World Heritage: Historic Center of Siena
In 1995 UNESCO added the old town of Siena as a World Heritage Site. Siena has been a pedestrian zone since 1956, what luck for all city strollers. Because this is how this Gothic beauty can be explored without traffic noise and smell.
On the highest elevation of the three hills on which the old town is built, the magnificent Gothic building towers above Domes the city with about 55.000 inhabitants. In the University, which has taught arts, culture, and sciences since 1419, has about 20.000 students enrolled. So Siena is a young and happy city.
The best way to start your sightseeing tour is at the cathedral and stand in front of a gothic facade with unbelievable splendor, which in its beauty can rival all the great churches in Italy. As far as we know, it is the only church in Italy for which you have to pay admission (children up to 12 years free), but it's worth it. The floor, made of black and white marble slabs, partly contrasting in a checkerboard pattern and partly in lines, with artistic inlay patterns, is of rare fascination.
If you are interested in the entire ensemble of the cathedral, we recommend the combination ticket, it is valid for three days and includes the cathedral as well as the baptistery, the museum with sacred works of art and the library with historical tomes and choir books.
Images courtesy ofphoteca ENIT
Piazza del Campo
Then go down to Piazza del Campo, just following the signs. At the end of the narrow alley, what is probably the most beautiful piazza in Italy opens up, making it the most beautiful inner-city square in the whole world.
With a slight downward slope, the Piazza del Campo is laid out in the shape of a shell. The pavement is structured like an open fan and the Gothic houses delimit this space like a precious frame around a unique painting. This aesthetic beauty has existed since the 14th century and awaits the amazed visitors.
Take a look around before you head to the nearest café. The prices are high according to the place, Italians and their imitators simply sit down in the middle of the square, form groups full of happiness and cheerfulness, eat the pizza out of hand and have their drinks with them.
The Palazzo Pubblico or the town hall is located on what is probably the most beautiful square in Tuscany. The palace, which can be classified as Gothic, was built at the same time as the cathedral. The building consists of the country-typical volcanic rock. Other sights of the square are the "Magiaturm", the Museo Civico or the "Fonte Gaia", translated as the fountain of the merry, which is made entirely of marble.
The lower part of the square is bounded by the town hall with its 102 m high tower. You can climb the tower, but you mustn't have claustrophobia and you have to be reasonably fit. After all, there are about 400 steps to climb and you will then be rewarded for this strenuous exercise with a breathtaking panorama; the sea of red roofs of the historic old town, which merges into the rolling hills of the surrounding area.
On the raised side of the square is another treasure, the “joy fountain”. The name expresses how great the joy was when it was finally possible in the 14th century to fill this well with a 25 km long water pipe. In its classicistic design, it is supposed to establish a connection to the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus.
The horse race
Worth mentioning is the horse race "The Palio", Not least because at the time of the event 2.7. and 16.8. the entire place is covered with sand for the dangerous and exciting race with 17 horses on the only 7,5 m wide track, which takes barely 2 minutes. The district winner is determined because the individual districts compete against each other.
If you are not really interested in this spectacle, then you better avoid Siena on these days because of the oppressive narrowness around the race. The whole of Siena is on its feet and there are plenty of curious people from the surrounding areas.
Old town of Siena - recommendations from Tuscany tour
During your stroll through the old town you will also pass the world's oldest bank, the “Monte dei Paschi”. In the building there is probably the most magnificent palace in Siena, which is only open to the public during the Palio. But this gothic palazzo with its battlements and typically gothic windows also looks impressive from the outside thanks to the impressive symmetry.
Don't miss a visit to Café Nannini. Here, in the oldest bakery in Siena, you can get the Sienese specialties, the Panforte fruit bread or the Ricciarelli almond biscuits fresh from the oven. At the latest when you drink your cappuccino at the long bar, you will think sadly of your departure from this radiant city and ponder how and when you will come back.
And if you are lucky, pop singer Gianni Nannini, the daughter of the house, is visiting the Nona with her daughter.
Our few tips have to be limited to the outstanding sights, apart from them you will find the fruit and vegetable market (Mon. - Fri. 9:00 am-13:00pm), probably the largest wine shop in Italy on Piazza Liberti and so much more . If you can, spend at least one evening in this urban gem.
Enjoy the evening mood and twilight on the Piazza del Campo, which is then largely free of tourists, and delight in an indescribable play of colors full of peace and harmony.
Probably the greatest pride of the city center is the cathedral, which dates back to the 13th century. The attempt at that time the Church of Florence to surpass in, however, failed due to miscalculations and the outbreak of the plague. Thus the church was never completed. Despite this, from the top of the cathedral you can see a fantastic panorama over the entire city.
The interior of the cathedral is also stately. It is characterized by Moorish horizontal stripes and the stars "shine" on the ceiling sky. The floor is one of the most beautiful of the cathedrals in the world and represents a gigantic picture book.
In the middle of the interior there is a masterpiece by Nicola Pisano and the stately pulpit, which depicts the Bible stories in a plastic way. Each picture of this was carved from a single block of marble.
One of the oldest universities in Italy is the University of the Tuscan City. Like most buildings in the city, it was founded in the 13th century. Nowadays it has a very good reputation all over Italy, especially in the field of law and medicine. The 20 students shape the cityscape and the flair that makes Siena so unique.
Old town of Siena - Image courtesyphoteca ENIT
Last updated: 06.02.2024