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Siena Museums and Sightseeing

From: Siena, Italy

Siena Italy - Piazza del Campo - site of Palio horse races

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 Siena 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.

Museums in Siena
Although the listings are mostly in Italian, the opening hours and addresses don't require translation.

Siena's Contrada Museums
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.)

Enoteca Italiana
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 this description.

Il Palio

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.

Il Palio
This nonprofit Web site from Siena has an English article that lists the 59 contrade and describes the race from historic times through the present day.

The Dirt Goes Down: Siena's Palio
Kyle Phillips is the author of this Gotuscany article.

Siena's Palio Horse Race
Kristin Jarratt wrote her first-person account of "how I became a caterpillar" for In Italy Online.

75 Seconds to the Victory
This description of the race includes a glossary of Palio terms and a daily schedule.

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