Guided tours

Siena Tour: birthplace of the Gothic style

Guida Turistica Siena - Siena Tour

UNESCO site since 1995, Siena is a town where tradition and innovation, sacred and profane, history and legend, meet.

The town, Etruscan establishment and Roman colony, still maintains the features of its ‘’Golden Age’’, the Middle Age, in which it lived its heyday before the Black Death in 1348.

The old town offers monuments and museums that witness a glorious past and the presence of important and internationally known artists. As the first hardwired town in Italy, Siena still preserves

medieval roofs, not even defaced by satellite antennas or dishes.

Classical Siena

A strategic point to start with a tour is the Basilica Cateriniana of San Domenico, dedicated to the cult of Saint Catherine and dating back to the 13th century. The inside is made up of one big aisle, transformed over centuries, following fires and earthquakes. ti. In the counterfacade you can find the Cappella delle Volte, where Saint Catherine used to retire in prayer and where a fresco, considered her only real portrait painted by Andrea Vanni when the Saint was still alive, is stored.

On the right-hand side, in a Renaissance chapel, painted back in the 16th century by Sodoma and Francesco Vanni, is stored an ancient relic of the Saint’s head.

Exiting the cathedral, you’ll reach an outstanding panoramic view on the most ancient part of the town, and next you’ll enter Via della Sapienza, ‘’Wisdom Street’’, so called because it hosted the University up until the 19th century.

With a short deviation you’ll be able to visit St. Catherine’s Sanctuary, which incorporates her native home, modified over time and enriched with artworks

You’ll then reach the Corso, a prosecution of the Francigena Road, also called Banchi di Sopra, ‘’Upper Benches’’, due to the presence, in the Middle Age, of benches in front of the markets’ laboratories.

The historic headquarter of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena looks out on the Corso. The Monte dei Paschi is one of the most ancient banks in the world, its headquarter is made up of 3 buildings, originally belonging to important Sienese families: the medieval Rocca dei Salimbeni, the fifteenth-century Palazzo Spannocchi and the sixteenth-century Palazzo Tantucci.

Going on, you’ll reach Tolomei Square, on which the Tolomei Palace looks out, the most ancient Gothic construction of the town, built by a rich bankers family, where the famous Pia was born, a Sienese noblewoman, also mentioned by Dante Alighieri in his Divine Comedy.

You’ll then arrive in the very beating heart of the town, the Piazza del Campo, Campo Square, setting of the Palio, the traditional horse race between the Contrade, ‘’districts’’, that takes place in this square twice a year (on the 2nd July and the 16th August), where only ten of the 17 districts in which the town center is divided in, get to ride.

In order to deepen the knowledge of this event, still felt and lived with authentic passion by the Sienese people, you’re able to visit one of the districts’ museum, in order to admire the painted drapes and ancient costumes.

Many are the important monuments and palaces that enhance this special square: among all, the Mangia Tower and the town hall stand out, the latter was built in the Gothic style around the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century, and then enlarged over time. Other than the municipal offices, the Palace hosts a museum with important artworks, such as the frescos of the Buon Governo, by the popular Sienese painter Ambrogio Lorenzetti, and the Maestà, by another important artist, Simone Martini.

On the opposite side, in the 12th century, a fountain was built, and named Gaia, which, in Italian, is a synonymous of ‘happy’, and the reason for this was the actual happiness of the Sienese people to finally have water in the main square, since they had always had difficulties with the water supply, only recently fixed with a modern aqueduct. In 1419, the water source was enriched with a marble fountain, carved by Jacopo della Quercia, and then replaced in the 17th century by a copy of the popular Tito Sarrocchi.

Possibility of tasting traditional Sienese sweets in a typical oven, such as panforte and ricciarelli.

Continuing towards the highest hill, along Via di Città, stands the headquarter of the Chigiana Musical Academy, founded in 1932 in a thirteen-century palace, by one of the most popular maecenas of the town, the Earl Chigi Saracini, who started this important institution for the refinement of musical studies.

You’ll then reach the hill upon which the Cathedral was built, in front of the ancient Santa Maria della Scala Hospital, built before the year 1000 in order to host pilgrims, travelers and abandoned chidren.

Currently, the building hosts temporary exhibitions, the archeological museum and areas with important artworks.

Siena Tour for the little ones

In the presence of kids, in your Siena tour can be incorporated with activities for them.

You’ll walk down the valley just behind San Domenico Cathedral, where the most important medieval water spring in Siena Fontebranda, which was crucial for the water supply and has been until recent times, in an area where leatherworkers and dyers worked, like St. Catherine’s father. Currently, the spring has just a decorative function and represents an attraction for children who can admire the variety of fishes that live in this stretch of water.

Just in front of the spring, you’ll find a travertine sculpture, which represent the Pista dei Barberi, a typical Sienese game for children, who use wooden marbles, painted with the districts’ different colors, which represent the Palio horses.

I will personally provide the necessary to experiment this activity both for children and adults.

Once we reach the Campo Square, I will show you where you can build flags and drums for children, who will then be able to reproduce the alfieri (‘’flag-wavers’’) and tamburini Raggiungendo (‘’drum-rollers’’) who parade during the Historical walk that precedes the Palio horse race.

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    Siena Tour

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