Posted by: Debra Kolkka | December 26, 2019

Siena revisited

Siena is a Tuscan hilltop town first settled in the time of the Etruscans, an advanced people whose custom was to build easily defendable hill forts.

According to legend it was founded by Senius and Aschius, 2 sons of Remus. When they fled Rome, they took the statue of the She-wolf to Siena. It became a symbol of the town and you will find variations of the sculpture all over Siena.

Siena is also one of my favourite towns in Italy and in October I went to see the incredible floor of the cathedral. For most of the time some of the inlaid marble mosaics are covered to protect them, but twice a year from June 29 – July 31 and August 18 – October 26 they are uncovered and open to the public.

I found a car park on the edge of town and wandered in. I came upon a very cute house with gorgeous snail decorations. I find these small things delightful.

Each time I go to Siena I stop at this famous deli and buy a porchetta (roast pork) roll. Photos are not allowed in the shop, which is a pity as it is fabulous and full of delicious things to eat.

I then take this porchetta roll and walk to the nearby Piazza Del Campo, find a place to sit, eat my lunch and watch the passing parade.

Piazza del Campo is the famous heart of the town. It is home to the Palazzo Pubblico (town hall) with its magnificent Torre del Mangia, a 14th century tower.

From Campo the 17 contrade (districts) radiate into the town and it is here that the famous Palio race happens twice a year.

Each contrada is represented by an animal or symbol. It is fun to look for the sculptures all over town…caterpillar, eagle, snail, little owl, dragon, giraffe and more. This time I found only the panther.

The Siena cathedral is one of the most spectacular in Italy. I walked up the stairs beside the subterranean baptistery to come to the side of the cathedral.

The Romanesque-Gothic Duomo was begun in the 12th century.

The main facade covered with stunning sculptures was completed in 1380.

The first time I entered the cathedral was early one morning and I was the only person there. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I was stunned by the magnificence. Now you have to pay and line up with hundreds of other people, but it is still an incredible experience.

The mosaics cover the entire floor of the cathedral. The 56 panels were created between the 14th and 16th centuries by around 40 artists. The designs represent the sibyls, scenes from the Old Testament, allegories and virtues.

It is worth a trip to Siena just to see this. Not all of the floor is covered for the rest of the year. Some near the entrance are always able to be seen.

Not to be missed in the cathedral is the Piccolomini Library off to the side. (on the left after the entrance) It was commissioned by the archbishop of Siena, Cardinal Francesco Tadeschini Piccolomini around 1492.

In the centre is a Roman era copy of the Three Graces.

The magnificent frescoes that line the walls were painted by Pinturicchio (real name Bernadine di Betto) and his assistants between 1503 and 1508. There are scenes of allegorical figures, pastoral scenes and classical mythology. The detail in the paintings is stunning.


Look for a self portrait of Pinturicchio, which means little painter, standing beside his friend Raphael (in the red tights)

There are also some exquisite old books in glass cases.

Later I went back to the Campo, found a seat for aperitivo and settled back to watch the sunset.

I paid €5 for my Campari and soda and the accompanying snacks. After my enormous porchetta earlier these tasty morsels proved to be quite enough and I didn’t go to a restaurant for dinner…a pity, there are many great places to eat.

…a last look at the Campo on my way back to the hotel.

I must return soon.

For more on Siena click here, here and here.






  1. Lovely post.

    • Thank you. Siena is a beautiful town. Sitting in the Campo at sunset is a wonderful experience.

  2. On my next trip to Italy, I must get to Siena because I haven’t yet!

    • Siena is great. It is best to go in the off season as it can be a bit crowded.

  3. Siena Cathedral is one of me favourite cathedrals in Italy. I was stunned by the beautiful green and white marble and the wonderful mosaic floors. But, the paintings by Pinturrichio in the Piccolini Library hold a special meaning for me. Pinturrichio was a deaf artist, which was unusual for this Renaissance era. I’d gladly visit Siena and its stunning cathedral again!! Thanks, Deb, for your wonderful photos. More happy memories!

    • The cathedral is spectacular, one of my favourites too.

  4. Wonderful article, Debra. The building that attracted your attention is the “Casa del Cavallo” or Horse House, that belongs to the Contrada of the Snail, one of the famous contrade that participate in the Palio. Those iron forged ornaments that you liked are used to tie up the horses.

    • Thank you for the information. It was a seriously cute little house and I love the snails. I just need a horse to tie up!

  5. Thanks for showing us the mosaics!

    • My pleasure! I have been a couple of times when they are on show.

      • 🙂

  6. Luckily, I’ve been to Siena. The history and culture is so fascinating. I also had the best gnocchi there ever!!!

    • It is a gorgeous town. I need to go back and stay more than 1 night.

  7. It is a very beautiful city. Thanks for the post Deb. The Campo and the Cathedral make it a very special place to visit.

    • Siena is lovely. I want to go often.

  8. It looks gorgeous and that black and white stripe detailing is so striking. It’s amazing how each cathedral has its own individual look.

    • Yes, each church has its own look. I guess they didn’t have Instagram in those times!

  9. I think that it is the small details that you capture and share that make your blog one of my favorites. All my best in the coming year and safe travels. Happy New Year!

    • Thank you! I hope you have a wonderful 2020.

  10. So pretty – thank you for the views of Siena! I haven’t been in years but still have fond memories of, “piazza pizza,” with friends studying abroad there.

    • Siena is beautiful. I will be back in Italy for 4 months from February…plenty of time for another visit.

  11. […] always drive through the gorgeous hills of Chianti and Val d’Orcia, visiting Siena, […]

  12. […] From now until October the mosaic floors are uncovered. I went last year to see this. Click the link to see the post I wrote. Siena revisited […]

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