Thursday, December 28, 2023

Palazzo Pubblico and other Siena sights

Palazzo Pubblico - Siena


Siena, like most of Tuscany, is a wonderful place to walk. Its streets curve around each other, allowing new views to develop only as you stroll along. Siena is also full of churches that are beautiful gems, hidden away. So, on my last day in Siena, I walked through town, centering a visit to the Municipal Museum in a day of mindless wandering.

My first stop was at St. Christopher’s Church on Piazza Tolomei. The church was originally built during the 13th century, and underwent major renovations due to damage during the 1798 earthquake. I had noticed St. Christopher’s on my first night in Siena, while waiting for a nearby restaurant to open. Inside, there are some beautiful pieces by Sienese artists.

St. Christopher's Church

Glory of St. Christopher by Giovanni Antonio Mazzuoli

Madonna and Child with St. Luke and Romuald by Girolamo del Pacchia

My one planned stop of the day was at the Municipal Museum, inside the Palazzo Pubblico. Built during the 13th and 14th centuries, the Palazzo has served has the seat of Siena’s government ever since. Siena’s history is one of great interest to me. It was one of the earliest republics in Europe, at a time when it was surrounded by small kingdoms backed by the Catholic Church. As a result, its government was focused on providing a “good life” for its population, and the artwork in the Palazzo represented those ideals. It infilled with murals of important historical events, along with allegories of “good” vs “bad” governance. 

La Maestra by Simone Martini

Judgement of King Solomon by Luca Giordano

St. Sebastian

The Venetian Fleet defeats the Germans at Punta San Salvatore in Istria by Spinello Aretino

The Pain by Emilio Galoori

Luisa Mussini Sleeping by Giovanni Dupre

Unfortunately, the main hall of the Palazzo was closed for renovations, and I could not visit my two favorite pieces, but here they are.

Allegory of Bad Government By Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Web Gallery of Art, via wikimedia

Allegory of Bad Government By Ambrogio Lorenzetti - Web Gallery of Art via wikimedia

The Palazzo also has a wonderful terrace on the side facing away from the Piazza Campo, an interesting choice, with a great view of the surrounding valley.

Piazza Mercato

For lunch, I visited the Salumeria il Cencio. One thing I was reminded of on this trip was that salumerias, which are restaurants that specialize in sandwiches and salads offer good and inexpensive meals. They are great places to for a quick, light meal while you are out on the town.

After lunch, I walked east on Bianchi di Sotto. I was looking for the Bicherinne Museum, which displays the painted covers from old administrative registers. It is housed in the office of the State Archives of Siena. Unfortunately, it was closed. So I continued along Bianchi di Sotto, and I arrived at the Logge del Papa, the Pope’s lodge, built during the 15th century by Siena’s own Pope Pius II. 

Church of San Martino

Next to the Logge is Church of San Martino. This church was originally built during the 12th century, and it was enlarged and given a new façade in 1613. It has a beautiful interior, with its altar lit by skylight. It also has wonderful artwork and statuary, and it is worth a visit.

The Glory of St. Ivo with St. Agata and St. Sebastian by Altare Tentucci

Mary protecting Siena during the Battle of Porta Camollis by Giovanni di Lornezo

Circumcision of Christ by Guido Reni

Leaving the church, I was headed to the ancient market place, that sits behind the Palazzo Pubblico, when I encountered the Synagogue and Jewish Museum of Siena. The temple opened in 1786, to serve the Jewish population that has existed in Siena for centuries. Its façade is very plain due to regulations of that time that prohibited Jews from building identifiable houses of worship. Inside, the hall is decorated in a baroque style. It is still and active congregation, with 50 member families.


Tzedakah Boxes for charitable donations

Elijah's Chair



I had a great time walking around Siena. The chance to explore an old city over three days was a wonderful extravagance, and one I look forward to doing again. 


Thursday, December 21, 2023

A Rainy Day in Siena


A rainy day in Siena meant I had to look for some indoor activities. After a morning visit to the city’s beautiful Duomo, I chose a couple of museums for the afternoon.

My ticket to the Duomo included entrance to the Museo Opera della Metropolitana. This museum houses art and architectural features that had been part of the Duomo over the past 800 years, but are no longer on display in the church. Many of these pieces were originally intended for the planned transept extension, in whose foot print the museum now sits. Construction on the extension was started in 1323, but it ended in 1348 during the Black Death, and never restarted. Paintings from the nave and chapels and statues that used to adorn the facade, fill the building. The highlight of the collection is a large stained glass rose window.

Stained Glass Window by Duccio di Buoninsegna

Christ advances to Pilate by Luca Giordano

Saint Cosme in the Fiery Furnace by Raffaello Vanni

San Bernardino preaching in the Piazza del Campo by Sano di Pietro

A short walk (250m) along via del Capitano and via san Pietro brought me to another local treasure, the Pinacoteca Nazionale. -The National Art Gallery of Siena. This museum is dedicated to the works of Sienese artists from the 13th century through the 18th century. It started as a private collection, but today it run by the Italian Ministry of Culture. When you visit, start on the 2nd floor, which houses the oldest works pieces, As you work you way thorough the galleries and down stairs, you will travel chronologically along Siena’s artistic history.

Interior courtyard

Coronation of the Madonna by Bartolo di Fredi

Painted Cross with Grievers by Taddeo di Bartolo

A wall of Madonnas with child

Annuciation by Francesco di Giorgio Martini

Aeneas escapes from Troy by Girolamo Genga

Cherubs holding a Coat of Arms by il Beccafumi

Morra Players by Pittore Caravaggesco

Portrait of Niccolo Buonsignori by Unknown (19th cent.)

On special exhibit was the painted crucifix by Ambrosia Lorenzetti. The cross was created in 1330 for the Convent of San Nicola Carmine in Siena.Over the centuries it had suffered much damage, but it has been completely restored, and it display celebrates its return to the collection.

Painted Cross by Ambrogio Lorenzetti

A rainy day in Siena meant that, on walk back to my hotel, the streets were less crowded than usual. The empty and rain soaked streets offered a beauty that visitors to Siena often don’t get to see.