A stunning example of Sienese Gothic architecture, Palazzo Salimbeni is now the headquarters of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank. The palace was built in the 14th century as a fortified residence for the powerful Salimbeni family, incorporating an older 12th century structure, but it was heavily renovated several times in later centuries. The Salimbeni family conspired against the Sienese government, which led to the confiscation of the property and hence the loss of their palace in 1419. Subsequently, the palace served as government offices until 1479, when Monte die Paschi di Siena was formed and took over the palace. In the 19th century, the edifice was restyled in the Mediaeval Sienese style and given the elegant Gothic windows that are typical of Siena. Flanking the palace on either side are two other ancient palaces (Palazzo Tantucci to the left and Palazzo Spannocchi to the right), the three of which form the small Piazza Salimbeni, off via Banchi di Sopra. At the centre of the piazza is a statue of Sallustio Bandini, an 18th century economist and political figure, by the sculptor Tito Sarrocchi.
Hidden in a little piazza behind the magnificent Palazzo Salimbeni is this small former church, known as San Donato. It was originally a Carmelite church, built in the 14th century as part of the Abbey of San Michele, but it has since been deconsecrated. It was purchased by the bank Monte dei Paschi di Siena (which is now headquartered in Palazzo Salimbeni) and turned into an exhibition hall containing some of the bank's impressive 14th and 15th century art collection. The church has a beautiful façade, divided into two sections. The lower section is clad in stone, with an arched doorway with alternating black and white stones, a clear borrowing of ablaq designs from Syria (in fact, this doorway is reminiscent of Aleppo's architecture). The upper half of the façade is built using red bricks and is more Italian-Gothic or Romanesque in style. A large rose window marks the centre above the doorway.
Adjacent to the Cathedral on the left hand side of its façade is the Archiepiscopal Palace (Palazzo Arcivescovile). It was built around the 14th century in a Sienese Gothic style, but the façade was completely redone in the 18th century. The lower façade is clad in black and white marble in stripes that match the façade of the cathedral. The upper level is in red brick with windows in the typical Sienese Gothic fashion.
Basilica di San Francesco traces its origins back to 1228 when a smaller chapel was built by the Franciscans on this site, then outside the walls of Siena. The chapel was completely rebuilt between 1326 and 1475, and by the time of its completion it had become intra muros through the expansion of the walls on the order of Pius II (Pio Piccolomini). The interior consists of a cross-plan with a single nave and it is distinguished by its walls with alternating black and white marble stripes, the Tuscan trademark that is reminiscent of Syrian architecture. Unfortunately, a fire in the 17th century destroyed most of the original artwork within the church, but it still has some impressive works of art. The façade of the church was completed in the 19th, in a red brick Neo-Gothic style. Attached to San Francesco is the Franciscan convent and cloister, now used as university buildings.
Facing the Cathedral on Piazza del Duomo is a series of mediaeval buildings that, until recently, housed the Hospital of Santa Maria di Scala. It is thought to have been founded in the 9th or 10th century by the Cathedral to shelter pilgrims traveling along Via Francigena south to Rome, or north from Rome to Santiago de Compostela. Over the centuries, the buildings were expanded, modified and rebuilt to the form we see today, a patchwork of irregular construction. Sienese Gothic windows decorate most of the façade and the glass reflects the stunning Cathedral across the piazza. The building continued to function as a hospital as late as 1995, but it was subsequently restored and turned into il Museo Archeologico, displaying important archaeological finds in Siena.
Commissioned by Pope Pio II, this loggia was completed in 1462 by the architect/sculptor Antonio Federighi. The Pope, whose real name is Enea Silvio Piccolomini, was from a prominent family in Siena who owned the nearby imposing Palazzo Piccolimini. The loggia was a gift to Siena from the Pope, one meant to commemorate his family whose name is etched on the façade. The loggia is made of white marble, with Renaissance-style arches resting on what seem like recycled Roman columns with Corinthian capitals.
Considered one of the most elegant palaces on via di Città, Palazzo Chigi-Saracini was built in the 12th century and expanded over time. Like many other palaces in Siena, the lower level is built of stone, while the upper levels are of red brick. The Saracini family only bought it in 1770, but it had been owned by several other families prior to that, including the Piccolomini. Since 1932, the palace has housed l'Accademia Musicale Chigiana, which was founded by Count Guido Chigi-Saracini.
Although known as San Domenico, this redbrick Gothic basilica is also dedicated to Santa Caterina. She was a local saint who lived nearby in the 14th century and used to pray at San Domenico. Her relics are within the basilica in a chapel dedicated to her, but for her head, which was sent to Rome after her death! This basilica is also one of the largest and most important churches in Siena. It was built in 1226, expanded in the 14th century, and restored in 1531 after a fire. The campanile was constructed during the 14th century expansion and was originally much taller. The interior consists of a single nave, rather simply decorated, but with rich art work in the numerous chapels. Some of the 16th century frescoes are still preserved on the walls, though most have disappeared. San Domenico also has some beautiful modern stained glass windows worth admiring.
Built in 1492, this red brick church is dedicated to San Sebastiano. Its interior is said to be covered with frescoes by various Tuscan artists from a 16th century renovation. Unfortunately, when I visited Siena in May 2009, the church was closed due to restoration work and I was unable to see the interior.
Located on Piazza Tolomei, opposite the homonymous palazzo, this small church with a red brick Neoclassical façade is dedicated to San Cristoforo. Although it dates from the 12th century, successive renovations have completely altered the church, especially that after an earthquake in 1798.
Located close Piazza del Campo, la Chiesa di San Martino is recognisable by its white marble Renaissance-style façade. The church originated in the 12th century, but it was renovated in the 16th century and given a new façade in 1613. Its campanile was not finished until 1738. Its interior contains a few important works of art, once among them was "Madonna di San Martino" by Jacopo della Quercia, but it is now at the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Siena.
Santa Maria dei Servi is a 13th century basilica with an unfinished red brick façade. It was built by the Servite Order who arrived in Siena in 1250. Unfortunately, I was unable to visit the church due to time constraints, but I managed to take the attached photo from a distance. On my next visit to Siena, I hope to get closer!
Built in 1267, Palazzo Tolomei is Siena's oldest surviving residential palace. With a double row of elegant Gothic windows on its grey stone façade, this palace is also Siena's most beautiful - at least in my opinion. It was built by the powerful Tolomei family, who were Guelphs supporting the Pope, on the site of their older palazzo, which had just been destroyed in the fighting with the Ghibellines, the supporters of the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1971, Palazzo Tolomei was restored, and nowadays it houses a branch of the bank Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze. Just outside the edifice is a column carrying a statue of the Sienese wolf, the symbol of Siena.
Palazzo del Capitano is Gothic styled building originaly from the twelve century, renewed and almost completely rebuilt in 1425 by order of Capitano Pietro Salimbeni Benassai. It was the seat for the governors of the town and the Republic of Siena, Priors and Capitano del Popolo. Actually, there were two captains Capitano della Guerra (captain of the war) was a chief military commander in case of war.
Since 1252 Palazzo del Capitano the supreme political authority of the town. The coats of arm on the front facade indicating who were the rulers in the town, mostly Piccolomini and Bandinelli.
Currently, this palace houses facolty of economics the the university of Siena.
Il Facciatone del Duomo Nuovo is a facade of the Cathedral that was never completed in Siena. In the 14th century there was a plan to enlarge the current cathedral in order to make it the largest in Europe. More then anything else the Sienese people wanted to make the cathedral which is bigger than the one in Florence, which was their mortal enemy.
However, when the Black Death hit the Republic of Siena in 1348, many people died and the new cathedral was never completed.
Currently the only finished naves of the new cathedral houses Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana with the exceptional collections of arts.
We stayed at the hotel around Chrismas. The usual rates of about 190 Euro where reduced to 80 Euro....more
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When looking for a hotel in Siena, I read a couple reviews of the Hotel Santa Caterina saying that...more