The Tower of Pisa is the bell tower of the Cathedral. Its construction began in August of 1173 and continued (with two long interruptions) for about two hundred years, in full fidelity to the original project, whose architect is still uncertain. In the past it was widely believed that the inclination of the Tower was part of the project ever since its beginning, but now we know that it is not so. The Tower was designed to be "vertical" (and even if it did not lean it would still be one of the most remarkable bell towers in Europe), and started to incline.
Both because of its inclination, and its beauty, from 1173 up to the present the Tower has been the object of very special attention. During its construction efforts were made to halt the incipient inclination through the use of special construction devices; later columns and other damaged parts were substituted in more than one occasion; today, interventions are being carried out within the sub-soil in order to significantly reduce the inclination and to make sure that Tower will have a long life. In all this story it is possible to find a meaningful constant, the "genetic code" of the Tower: its continuing interaction with the soil on which it was built.
The Tower is situated behind the Duomo, which is considered to be the most important expression of Pisan Romanesque. Its construction was begun by Buscheto in 1064 and completed by Rainaldo in the 12th century. Inside the five naves are collected works of immeasurable value: paintings by Beccafumi, by Ghirlandaio, by Andrea del Sarto and by Sodoma. The mosaic in the apse is by Cimabue, the pulpit, a masterpiece of Italian Gothic art, is by Giovanni Pisano, and the central altar is by Giambologna. Finally, in front of the apse hangs Galileo's lamp, which was used by the famous scientist to determine important laws of physics. In front of the Duomo rises the impressive circular Baptistery, with a grandiose dome 18 meters in diameter. Diotisalvi began the construction in 1152 but it was completed only in the 14th century
One of Italy's most enchanting medieval cities, Sienese identity is still defined by its 17 medieval contrade (neighborhoods), each with its own church, museum, and symbol. Look for streetlights painted in the contrada's colors, plaques displaying its symbol, and statues embodying the spirit of the neighborhood. The various contrade uphold ancient rivalries during the centuries-old Palio, a twice-yearly horse race (held in July and August) around the main piazza.
Piazza del Campo
This one of the most famous piazzas in the world, noted for the descending half-moon form which goes from its upper side to its lower side. Twice a year the famous Palio of Siena takes place here. It is dominated on its lower, or western side, by the Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall), a brilliant example of Tuscan Gothic architecture built between the end of the 1200's and the beginning of the 1300's in stone and terracotta. It was enlarged with the construction of the Salon of the Grand Council and the prisons. On the left side of the Palace is the Torre del Mangia, 90 meters high.
Its construction was directed by Minuccio and Francesco di Rinaldo, in 1325. At its base is the Chapel of the Piazza, built between the 1300's and the 1400's. At the upper end of the piazza is the "Campanaria" (bell tower) Cell, built entirely out of stone. From the top of the tower one can enjoy a matchless view of the city and its surroundings. On the higher side of the piazza, above the Palace, one finds the Gaia Fountain, a rectangular basin built in 1419 by Jacopo della Quercia. It owes its name to the happiness with which the Sienese welcomed the arrival of water in the Piazza del Campo.
A few minutes walk west of Piazza del Campo, Siena's Duomo, with its multicolor marbles facade, is beyond question one of the finest gothic cathedrals in Italy. The interior with its coffered and gilded dome and the inlaid marble floors are striking. Among the numerous works of art contained here, the most notable is The Votive Madonna by Guido da Siena (over the altar), the wooden choral bench by Fra Giovanni da Verona (in the apse) and the marble bergamot by Nicola Pisano in (in the left transept). Then there are the works of Pinturicchio, Donatello, and Neroccio in the Chapel of San Giovanni Battista, and the Piccolomini Library in the first span of the nave on the left, which is a collection of the library of Pius II.