The magnificent gothic Palazzo Publico occupies the flat side of the Campo and serves as the seat of local government. Its stately main rooms now form the Museo Civica and access is via an enclosed courtyard, which also houses the ticket booth and entrance to the Torre del Mangia. Initial plans were for a quick ascent of the tower to justify a few recuperative lunchtime beers but we discovered that you had to book timeslots and we would have to wait. My proposal for a quick turn round the museum was met with gentle but firm rejection so watches were synchronised and I wandered in myself.
The museum is accessed via a staircase through the gift shop and you initially pass through a few rooms hung with worthy but non-too-interesting pictures portraying the life of Vittorio Emanuele I. If the Rough Guide hadn’t alluded to the treasures buried within then I would have been enduring a ‘told you it’d be dull’ smirk from the Blonde sooner than planned. Luckily the galleries are in stark contrast to the enormous frescoed halls that make up the bulk of the museum. Some of the frescoes date from as early as the 14th century and are still vivid and powerful. The collection is regarded as some of the most important in Europe and, rarely for the time, wanders away from religious themes into the secular.
The most celebrated frescoes can be found in the Sala del Mappamondo and adjoining Sala della Pace. The map of the heavens that gave its name to the former can now barely be seen but Martini’s Maesta remains vivid and powerful. The Sala della Place houses the first panorama known in western art as part of a decidedly gothic piece that is apparently rich in allegorical meaning. The walled, medieval Siena features as part of a piece designed to show the impact of good and bad government and to keep the councillors on their toes.
After Florence I found the museum to be pleasantly lacking in crowds. You need space and time to enjoy art on this scale and there is no feeling of pressure or being hurried through the exhibits. I spent an absorbing hour or so here – it is a fabulous building inside and out. Siena has something of the ‘undiscovered’ about it in comparison to its world-renowned Tuscan neighbours of Pisa and Florence and this can be strongly felt here. One can also access a terrace that has incredible views over the rooftops and into the Tuscan hills beyond.
If you only go to one museum in Siena.
The museum costs €6.50 or €9.50 including tower.July & Aug 10am-11pm; March-Oct 10am-7pm; Nov-Feb 10am-6.30pm.
Results 1-2of 2 Reviews
Moscow, Moskva, Russia
January 30, 2011
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
February 26, 2004
From journal Intoxicated by (and in) Siena