Santa Maria della Scala, one of the oldest buildings originally used as a hospital in Europe. However for some time now has given up its sanitary functions and is subject of an important renovation work for museum and cultural use. This large complex, in the heart of Siena opposite the cathedral, conserves a wide range of historical items, ranging from Etruscan and Roman times, through the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.
It holds monumental open spaces alternate with narrow corridors, improvised and coloured frescoes with stories of life, obscure crypts and intertwined tunnels dug into bricked spaces. Santa Maria della Scala is a large building (350,000,000 metres square) and is above all the splendid synthesis of the city and her history. It is a container where architecture, works of art and history tell of a life that has continued uninterrupted for a thousand years.
Rising on the via Francigena, right in front of the Cathedral, Santa Maria della Scala is one of the first European examples of hospital and shelter, with an autonomous and articulated organisation to welcome pilgrims and support poor people and abandoned children. From the beginning of the 14th century a statute ruled the life and autonomy of the building, showing itself so efficient that it was taken as a model by Viscount Gian Galeazzo and by the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, who sent their emissaries to Siena to study its management and organisation.