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A weekend in Siena
What to see and do in the city of the Palio and more, just an hour from The Mall Firenze

Still perfectly enclosed within its mighty walls, Siena is a journey to the most authentic medieval Tuscany.

This square has always been the focal point for life in the city. A true spectacle in every way, twice a year (2 July and 16 August) it hosts the famous historic horse race, the Palio di Siena. The square has a distinctive shell shape divided into nine sections, which slope downwards to converge at the magnificent Palazzo Comunale with its tall Torre del Mangia.

A masterpiece that seems even more impressive compared to the small size of the square it stands in. The greatest artists of their age worked on the building, from Nicola and Giovanni Pisano to Donatello, Michelangelo to Gian Lorenzo Bernini. But the most incredible thing of all is the floor (photo by Bruno Bruchi): “The most beautiful, grand and magnificent ever made”, according to Vasari. However, it’s so exquisite that it’s covered with wood panels for most of the year to protect it from wear and tear, and is uncovered just twice a year (in 2024, 27 June to 31 July and 18 August to 16 October).

It’s astonishing to know that this monumental complex continued in its original purpose as a hospital (one of Europe’s oldest) until as recently as 1995. Today it’s a stunning museum with magnificent ceilings, 15th-century frescoes, evocative underground rooms and art collections that range from antiquity to the present day. It also hosts fascinating temporary exhibitions.

It’s impossible to miss, with its vast bulk towering over the neighbouring buildings. The Saint Catherine Chapel contains frescoes by the great Renaissance artist Giovanni Antonio Bazzi, aka Il Sodoma.

Documented since 1081 and mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy, its broad arches cover a large water basin (there were originally three), where small and large fish swim peacefully.

(ph. Matthew Rumph, Antonio Ristallo, Mario La Pergola, Matteo Kutufa, Harry Robinson, Pedro Lastra)

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