Siena, with its Medieval atmosphere and impressive main square Piazza del Campo, is one of Italy’s gems. The perfect destination for lovers of art and history.
Here we discover the best museums in Siena, Tuscany. Places where you can delve into in the town’s fascinating past and explore its rich artistic heritage.
Best Museums in Siena, Tuscany, Italy
1. Pinacoteca Nazionale – Discover the Sienese School
This fine gallery hosts an unsurpassed collection of Medieval painting by artists of the ‘Scuola Senese’, or Sienese School. Highlights include works by Duccio and Simone Martini. Here you’ll admire the ‘Annunciazione” by Ambrogio Lorenzetti and the famed ‘Mystical marriage of Saint Catherine’ by Michelino da Besozzo. The first floor is dedicated to Sienese art in 16th and 17th century.
=> Why visit it? For a full immersion in Sienese art world and taste.
The Sienese School of painting flourished right here in Siena between the 13th and 15th century. These artists’ style was inclined towards the elegance of International Gothic and Byzantine style, and were more interested in precious decorative beauty than realism.
2. Museo Civico in Palazzo Pubblico – Frescoes
A top location for this next museum in Siena. The Civic Museum is set inside the handsome Palazzo Pubblico – Siena’s town hall – in the magnificent square Piazza del Campo. Here you’ll find one of the most important series of secular frescoes from the Middle ages. The most famous is the fabulous Allegory of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, located in the Sala della Pace.
=> Why go? These Medieval frescoes are truly unique.
TIP => In the courtyard of the Palazzo Civico there’s the entrance to the Torre del Mangia, Siena’s slender bell tower. There are 500 steps to reach the magnificent view at the top.
3. Museo Opera Metropolitana – Siena Cathedral Museum
A great part of this museum is dedicated to artworks that were part of Siena Cathedral. It includes some Gothic statues by Pisano and della Quercia that used to adorne the outside of the Duomo. The most famous artwork here is the “Maestà” by Duccio di Buoninsegna, one of the finest examples of the Sienese School art. It used to be placed on the Duomo’s high altar.
4. Santa Maria della Scala Museum
This edifice located in front of Siena Cathedral was one of the first recorded hospitals in Europe, founded around the year 1000. Today it hosts a museum, home to an eclectic mix of religious artefacts and ancient relics. The incredible setting of the Santa Maria della Scala Museum gives you a fascinating glimpse into the history of Siena. You’ll find unusual frescoes – related to the life in the ancient hospital – archeological finds, and the small oratory where Saint Catherine used to spend her nights in prayers.
Why visit it? This lesser known museum will give you a chance to live a piece of Siena’s history.
5. Archeological Museum
Hosted in the Santa Maria della Scala complex – on the lowest floor – the Archeological Museum of Siena has a collection of Roman and Etruscan finds. You’ll see plenty of Etruscan funerary urns, discovered in the area near Siena, some beautiful Etruscan red pottery and Roman sarcophagi.
6. Museo della Tortura – Torture Museum
A few steps from Piazza del Campo, you can find an unusual, and slightly creepy, museum dedicated to torture. With its collection of torture instruments dating back to different ages – including chastity belts and a terrifying iron maiden – this museum gives the visitors a glimpse into the horrific side of history. Not for the faint of heart. (Check opening time on the official site.)
=> Discover Siena’s main attractions!
7. Museums of the contrade
If you really want to get to know Siena, you can’t miss a visit to one of the museums dedicated to the contrade and the palio. Each district in Siena has its own symbol and colours, and they all compete against each other during the palio. The palio – the horse race that takes place every year in Piazza del Campo – is at the core of Siena’s soul.
In Siena each contrada – historic district – has a museum dedicated to the history of the district. Here you’ll learn about colourful traditions that back to the Middle Ages. Above all, you’ll see how many races they have won – how many ‘pali’ (the banner that is given to the winner) they have conquered.
Here’s Siena 17 Contrade : Aquila (Eagle), Chiocciola (Snail), Selva (Wood/Forest), Tartuca (Tortoise), Nicchio (Shell,) Torre (Tower), Valdimonte o Montone (Ram), Bruco (Caterpillar), Drago (Dragon), Giraffa (Giraffe), Istrice (Porcupine), Lupa (She-Wolf), Oca (Goose), Onda (Wave), Pantera (Panther), Civetta (Owl), Leocorno (Unicorn).