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Siena is one of the most well preserved Medieval cities in Italy. Located south of Florence, it is famous for its brick buildings, cuisine, art, museums and Palio, a horse race held twice a year. The historic city centre has been declared a world heritage site by Unesco and has plenty of wonderful spots to see, but these are undoubtedly the five most beautiful buildings of Siena.
The Duomo of Siena
The cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Mary is one of the most beautiful buildings in Siena and Italy. This Gothic-style church, built in the 13th century, is one of the most important historic monuments of Siena and, although its façade is simply stunning and deserves some time to be admired, the best part is located inside the basilica. There are too many artistic highlights in the cathedral to list here, including numerous frescos, paintings and sculptures by excellent artists from both Gothic and Renaissance periods, such as Donatello, Ghiberti, Pinturicchio, but the most famous masterpiece of Duomo is the inlaid floor realized with colored marble mosaics covering the whole floor of the church. A short distance outside the Duomo, it is possible to visit the Baptistery, another beautiful Gothic-style landmark of Siena. Included in the complex is an interesting art museum which hosts artworks and architectural fragments that used to be parts of the basilica.
The Civic Museum
Museo Civico is the most famous museum of Siena located inside the Public Palace and home to an amazing collection of Medieval and Renaissance art, paintings, frescoes and artefacts. We recommend you visit the museum, because it’s one of the highlights of the city. No matter if you are in town just for one day, you have to find the time to include it in your list of things to see in Siena! The most important hall of Museo Civico is Sala dei Nove, Hall of the Nine, that conserves the main attraction of the museum, the fresco cycle of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. This huge painting covers three walls of the room and represents an allegory of the figure of Justice: It in essence shows how the city could be if it was governed by the right governance (the good one) or how it could be if it was the opposite (the bad one). Another spectacular fresco is the Maestà del Palazzo Pubblico in Sala del Mappamondo by Simone Martini. If you are an art lover you’ll adore these fine paintings.
Torre Del Mangia
Palazzo Pubblico is also home to another unmissable landmark of Siena – Torre del Mangia. Dominating the amazing Piazza del Campo, considered as one of the best medieval squares in Europe, the red tower is one of the tallest medieval towers in Italy and located to the left of the building. Piazza del Campo is also the square where two times a year the famous Palio horse race takes place. Once inside the palace you can ascend the 500 steps for dramatic views across the square and surroundings of Siena. The entrance is in the courtyard of the palace; don’t forget to look up to admire the top of the patio that is one of the most beautiful of Tuscany.
The Basilica of San Domenico
This marvelous church was originally built during the 13th century, enlarged in the 14th century and destroyed and rebuilt several times in the following years. Today, it is one of the most beautiful buildings in Siena thanks to its majestic structure and location on the top of a hill. It contains art works made by Tuscan artists, but the reason why it is famous is because the church hosts several relics of Saint Catherine of Siena, one of the two patron saints in Italy together with Francis of Assisi (and co-patroness of Europe), whose family house is nearby. That’s why the church is also called ‘basilica cateriniana’.
Sanctuary and House of Saint Catherine
The native home of Santa Caterina da Siena was transformed into a sanctuary in 1464 and is still today one of the most important sights of Siena. The beautiful entrance is made today by the Portico dei Comuni realized two years after Caterina was proclaimed as patroness of Italy, in 1939. The religious complex consists of various environments, Church of the Crucifix , two oratories, a small cloister, Church of Saint Catherine in Fontebranda (with paintings inside) and her house, which also has paintings representing events from her life.