Located in Terzo di San Martino, within a striking distance from the namesake medieval church, Palazzo Piccomomini, also known as Palazzo delle Papesse, is deemed the most beautiful Renaissance style palace in Siena, most likely also due to its touches of Florentine inspiration. It is now home to the State Archive and of the Museum of the Biccherna Tablets, which, despite their less appealing denomination, at least from a tourist point of view, are worth visiting. Its architectural merits and history are the grounds on which the palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The palace was built in 1469 to serve as residence for the powerful Piccolomini family (sister and nephews of Pope Pius II, bankers of the papal court). Pietro Paolo Porrina was the architect commissioned to supervise the works, which he did in a praiseworthy manner, aiming at faultlessly implementing the design of Bernardo Rossellino, the favorite of Pope Pius II. The quality of the design and the works proper led to one of the most exquisite architectural achievements of Siena, a palace strikingly resembling to the Rucellai Palace in Florence or, even more obvious, to the Piccolomini Palace in Pienza.
In the late 17th century, there was no Piccolomini descendant to inherit the residence, which is why the grand palazzo was rented to Collegio Tolomei. Several centuries after, in 1824 more precisely, the palace became a state property, and since 1858 it has been home to the State Archive. In order to accommodate its new functions, the building was repeatedly restored and extended, but its grandness falls nothing short of what it originally was.
If you have an eye for architecture, you can easily tell the Florentine influence of the facade. It is structured on three levels, of which the first consists of rusticated stone details and the latter two are dotted with mullioned windows. The coat of arms of the Piccolominis and the insignia of the Guelfs (the specific cross) can be seen on the facade. A cornice overtops the entire structure.
Even if not particularly spectacular, the courtyard of Palazzo Piccolomini is worth taking a stroll in. Its columns with majestic capitals are attributed to Matinna, dating back to the early 16th century (most likely, between 1509 and 1510).
Archivio di Stato is a collection of documents of historical importance. Of these, your attention might be drawn by the will of Boccaccio, one of the founders of Italian literature, and by the contract signed by Jacopo della Quercia upon his commission to design Fonte Gaia. As miscellaneous as it may be, the archive is worth exploring.
Museo delle Tavolette di Biccherna dwarfs the State Archive, artistically speaking. Its patrimony consists of a collection of book wooden covers, exquisitely painted by the likes of Sano di Pietro, Vecchietta, Domenico Beccafumi and Ambrogio Lorenzetti with scenes inspired from the history of Siena and from religious episodes. The covers, which used to protect the city’s ledgers, span over a period of 4 centuries (13th to the 17th century).
A bookshop and an exhibition space have been recently set up inside the palace. They focus on artistic themes, trying to promote contemporary art and to boost up the popularity of newly emerging artists. The second floor terrace allows you to admire the city vista, and even take a few shots of the stately Faciatone.
The table below lists all information on the address of Palazzo Piccolomini.
The Baptistery of Saint John is located close to the Siena Cathedral, its centerpiece consisting of a splendid 14th century baptismal font.
One of the oldest places of worship in Siena, the Basilica of San Domenico is an imposing structure which strikes through its austere look.
The Civic Museum of Siena is the attraction you should visit in order to make an idea about the secular art created over centuries by the Sienese artists.