From Piazza del Campo to the Duomo Along Via di Città
From Piazza del Campo, considered neutral ground by the inhabitants of Siena on account of its location directly between the three hills on which the city stands, Vicolo San Pietro to the right of Fonte Gaia leads to the Croce del Travaglio, the arrival point of the three main streets of Siena: Via Banchi di Sopra, Via Banchi di Sotto and Via di Città.
Formerly known as Via Galgaria, Via di Città is Siena’s main street and symbolically connects its political centre, Piazza del Campo and the Palazzo Pubblico, with the religious fulcrum embodied by Piazza del Duomo and the cathedral. The street is lined by magnificent Medieval palazzi, such as Palazzo Monaldi, Palazzo Crocini and Palazzo Patrizi, which houses the Accademia degli Intronati. A little further up, directly opposite Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, stands Palazzo Piccolomini, also known as Palazzo delle Papesse and built by order of Caterina Piccolomini, sister of Pope Pius II. Possibly designed by Bernardo Rossellino, the Palazzo Piccolomini was constructed between 1460 and 1495 in the Florentine Renaissance style. Its stone facade is in bush-hammered stone and today the building houses a contemporary arts centre.
Still further up Via di Città there are a number of other important town houses, including Palazzo Marsili, built in the 15th century in the gothic style by Luca di Bartolo Lupini, or the 15th century Palazzo Marsilia-Libelli, the design of which has been attributed by some to Vecchietta, while others believe the building was planed by Urbano da Cortona. Eventually Via di Città opens onto Piazza di Postierla, better known as Quattro Cantoni because the four main streets of the Terzo di Città quarter also arrive at this point.
Off to the right of Quattro Cantoni is Via del Capitano, flanked by the late-16th century Palazzo Chigi alla Postierla and Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, now Piccolomini-Clementini, built at the end of the 18th century and substantially restored in 1854.
Via del Capitano leads to Piazza del Duomo, whose deserted, silent atmosphere dominated by the vast marble Duomo is a marked contrast with the remainder of the city. Consecrated to the Assumption, the cathedral was started in the 12th century, probably on the site of an existing church.
Opposite the stands the ancient Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala, a hospital during the Middle Ages that has today been transformed into a cultural centre. The left flank of the Duomo opens onto a quiet little square that is closed in on the opposite side by the facade of the Palazzo Arcivescovile archbishop’s palace, built in the gothic style in the 18th century. On the right hand side of the cathedral a large square occupies what should have the front section of the Duomo, which was never completed. The so-called facciatone internal facade of the Duomo opens onto the square and some of the archways that were intended as part of the right hand nave of the new church have been closed off. They now house the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana, with 14th and 15th century Senese School master paintings and sculptures.
A steep marble staircase leading out from the Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana leads to the lower section of the cathedral and in turn to Piazza San Giovanni, with the facade of the Baptistery built between 1316 and 1325, dedicated to St John the Baptist and decorated in the same coloured marble motifs as the cathedral itself. Directly to the right of the Baptistery stands the Palazzo del Magnifico, the magnificent residence of Pandolfo Petrucci, who effectively ruled over Siena from 1487 to 1512. The palazzo is on the corner with Via dei Pellegrini, which leads back to Piazza del Campo.