Siena Museums and Sightseeing
ABOVE: Piazza del Campo, site of
the world-famous (and televised) Palio horse races.
Museums and churches
Siena is packed with museums, churches, and monuments. Be sure
to visit the Duomo, or cathedral (no admission charge), and consider a visit to
the Museo Civico with the extra-cost climb up the Torre de Mangia. See our
Photo Gallery for pictures and more information.
Also consider buying one of
the local guidebooks mentioned in my introduction,
and be sure to visit the Siena
APT (tourist office) for brochures. If you plan to visit a number of
museums, you can save money with a 3- or 7-day cumulative or combination ticket.
Although the listings are mostly in Italian, the opening hours and addresses
don't require translation.
The contrade, or neighborhoods, of Siena will open the doors of their private
headquarters and museums to visitors who make arrangements in advance. (I've
visited the museum of the Nobile Contrada di Aquila--the "Noble Contrada of
the Eagle"--and I can recommend it to anyone with an interest in Italian
traditions and historic costumes.)
This isn't a museum, strictly speaking; it's a "wine library" or
"wine archive" of more than 1,000 Tuscan vintages. You can sample and
buy wines, browse through wine publications, and admire the vaulted cellars,
corridors, and armories of Siena's 15th Century Medici fortress. If you can't
read Italian, see
Twice and sometimes three times during the summer, the contrade
or neighborhoods of Siena compete in a horse race around the Piazza del Campo.
The races (which can be dangerous to both the horses and riders) take place in
an atmosphere of medieval pageantry. Unless you like crowds, you may be better
off staying in another Italian city and watching the race on television.
This nonprofit Web site from Siena has an
English article that lists
the 59 contrade and describes the race from historic times through the
Dirt Goes Down: Siena's Palio
Kyle Phillips is the author of this Gotuscany
Palio Horse Race
Kristin Jarratt wrote her first-person account of "how I became a
caterpillar" for In Italy Online.
Seconds to the Victory
This description of the race includes a glossary of Palio terms and a daily