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File:GuidoriccioDaFogliano.jpgGuidoriccio Da Fogliano fresco (probably by Simone Martini) in Siena's Palazzo Pubblico museum
The fresco of Guidoriccio da Fogliano near Montemassi in Siena's Civic Museum

You don't know Siena until you've seen some of the masterpieces in its museums. If you only have limited time, choose the first two museums on this list, which exhibit some of the most important works of the painters of the Sienese school.


The Opera del Duomo di Siena isn't just a museum but includes a multitude of buildings: most importantly Siena's cathedral with the Piccolomini Library (with frescoes by Pinturicchio), the Baptistery (with works by Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia), the Crypt, the Oratory of Saint Bernardino and last but not least the museum placed in the never finished nave of what was supposed to become Siena's gigantic new cathedral. Take proper time here to admire Duccio's masterpiece  (the Maestà). Don't forget your camera - the facade of the unfinished cathedral makes for a great vantage point on Siena. From April to October 2013 tourists can book a wonderful guided visits to the roof of the cathedral.
If you plan to visit all of it, buy the OPA SI pass. Its valid for three days and gives access to all the sights for 12€ (8€ from November to end of February). If you travel as a family ask for the OPA SI family pass - unless your kids are not 11 yet at which point entrance for them is for free.. 


Piazza del Campo is home to Siena's stunning town hall, which sports some of the finest works of the Sienese school: not to be missed the Maestà by Simone Martini, Guidoriccio da Fogliano (probably by the same painter) and the marvelous Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
Piazza del Campo, 1 - phone +39 0577 292232. 
Open daily from 10am to 7pm (6pm in the winter). Ticket 8€, reduced 4,50€ (students and pensioners). Children up to 11 years for free. Ticket for museum and Mangia tower 13€. Combined ticket for Civic Museum and Santa Maria della Scala museum for 11€.

Find a bit of everything at the big museum complex right in front of the stairways of Siena's cathedral. One of Europe's first hospitals, Santa Maria della Scala had an open door for pilgrims, orphans and the poor. The frescoes in one of its main rooms on the ground floor tell the fascinating story of what life was like inside these buildings from the Middle Ages onward. Part of the museum is dedicated to Roman and Etruscan archaeological finds and if you travel with kids don't miss out on SMS' hands-on children museum on the ground floor. The museums also hosts alternating exhibitions spanning from Duccio to the 21st century.   
Update July 2013. After a year of financial uncertainty the SMS museum is keeping its head up with a great exhibition of the American photographer Steve McCurry. The show is especially worth a visit for its beautiful set up in the fascinating underground rooms of the archaeological department of the SMS.  


Continue your grand tour of Siena here, if the OPA and Civic Museum made you fall in love with the paintings of the Sienese school. It's a lovely visit even in high season as the museum is off the major tourist routes and many a jewel of Duccio, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers awaits you here. 
Opening times: Monday 9am-13am. Tuesday to Saturday 8.15am-19.15pm. Sunday and most public holidays (inclusive 1st of December Sant'Ansano, Siena's patron Saint): 9am-1pm. Closed on 1st of May, Christmas and 1st of January. Tickets 4€ (reduced 2€, under 18 years for free).

ARCHIVIO DI STATO DI SIENA, via Banchi di Sotto, 52

If you have some extra time in Siena don't miss out on a free visit at the centrally located state archive. The collection includes all the 105 Biccherne, the account books of the city of Siena (the earliest example dates back to 1258). By tradition the elaborate covers of the book were painted by the foremost painters of the Sienese school (e.g. Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Sano di Pietro). The exhibition also includes documents regarding people mentioned in Dante's Divina Commedia, and last but not least the will of Giovanni Boccaccio. 
Via Banchi di Sotto, 52.Open Monday to Saturday. Free entrance, but guided visits only at 9.30/10.30/11.30 am. 


Need a break from all the arty stuff? Siena's Museo dei Fisiocritici is one of my favorite places in town and a great location to time travel a couple of centuries back. It's not the Smithsonian, but the beautifully exhibited collection is an impressive sight (especially the stuffed and mounted animals on the first floor which also include a famous ornithology collection). The natural history museum is a short walk from piazza del Campo, but in a totally tourist free area. Incredibly enough entrance is for free! 
Opening times during the week: 9am - 1pm / 3pm - 6pm. Closed on Thursday afternoon and sadly also on the weekend.


A few steps further down from the Accademia dei Fisiocritici, Siena's botanical garden is supposed to be haunted by the ghost of Renaissance painter Sodoma, so keep an eye out when admiring the Mediterranean flora. Most beautiful in May when the wild orchids are in flower, but always a lovely stop to get away from the crowd and have a rest on a bench in the shade of a palm tree.  
Update 2015: sadly the botanical garden is no longer for free since it is in private hands now (the university of Siena could no longer afford its running costs). Prices start from 6.50€. 

SYNAGOGUE OF SIENA, vicolo delle Scotte, 14

A few steps from piazza del Campo, Siena's synagogue is a surprising sight. Richly decorated by the end of the 18th century, the synagogue bears testimony to a beautiful centuries old Ghetto and to some of the darkest moments in Siena's history.
Monday to Friday: 10.30am to 3pm. Sunday: 10.30am to 5.30pm. Closed on Saturdays and Jewish holidays. Guided tours on reservation. 


For people who wonder how the wealthy Sienese lived after the Renaissance. Palazzo Chigi Saracini is one of Siena's most famous palaces and was owned by some of the city's best known families. Music lovers will want to visit the Chigiana academy's collection of historical music instruments (one of them a Stradivari). Guided visits only (not advisable with kids). 
Guided visits on Friday and Saturday during high season (visits in spring 2013 from the 30st of March to the 31st of May). Tickets 7€, reduced 5€, children up to 5 years for free. Only on reservation! Email or phone +39 0577 286300. 


Fell in love with one of Siena's contrade or just got infected with the Palio virus in general? Each contrada has a museum exhibiting anything that is linked to the Palio and documenting the participation and race results of the contrada over centuries.
Call beforehand, visits only on appointment. Contact details of the museums of all the 17 contrade can be found here: PALIO - CONTRADE MUSEUMS
Guided private tours about the Palio horse race can be organized all through the year. An English speaking licensed expert guide will take you around town and organize a guided visit at one of the Palio museums (prices from 150€ for a private half-day tour). These tours are great too for families with kids. Send me an email for more information on Palio or other private tours in Siena. 

St. Catherine is patron saint of Siena, Italy and Europe (which already says quite a bit about her). Admirers of the most famous woman of the 14th century, can find out more about her short but busy life by visiting the house - and now sanctuary  - where the saint was born in 1347 (as 23rd of 25 children!), whereas the (rather impressive) relics of saint Catherine can be found at the basilica of San Domenico.  
Sanctuary open daily from 9am - 1pm and 3pm to 7.30pm. Free entrance. 

If you want to see it all, ask for Siena's ITINERARI D'ARTE TICKET,  a museum pass which includes most museums and is valid for one week. Price 17€ in the summer and 14€ in the winter. Order here: B-Ticket Siena Itinerari d'Arte
This page was last updated in October 2013. Please make sure you double-check museum opening times and ticket prices as these are due to change from time to time.


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