Siena's cathedral, the Duomo, begun in the twelfth century, is one of the great examples of Italian romanesque architecture. Its main facade was completed in 1380. Its campanile and baptistry make a fine group. It is unique among Christian cathedrals in that its axis runs north-south. This is because it was originally intended to be the largest cathedral in existence, with a north-south transept and an east-west aisle, 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 frescos by Ghirlandaio, and beneath the Duomo in the baptistry is the marvelous baptismal font with bas-reliefs by Donatello, 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 Senese masters. More Senese paintings are to be found in the Pinacoteca.
The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the town square, which houses the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia, is another architectural treasure, and is famous for hosting the Palio. The Palazzo Pubblico, itself a great work of architecture, houses yet another important art museum. Included within the museum is Ambrogio Lorenzetti's series of frescos on the good government and the results of good and bad government and also some of the finest frescoes of Simone Martini and Pietro Lorenzetti. The Piazza del Campo has 13 sections in the middle of the Piazza in reference to the 13 contratas that make up Siena.
On the Piazza Salimbeni is the Palazzo Salimbeni, a notable building and also the medieval headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of the oldest banks in continuous existence and a major player in the Senese economy.
Housed in the beautiful Gothic Palazzo Chigi on Via di Città is the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Siena's conservatory of music.
The Medicean Fortress houses the Enoteca Italiana and the Siena Jazz School, with courses and concerts all the year long and a major festival during the International Siena Jazz Masterclasses. Over two weeks more than 30 concerts and jam sessions are held in the two major town squares, on the terrace in front of the Enoteca, in the gardens of the Contrade clubs, and in many historical towns and villages of the Siena province. Siena is also home of Sessione Senese per la Musica e l'Arte (SSMA), a summer music program for musicians, is a fun/learning musical summer experience.
Siena has enjoyed a long tradition in sports. Basketball and football are perhaps the most popular in Siena. However, other sports such as rugby and track-and-field are also widely practiced.
The 'Calcio' (soccer) Association of Siena was founded in 1904 and fully established in 1908. It has participated in the National Championship of Soccer in Series "A" (The highest level of the Italian soccer leagues) since the 2003-2004 season. The soccer club A.C. Siena plays its games at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.
The premiere society of men's basketball in Siena is called "Mens Sana Basket". It is also the oldest sports society in Siena. Mens Sana Basket participates in the highest level of play in Italy, Series A1, and it won the national championship in the 2003-2004 season.
As with most of Italy, football is very popular, and many amateur football teams have been formed. Tournaments for amateur football leagues are carried out during the winter. Contrary to the rest of Italy, Siena is home to many amateur basketball teams. These teams exist to "seed" the professional teams. In addition to Mens Sana Basket, other teams (amateur) exist including "l'Associazione Sportiva Costone Basket" and "La Virtus Siena". There exist many female University sports teams organized under the CUS (Centro Universitario Sportivo.) These include such sports as fencing, volleyball and rugby.
The second of July and the sixteenth of August are the dates in which the "Palio" is held. The Palio is a traditional horse race which is conducted over a set course throughout the city each year. This event is attended by many tourists, and is widely televised. This event is not without its controversy however, and recently, there have been many complaints about the treatment of the horses. The race is a very dangerous one, as there are often a great deal of horses and riders packed into narrow streets, and rider death is not unheard of. In order to better protect the horses, steps have been taken to make veterinary care more easily available during the main race.
For more information, please view the main article on Palio di Siena.
The nearest international airport to Siena is that of Florence.
Siena can be reached by train from both Pisa and Florence, changing at Empoli. Siena's train station is located at the bottom of a long hill outside the city walls, and travellers with luggage should look for a taxi or bus (from the stop opposite the station).
Buses leave from Piazza Gramsci, located within the city walls. Busses are available direct to and from Florence, a one hour trip, as well as Rome (three hours), Milan (four and a half hours), and to various other towns in Tuscany and beyond.
Drivers should be aware that almost no traffic is permitted within the city centre. Several large carparks are located immediately outside the city walls. The "La Fortezza" car park is closest to the centre, and is free of charge. Commercial traffic is permitted within the city only in the morning hours, while in the afternoon pedestrians dominate.