The itinerary suggested by the Grand Hotel Continental Siena - Starhotels Collezione begins in Piazza del Duomo, whose architectural marvels are the Duomo, Baptistry and Museo dell’Opera (the Museum of the Duomo).
The Duomo of Siena, also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, is one of the most elegant examples of Romanesque-Gothic style in Italy. You will stand awestruck before its magnificent white-marble facade decorated with sienna – the red mineral which abounds in this area – and its 77-meter-tall campanile decorated with green and white marble.
The Duomo's interior offers other wonders, such as the splendid representation of the Sibyls in the floor decorations, begun in the second half of the 14th century and completed 500 years later, and the imposing horizontal molding which runs around the upper part of the nave and contains the busts of 171 popes.
The Duomo also houses the Libreria Piccolomini, adorned with frescoes by Pinturicchio, who was assisted by a young Raphael, and featuring a beautifully ornate ceiling with gilded decorations.
Next to the Duomo is its museum, the Museo dell’Opera, which houses the original 14th-century statues of the Duomo's facade and other works by important artists, such as Giovanni Pisano and Donatello.
The entrance to the Baptistry is from Piazza San Giovanni. Gothic in style, the upper part of its facade was never completed. It houses a marble, bronze and enamel baptismal font, on which some of the best sculptors of the Renaissance (Donatello, Ghiberti and Jacopo della Quercia) worked.
But the Duomo of Siena continues to amaze us. Following the uncovering the floor decorations, the Porta del Cielo (Door to the Sky) was opened to the public for the first time. A series of rooms located on the upper floor of the Duomo underwent extensive restoration work and now allow visitors to enjoy views of the interior from above and better comprehend why the Duomo was consecrated to the Assumption of Mary and the strong, century-long bond between the citizens of Siena and their 'patron': Sena vetus civitas Virginis.