex on Via Franchigena.
- The Museum of the Opera del Duomo in the arcades of the right aisle of the “New Duomo”.
- Contrada Tower Museum next to the headquarters of the Contrada.
Siena’s Cathedral stands out from the rest of the city. The construction of this Gothic cross-domed temple dates back to the middle of the 13th century. The cathedral’s dome lantern was made by the greatest Baroque master, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The cathedral surprised me with its whiteness, made possible by the marble facade, but in some places this richly decorated facade also has elements of red marble. Inside, I was impressed by the mosaic floor and the statue of John the Baptist by Donatello.
The Basilica of St. Dominic (San Domenico), which dates from the XIII century and was under construction for almost 30 years, was no less majestic, but already in the XIV century the building was expanded and given a Gothic style. In subsequent times the church was subjected to fires and destructions, and in each case it received its own particular style. Thus, in XVII-XVIII centuries, it was transformed into Baroque style. In 1925 Pope Pius XI himself gave it the rank of a small basilica. Today, one of the main shrines that many people want to see when visiting it is the relics of St. Catherine of Siena.
If possible, do not pass by such religious structures:
- The Church of Our Lady of the Rosary on the grounds of the Snail Contrada.
- Basilicas of San Clemente in Santa Maria dei Servi on Via Val di Montone.
- Churches of Santa Maria di Provenzano in Piazza Provenzano Salvini.
- Baptistery of San Giovanni near Siena Cathedral.
- Churches of San Sebastiano on Via Fosso di Sant’Ansano.
- Churches of St. Augustine at the end of Via San Pietro.
- The Church of St. Christopher in Piazza Tolomei.
What a tourist can see in Siena in 1 day
In Siena, many attractions are concentrated in one place, so use this itinerary list so you don’t waste time.
- Piazza del Campo, home to most of the city’s historical sites, among them the Palazzo Pubblico, the City Hall, and the Torre del Mangia, a slender tower.
- The Piazza Publico houses the Civico Municipal Museum.
- In the same square are the Piccolomini Palace and the Chigi Saracini Castle.
- In Piazza Duomo, near Piazza Campo, are Siena Cathedral with its white marble lace facade, the Baptistery of John the Baptist, and the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala.
- From the main entrance to Siena’s cathedral, turn right – St. Dominic’s Basilica with the relics of Catherine of Siena and, very nearby, St. Francis Basilica.
Video about Siena and its attractions
Small, narrow streets and old churches, lots of fountains with sculptures of animals – symbols of neighborhoods. I was especially drawn to Siena’s piazza, where you can just lie down and relax… I think you’ll like it too!
Where to go with the kids
Siena is a very historic place, but we found places where you can spend time with your child.
- A botanical garden with fruit, olives, and grapes from Chianti, tropical species in three greenhouses, and a rock garden and fern forest.
- Many stores with traditional sweets “panforte” (classic) and “panpepato” (chocolate), which will please your sweet tooth.
- The cultural landscape of the Val d’Orcia with its incredibly beautiful nature, the Monte Amiata mountain and the World Heritage Site of Pienza. These beauties will be remembered by your child for a long time.
- Contradictions of Siena – look for all of them. It will be quite fascinating.
Contradas of Siena.
It is true what they say, that you really appreciate all the beauty of a city only after you have been in it. And so it was in my case with Siena, the historical sites of which are truly amazing. What else would you recommend to see in Siena and where should you visit? I look forward to your suggestions in the comments.
Siena’s 21 interesting sights
Siena is located in the Tuscany region of Italy and is considered the largest tourist center of the country. The space is imbued with the spirit of the Middle Ages and Catholicism. Here lived and created artists and sculptors who left behind masterpieces of art. The sights attract connoisseurs of history and religious aesthetics.
What sights to see in Siena by yourself
In a few days you can see with a map all the interesting places. But it is better to use the services of a guide, because there are many old buildings and only an expert will be able to give the best description of their history.
This is a city with such a unique atmosphere that transports tourists from the present to the Middle Ages. If you have time, make sure to visit Milan, Florence and Verona, it is easy and simple to get there by train or bus.
Basilica of Santa Maria
The Cathedral of Santa Maria or Cathedral of Siena is the main church of the Republic of Siena. The cathedral is in the Gothic style and is considered one of the most beautiful buildings made in the Gothic style. Design and construction of the building was carried out from 1215 to 1263. There was a church on the site of the present cathedral, which had fallen into disrepair before construction of the new building began. In the 19th century, serious restoration work was carried out.
Church of St. Augustine
The church of St. Augustine used to be a court church. Here is the tombstone of Maria Theresia’s daughter Maria Christina. The crypt contains 54 embalmed hearts of members of the royal family. A large number of royal weddings and weddings, not to mention funerals, took place in the church. The church has been reconstructed several times, so there is a layering of decoration in the architecture.
St. John’s Baptistery
The baptistery is named after the main patron saint of Florence. The information survives to this day that on its site was a church dedicated to one of the gods of the Olympic Pantheon. Presumably the god of war, Mars. In the 9th century it was converted into a Romanesque basilica. The pulpit of the baptistery is decorated with medieval frescoes dating from the 13th century. Dante Algeri was so impressed with the baptistery that he mentioned it in the Divine Comedy.
Basilica of Santa Maria dei Servi
The church belongs to the Servites, servants of the Order of the Virgin Mary. The basilica houses an organ, which is considered the best in Europe. The basilica is small in size, but popular with locals and tourists. The interior decoration is typical of the early Christian period. The building was built in 1346. The external appearance of the basilica is very modest, as well as its interior decoration.
Sanctuary of St. Catherine
St. Catherine and her family lived in the sanctuary. At age 6, Catherine saw Jesus, who appeared to her with a blessing. The visions continued throughout Catherine’s life. Since then, she accepted the crown of celibacy and dedicated her life to serving God. At the age of 20, the girl joined the Dominican Order, after many scandals with her family. St. Catherine became the first woman after a long time to be allowed to preach.
St. Dominic’s Basilica
At first glance, St. Dominic’s Basilica looks very modest and unremarkable. Tourists who are not particularly interested in religion are unlikely to find it very interesting. But people who are interested in Catholicism will find it interesting to visit. The basilica is revered by local residents. Here is the only portrait of St. Catherine, which was painted during her lifetime by the artist Andrea Vanni.
Fountain of Joy
The fountain is located in the main square of Siena and is considered one of the main attractions. The fountain was built on the site of the terminus of a waterworks that took 8 years to build. The fountain is decorated with sculptures made by Jacopo della Quercia. Then, in the 19th century, they were given to the museum of Palazzo Publlico, and copies were installed near the Fountain of Joy. In all of Siena’s fountains you can drink water.
Oratorio di San Bernardino
The oratory was erected in honor of St. Bernardino Albizecchi, who was the defender of the city. The building was built in the 15th century on the site where Bernardino preached in his time. The oratory is not very large in size, but it houses several masterpieces of art. Among them are statues of Catherine, Madonna and Child and Bernardino, At first glance, the Oratory building is not very remarkable, but it is worth going inside and see the interior decoration.
Aurelio Castelli Museum
The museum has a collection of exhibits of works of art that were owned by religious orders, churches and monasteries. Here one can see terracotta statues, illuminated choral books and paintings. Among the significant pieces on display in the museum are frescoes by Girolamo Benvenati, works by Antonio Federagna, clothes dating back to the 15th century and a unique 13th-century treatise by Alberto Magno.
National Museum of Archaeology
The Archaeological Museum of Siena is divided into two parts. The first part features exhibits from the 19th and 20th centuries that were found in Siena and Chiusi. The second part of the museum is an overview of the excavations carried out in Murlo, Chianti, d’Elsa. Visiting the archaeological museum is an opportunity to study the history of Italian cities. In addition, the museum has an impressive collection of numismatics. The hall displays coins from different centuries, which were found in Italy.
The Pinacoteca is located in an ancient 13th-century palace owned by Buonsigno. The gallery presents the rarest masterpieces of art made in the Gothic style. Religious images decorated with gold predominate among the exhibits. In 1997, the gallery opened the sculpture hall, which presents the works of sculptors of the 14th-16th centuries. It is worth noting that the management of the Pinacoteca has the right to change the exhibits.
Palazzo Capitano del Popolo
The palace is located in Piazza Orvieto. In appearance, the building does not look very much like a palace – it is simply decorated and does not feature a lot of decorative elements. The palace was built in the 13th century, when the city was first proclaimed an independent commune. For a time, the Senate of the Republic of Siena was located here. In its original form, the Capitano del Popolo consisted of one floor where the magistrates often made speeches to the population.
The Palace of the Devil
This palace has a mysterious legend that explains such an unusual name. The legend says that this name was given to the former palace of Guglielmi after the victory over Pope Clement in 1526. The forces were not equal and rumors spread that it was not without the help of demonic forces. And the defense headquarters was just located in this building. Since then, the building has been called the Palace of the Devil. If you look at the architecture, the chapel attracts particular attention.
The building of the Papal Palace is in a style typical of the Florentine Renaissance. The building was designed by Bernardo Rossellino in the 15th century. Construction began in 1460 and ended in 1495. In the last phase of the palace, the project was supervised by Antonio Federighi. The Papal Palace consists of three floors and looks very modest. Since the 20th century it has been home to the Center for Contemporary Art.
Torre del Mangia Tower
The tower is considered a symbol of the city. The tower is built of brick and on each brick you can see inscriptions in Latin, Greek and Hebrew. Tourists who want to admire Siena from above have to climb thousands of stairs on the dark and narrow staircase. The height of the stairs is 102 meters. During bad weather the entrance to the observation deck is closed.
Siena Botanical Garden was founded in 1784 and covers an area of 2 hectares. The area is divided into three parts. In one of them you can see plants that are typical of the Tuscan climate. The second presents aquatic and exotic plants and the last one presents fruit and berry trees and shrubs and cacti. The botanical garden is attached to the university, so it houses the university buildings. Here they grow plants that are later used in pharmaceuticals and cosmetology.
Teatro del Rozzi
The theater opened in 1817 and soon enough it won the title of temple of Italian prose. The capacity of the theater is 499 seats. The history of the theater begins in 1531, when a group of artisans founded the community of Dei Rozzi. Thanks to donations from the community and the construction of the Teatro del Rozzi began. Today already the academy is considered the most prestigious cultural institution of the city.
Siena Municipal Theatre
The theater was founded in the 14th century. In 1753, due to a major fire, most of the building burned down, after which the theater had to be reconstructed. The reconstruction was led by Antonio Galli Bibiena. The style in which the theater is made, refers to the neoclassicism. The theater has 549 seats. The interior of the theater is striking – the colorful decorations, rich decoration and decor will not leave anyone indifferent.
The Fontebrand Aqueduct
The Fontebrand Aqueduct is about 25 km of tunnels that supply Siena with water. Even Charles V, after his stay in Siena, said that the city underground is more beautiful than on the ground. Most sources state that the aqueduct dates back to 1081. Its reputation spread far beyond the city. And all because of its charm and uniqueness. In the 12th century the aqueduct was enlarged, and in the 14th century it was furnished in the Gothic style.
Piazza del Campo
The Piazza del Campo is considered central to the city. It is considered one of the most majestic and unique squares of the Middle Ages. It is home to the Torre del Mangia and the Fountain of Joy. When coming to Siena the first thing you should visit this square. Twice a year there are horse races. The history of the Piazza del Campo goes back to 1169. The square was a crossroads of trade routes and the most important economic center of Siena. Any tourist who decides to visit Siena must visit Piazza del Campo.
The Siena Palio is a traditional horse race held in the city twice a year. The races are held in the main square of Piazza del Campo. The first race is held in honor of Madonna di Provenzano. The second time is in honor of the Ascension of Our Lady. The Siena Palio is one of the significant events held in Siena. The first races were held back in the Middle Ages. The exact date is not known. The race, as it is today, was held in 1656.