Ambrogio Lorenzetti's frescoes and paintings

From toddlers to octogenarians, when in Siena I schlepp everybody to see Ambrogio Lorenzetti's 'Buon Governo'. The long title of the painting is 'The Allegory of Good and Bad Government in the City and the Countryside' and it is exactly that - namely an accurate depiction of daily life in medieval Siena. The detailed and elegant fresco cycle is a rarity not just in regard to Lorenzetti's style and technique, but mainly due to its subject matter. In the 14th century, paintings and frescoes focus on stories and characters from the old and new testament and not on the day-to-day tasks of builders and farmers. 

Medieval Siena depicted on the fresco by Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Medieval Siena depicted on one of the walls of Ambrogio Lorenzetti's fresco cycle in the Palazzo Pubblico (©Wikipedia)

And this is exactly why it's so much fun to spend some time in front of the fresco cycle in the civic museum in Siena's Palazzo Pubblico. Whether its kids - or meat lovers - looking for the famous Cinta Senese pig or my Tuscan native lecturing our visitors about the scaffolding used by builders in the Late Middle Ages, it's hard to find anybody who won't enjoy Ambrogio's medieval 'comic strip'. 

To honor the master of the Buon Governo, the Santa Maria della Scala museum has organized a show that brings together Ambrogio Lorenzetti's masterpieces. Most of them are scattered all over the world and on loan from places like London's National Gallery. The subjects of these paintings are more traditional in nature and hence depicting religious scenes - and not mundane medieval builders! - but once you've fallen in love with the Buon Governo you'll like Lorenzetti's Maestà too.  

SANTA MARIA DELLA SCALA - Ambrogio Lorenzetti until April 8, 2018

Full price: € 9.00 
Teenagers from 12 - 18: € 7.00 (children under 12 are free)

Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday: 10.00 am to 5.00 pm (no admission after 4.30)

Friday: 10.00 am to 7.00 pm (no admission after 6.30 pm)
Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am to 8.00 pm (no admission after 7.30 pm)


Siena is a fabulous place to visit in winter when culturally minded travelers will get the city's museums all to themselves.

But the same travelers may also note that Siena's cultural calendar isn't much to boast about during the darker months of the year. Hence, an international dance festival taking place in the middle of winter in the beautiful Teatro dei Rinnovati is more than a welcome surprise! 

MOVE OFF 2018 - January 31 to February 2

  • January 31: "It's between us"- Just Us Dance Theater (UK) and  "di angeli, di dei, di uomini"- Freies Tanz Ensemble (Germany). 
  • February 1: "Between"- MOMURO MOVEMENT LAB (Corea) and "Reflect"- Albanian Dancetheater Company (Albania). 
  • February 2: "DIS-CRIMINE"- MOTUS (Italia). 
Teatro Comunale dei Rinnovati, piazza del Campo, palazzo Pubblico: 9.15pm.  
Tickets 8 € (reduced 5€). The theater's ticket booth opens at 6pm.


An e-bike in front of the gate of a Tuscan villa
Villa Catignano: one of the many beautiful places an e-bike can get you to from Siena

A few years ago, I interviewed an American writer, who during her month-long stay in Siena whizzed through the city on a bicycle. This was an unusual sight - vespas are the two-wheelers of choice in Siena's hilly town center, not bikes like in mostly flat Florence. 

But the invention of e-bikes is about to change this. The city of Siena has installed an electric bike sharing program which is functioning well. However, it's mostly aimed at locals and residents, as its set-up is a little complicated for visitors who only stay a couple of days in town. Hence, for tourists, the best bike rental options in Siena are with the privately owned shops which supply bycicles of every size and type for a day or two or an entire week. 

Riding through the hills of the chianti
Giulia from cycling through the hills of Siena

Siena Bike Shop rents out racing bycicles, hybrid and e-bikes and is a great option if you plan to explore the beautiful countryside that surrounds the city. We recently did a day tour with friends following the route proposed by shop owner Massimiliano (he can supply a GPS if necessary). The tour took us from Siena through countryside roads lined by olive groves, vineyards and - of course - cypress trees. A stopover at the Chianti Sculpture Park is a great option for a picnic in the shade, or head to one of the many good restaurants in Vagliagli or Pianella. 

It was our first experience on an e-bike, but we'll be definitely back for more (and I'll remember to bring some proper cycling pants next time!). 


Where: in via Aretina, 35, just outside the town walls near porta Pispini). Best make a reservation in advance if you visit Siena in high-season (from Easter to October). 

Prices: E-bike and race bike rental 40€ per day. Hybrid and mountain bike rental 25€ per day. Lower rates apply for consecutive days - see price list here. 

Good to Know: Siena Bike Shop can drop off and pick up the bikes at your hotel or B&B in town for an extra 20€. 

Itineraries: Massimiliano is crazy about cycling and has great advice for road, mountain bike and e-bike tours around Siena and Tuscany for both pros or total amateurs (like me).


Two elderly many reading the newspaper whilst waiting for the Palio horse race in Siena

Desperate for Palio tickets? 

They are hard to find unless you reserve them months or even years ahead. The easiest option is to join the rest of the crowd, who's watching the Palio for free from the middle of piazza del Campo, which is just the way most Sienese see the race. 

However, this year the municipality of Siena has 23 last minute tickets available for the Palio dell'Assunta 2015Prepare to stand in the queue for them, but with 150€ per ticket it's well worth the effort (seated tickets normally start from 250€ and go all the way up to 500€ per person). 


The tickets are for the seats on the palchetti, the seated wooden stages built up especially for the race all the way round piazza del Campo. The seats are located between via di Dupré and Casato di Sotto, which is a great area to observe the wheeling and dealing between the jockeys before the race. 

The Palio tickets are sold from 10 am on Saturday August 15 in Via Casato di Sotto (number 23) at Economato Office, access via the tipografia - a printing business - to the right. Make sure you are there way before 10 am or expect to join a long queue. Also, note that not more than two tickets can be bought per person. 

Good luck!

Find more information in Italian on the comune di Siena's Palio website and for a quick introduction to the world's oldest horse race read What is the Palio?

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