Siena was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900–400 BC) Siena is famous for its cuisine, art, museums, medieval cityscape and the Palio, a controversial horse race held twice a year. The Roman origin accounts for the town’s emblem – a she-wolf suckling the infants Romulus and Remus. According to a legend, Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome is named.
The Siena Cathedral or Duomo, begun in the 12th century, is one of the great examples of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture. Its main facade was completed in 1380. It is unusual for a cathedral in that its axis runs north-south. This is because it was originally intended to be the largest cathedral in the world, with a north-south transept and an east-west nave, as is usual. After the completion of the transept and the building of the east wall (which still exists and may be climbed by the public via an internal staircase) the money ran out and the rest of the cathedral was abandoned.
Inside is the famous Gothic octagonal pulpit by Nicola Pisano (1266–1268) supported on lions, and the labyrinth inlaid in the flooring, traversed by penitents on their knees. Within the Sacristy are some perfectly preserved renaissance frescoes by Domenico Ghirlandaio, and, beneath the Duomo, in the baptistery is the baptismal font with bas-reliefs by Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Jacopo della Quercia and other 15th century sculptors.
The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo contains Duccio's famous Maestà (1308–1311) and various other works by Sienese masters. More Sienese paintings are to be found in the Pinacoteca, e.g. 13th century works by Diotisalvi di Speme.
Siena is a favorite of Tuscan Muse guests, photographers, artists, cooks and writers who participate in our tours of Tuscany, photography workshops, painting workshops, culinary workshops and writing workshops in Tuscany.