The hospital across from the Duomo entrance cared for the infirm from the 800s up until the 1990s, when it began to be restructured as a museum and exhibition space, including the city's archaeological collections. The original decorations of the hospital itself, inside, however, merit a visit on their own. And if the round stained-glass window from the cathedral's apse is still under restoration here, by all means check it out -- it's your only chance to see up close the oldest stained glass of Italian manufacture, designed by Duccio in 1288.
The first fresco you see, just after the ticket booth, is Domenico Beccafumi's luridly colored Meeting at Porta Andrea (after 1512). Off to the left, just past the bookshop, is the entrance to the Sala del Pellegrinaio, which held hospital beds until just a few years ago. The walls were frescoed in the 1440s with scenes from the history of the hospital and its good works (all labeled). Most are vivid masterpieces by Domenico di Bartolo, richly colored and full of amusing details. However, Vecchietta did the upwardly mobile orphans over the exit door; Jacopo della Quercia's less talented and little known brother, Priamo, did a cartoonish scene on the left wall; and a pair of Mannerist hacks filled in the spaces at the room's end.
Downstairs are rooms documenting the restoration of Jacopo della Quercia's Fonte Gaia with plaster casts, and the Oratorio di Santa Caterina della Notte. This latter was decorated mainly in the 17th century by Rustici and Rutilio Manetti but also contains a rich Madonna and Child with Saints, Angels, and Musicians by Taddeo di Bartolo (ca. 1400) in the back room. Exit through the church of Santissima Annunziata, with a bronze Risen Christ by Vecchietta over the high altar and an apse-covering fresco by Sebastiano Conca (1732).
The collection in Siena's new modern archaeology museum, recently incorporated into the Santa Maria della Scala complex, is small, and while there's nothing of earth-shattering significance, there are some surprisingly good pieces for a museum hardly anyone knows exists. Wander past fading frescoes to examine local Etruscan bronzes, black bucchero vases, funerary urns in terra cotta and alabaster, and some Roman pocket change.
- © Frommer's 2013
- Recommended 2010