After our first leisurely morning of the trip in Montecatini, we only had half the day to spend visiting Siena. After an hour and a half drive we arrived in Siena and found a parking garage just out side the city. The entire city is on a hill with the main tourist attractions at the top. Luckily the city graciously installed a series of escalators to get weary travelers like ourselves to the top of the city!
There is one main ticket office just outside of the Duomo selling various options of ticket passes for the main attractions Siena has to offer. With our pass in hand we headed first to the Museum dell Opera. The first thing you will notice is the large stained glass window in the hall. It originally hung in the cathedral made between 1287 and 1290. On the first floor you’ll find the altarpiece known as Maestra of Duccilli di Buoninsegna, considered a masterpiece of early 14th century Italian art. Other parts of the museum include a Tresury with over two hundred sacred objects, statues of the apostles and blueprints of the patterns on the Cathedral’s pristine marble floors.
On one of the upper floors of the Museum there is a chance to go out onto the rooftop for a panoramic view of the city. After a short line we climbed up to a small space on the roof for breathtaking views of the city. You don’t have unlimited time to take it all in so be sure to get any pictures you want before being ushered back down to make room for the next group.
Our next stop was at the Baptistry of San Giovanni, an ornate building built in the 1310s with art all along the walls and bronze plaques all around the baptismal font. Just around the corner we visited the Crypt which lies underneath the Duomo. Although it is called a Crypt, it was never used for burials. It is known for its 13th century frescoes that line the walls showing the Passion of the Christ.
Our next stop was the Duomo, while the entirety of the Duomo is beautiful, what makes it unique from the others we’ve seen is its marble mosaic floor. It was crafted by about 40 artists and the project took six centuries to complete! The floors are only uncovered around 2 months a year from June 29 to July 31 and from August 18 to October 26 because although it is beautiful it is also fragile. To prevent wear and tear of tourists shoes, the rest of the year it is covered with sheets.
One add on with our ticket was the Porta de Cielo or the Gate of Heaven. On this tour we climbed into the rafters and were able to see the Cathedral floors from above through some open stained glass windows. We went outside around the dome at the top of the Duomo for views of the city before crossing a bridge over through the sanctuary. This tour gave us views of the church interior and the surrounding landscapes that made it well worth the extra cost!
To round out our time in Siena we stopped for a late lunch of pizza and calzones. With a view of the Baptistry, we ate outside on the plaza. After some last minute souvenir shopping, we headed back down the escalators towards our car to begin our journey to San Gimignano.