Time of year
westy54 wrote a review Sep 2019
Sydney, Australia6,488 contributions925 helpful votes
The bank opens it's doors to the public 3 times a year to view it's magnificent art collection and archives.
I previously reviewed this bank, which is the oldest still operating bank in the world (but only just as it needed a government bail-out in 2013) in August 2017, but only from an external perspective. It appears though that the Bank was one of the first non-government companies or institutions in the world to start accumulating a corporate art collection, starting shortly after the Bank was founded in 1472, with the collection now numbering many thousands of pieces from across all of the centuries since then. On this stay in Siena we found out that the Bank premises would be open to the public on the morning of the July Palio and so we were able to join a free tour of it's archives and the Museo di San Donato to see some of the Bank's vast art collection. It turns out the Bank also opens it's doors to the public on the morning of the August Palio as well as on the first Saturday of October. We dutifully joined a queue outside of the entrance to the Bank's head office in the Piazza Salimbeni and after about 10 minutes were shown through security into a very comfortable waiting room whilst they split the people into Italian and English speaking groups for the tour. There did not appear to be a set number for each group and there would have been between 20 to 30 in ours. Our guide appeared to be an employee of the Bank whose knowledge and English were both very good. We were first shown out onto the large terrace at the back of the Bank that had views over the San Donato church and the city to the north east. There followed a visit to the Archivio, a large room off the terrace that housed masses of very old Bank hand written ledgers that were stacked floor to ceiling high on shelves along the walls. These ledgers appeared to have once had painted spines similar to those we saw in the Achivio di Stato. On the wall space in between the stacks of ledgers were some beautiful paintings and on the floor space, a significant number of glass cabinets displaying historical documents important to the Bank and also to the city of Siena. Amongst these documents was a declaration signed by Napoleon and also a simple hand written and signed note from Guiseppe Garibaldi to the tax man advising that he was unable to pay his tax as he had no money! We were then taken down some steps to the Museo di San Donato. This Museum has a brick barrel vaulted ceiling and brick walls and now holds some precious and quite valuable religious artwork. This Museum had formerly been a church but was deconsecrated in the early 19th century following the Napoleonic suppression and turned into a storage area for carriages. The space was acquired by the Bank in the 1920's and incorporated into the massive Bank headquarters complex we see today. This space, together with the adjoining rooms, were redesigned in the 1970's to house some of the Bank's vast art collection. There are paintings and frescoes by Pietro Lorenzetti, Benedetto da Maiano, Francesco Vanni, Sano di Pietro and many more famous Sienese and Italian artists plus paintings of the Palio in the Il Campo undertaken over successive centuries which shows how the event and the Piazza itself has changed over time. Following this we were taken upstairs to the first floor to see the frescoed ceiling of one of the long corridors. The tour was free and very good although there was insufficient timing between the groups setting off on the tours so that at one stage there were about 60/70 people crammed into some very small rooms and trying to hear the guide over all of the noise and commentary in Italian from the other guides whilst trying to see some of the paintings three and four people deep. Nothwithstanding the crowding, This free tour is highly recommended.…
Date of experience: July 2019
1 Helpful vote
ShowMeVegas wrote a review Sep 2018
SGF, MO7,838 contributions355 helpful votes
It's a large, unique building in a small piazza with a statue at its center surrounded by other old buildings not quite as ornate. Was interesting for about 5 minutes with a historical account provided by our guide who droned on for 15-20 minutes while the group stood and sweated. It's a nice, brief stop on the way through a pretty town but lacks the interest or notoriety to waste as much time as we did.…
Date of experience: September 2018
Will D wrote a review Sep 2018
Connecticut18 contributions22 helpful votes
If you’re walking thru Siena, make sure to make a stop in the square. Not much to see but at night it makes for a beautiful picture.
Date of experience: August 2018
Dillon C wrote a review Jul 2018
Island of Malta, Malta260 contributions30 helpful votes
This piazza is one of the most beautiful in siena, apart from having its natural charm siena is a very nice city especially this place (Oldest bank in world!) at night with all the illuminating lights that give a vibrant effect.
Date of experience: November 2017
1 Helpful vote
545medva wrote a review Jul 2018
Budapest, Hungary3,979 contributions889 helpful votes
The building itself is beautiful. This is the oldes, still today functioning bank not only in Italy, but most probably on the whole world.
Date of experience: June 2018