One of the top sights in the Tuscany hill town of Siena, is its magnificent Gothic-style Duomo or cathedral, and it’s even more spectacular when the inlaid marble floor is uncovered. These 56 unique floor panels depict stories and historical events. To prevent damage, most of the panels are kept covered and only unveiled for a couple months of the year, normally starting on or shortly after the holiday for Assumption Day, August 15.
In 2018, the floor will be uncovered June 27 – July 31 and again August 18 – October 28. If you’re in Siena during this time (late summer through early fall), don’t miss the chance to see these unusual mosaics.
Created in the 14th through 18th centuries, the techniques used to design the panels gradually became more sophisticated. The first pieces were made by scratching a piece of white marble, then filling in with black stucco. Later a method similar to making inlaid wood was used with pieces of colored marble. Some scenes have classical or pagan origins while others depict scenes from the Old Testament or parts of Siena’s history such as the depiction of the she-wolf, the symbol of Siena.
Siena Duomo Gate of Heaven Tour
- The Porto del Cielo, or Gate of Heaven, 30-minute tour (March 1 – January 6) offers visitors a chance to see parts of the Duomo not normally open to the public including a series of rooms in the upper part of the cathedral. Walkways offer unique views of the cathedral interior as well as external views. When the floor mosaics are uncovered this tour gives the visitor the unique chance to view them from above. Porta del Cielo booking information.
- A Cathedral Combo Pass Plus includes this tour, also called the Secret Itineraries Tour, and all the monuments of the Cathedral Complex which you can visit on your own any time in 3 days.
Siena Duomo Visitor Information
The Cathedral, and other monuments in the complex, is usually open from 10:30 AM until 7:00 PM (with earlier closing time in winter). On Sundays and holidays the Cathedral is only open from 1:30 PM until 6:00 PM and during the period that the floor is uncovered it opens at 9:30 AM every day except Sunday. There’s an admission charge which is higher when the floor is uncovered.
Buying an Opa Si Pass, good for 3 days, gives you access not only to the cathedral but also to the very interesting Crypt, the Baptistery, the Museum, and the panoramic terrace of the Facciatone.
- Siena Cathedral web site has hours, prices, photos, and more
Inside Siena’s cathedral are several other gems. The Piccolomini Library is covered with frescoes by Pinturicchio and next to it, the Chapel of Saint John the Baptist is painted with scenes from Saint John’s life. Statues in the cathedral created by top Renaissance artists include Michelangelo’s Saint Peter and Paul, Donatello’s John the Baptist, and Bernini’s Mary Magdelene. Other top things to see are the inlaid wood Choir, the 13th century pulpit by Nicola Pisano, and the stained glass windows.
If You Go
- Siena Visitor Guide and What to See
- Find a hotel in Siena
- Discover more Siena Delights
- Take a guided walking tour of top sights: Discovering Siena’s Masterpieces.