Siena is the other Florence. What do I mean? I mean that you’ll find people generally fall into two groups: fans of Florence and fans of Siena. Both are incredibly beautiful, both are full of incredible art, both are in Tuscany, and the two cities have a long history of rivalry that goes on to this day – a least in the hearts and minds of their visitors.
Perhaps Florence is better known because of the Medici family and their patronage of some of the world’s most innovative Renaissance artists, but Siena dominated in the period before, the Gothic, and the paintings you’ll find adorning the walls of Siena’s public buildings and galleries are magnificent.
The city’s center is the Piazza del Campo and has been since the 14th century. Here you’ll find the famous Fonte Gaia (the fountain of joy) and the Palazzo Pubblico (town hall), which houses the Museo Civico where you’ll find many great paintings including Lorenzetti’s Allegories of Good and Bad Government, innovative in its depiction of secular subject matter in an era dominated by religious painting.
Siena’s cathedral (Duomo) is one of Italy’s great Gothic churches and was planned to be twice the size until the plague wiped out over half the city’s population. The Santa Maria della Scala opposite is also famous for its secular frescoes, and head to the Pinacoteca Nazionale for the best in Sienese paintings (known as Senese). And of course, Siena is proud to have raised Santa Caterina, Italy’s patron saint, whose head, thumb and whip are now in the Chiesa di San Domenico.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Florence, but now that I’ve discovered Siena my heart is torn. Florence will always be my first love, but Siena, you’re my new crush.