The tale of the city from its origins to the Middle Ages
The Underground Siena tour takes place within Santa Maria della Scala and is divided into sections that tell the story of the city from its origins to the second half of the 14th century.
There is a section dedicated to the results of excavations conducted on the hill of the Cathedral by the University of Siena, which reveal significant steps in the development of the urban fabric.
Such findings testify to an Etruscan presence since at least the 7th century BC.
The name Siena seems to have emerged during the Etruscan age. It’s believed to be linked to the ancient Etruscan family of Saina/Seina recorded around the 2nd century BC on inscriptions found in Perugia, Montalcino and Chiusi.
The tour then proceeds to the next rooms dedicated to the events relating to the development of the city in late antiquity and the Middle Ages. As the city expanded with impressive works such as Palazzo Pubblico and Piazza del Campo, outside the walls rose the convents of the mendicant orders.
The underground route at Santa Maria della Scala documents the case of the Carmelite Friars in Pian dei Mantellini, very close to Castelvecchio hill.
The structure over the centuries underwent various interventions until the construction of a vaulted roof to which an entire section is dedicated.
Studies of this section have uncovered the ingenuity of ancient constructions. The space between the vault and the floor was filled with layers of earth alternated with ceramics facing downward to create voids and prevent them from filling with soil. This was all done to prevent excessive load on the floor level.
Given that this area of the city was home to many potters’ workshops, many whole or partial pieces of pottery were found.Often they were waste, regardless they contributed significantly to the reconstruction of the ceramic production cycle, including that of the famous majolica. Along the route, you can see all the key places of the history of the hospital such as the charnel house and not far away a narrow tunnel that traces the underground aqueduct leads to a wash house.
The tour concludes in the Chapel of San Girolamo, where you find a section entirely dedicated to the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala with an exhibition documenting its functions, care and treatment, and the management of its facility. Don’t miss some fragments of a text from the Divine Comedy (verses from cantos XXX, XXXI of the Inferno) found in the excavations of San Galgano’s lane and possibly belonging to a pilgrim.