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3 handicraft products of Siena

Walking through Siena's history of workshops and traditions

As is the case with Italy's great art cities, Siena has a long tradition of artistic craft products, too.
These range from painting techniques such as trompe-l'oeil, lacquering and screen printing to artistic decorations on wood, glass, fabric and wall. Even in the field of gold, silver and gemstone jewelry, Siena is famous for its work on bracelets, necklaces and pendants.

From household items such as candles, hand-painted pottery and majolica, to clothing products - loom-woven knitwear and hand-woven silk scarves – there is a choice of things, ranging from different styles and peculiarities.

This itinerary will allow you to discover Siena through its various forms of handicraft works.

  • 1.
    Painting and artistic decorations
  • 2.
    Yellow marble
  • 3.
    Pottery from Siena

Painting and artistic decorations

Art workshop in Siena
Art workshop in Siena - Credit: Passato Nel Presente

In the historic center of Siena you will easily come across the incredible art workshops: here master craftsmen, using ancient techniques, reproduce famous paintings by Sienese artists who lived between 1200 and 1500. In these workshops the technique of egg tempera, described by Cennino Cennini in his "Libro dell'Arte o trattato della pittura" (1859), is handed down.

The artisans also make interior decoration, trompe-l'oeil, restoration of frescoes, furniture decoration, even with marble effect.
With great creativity they devote themselves to cold decoration on glass, screen printing, leaf gilding and paintings on a variety of materials, such as wood and fabric.


Yellow marble

The floor of Siena Cathedral
The floor of Siena Cathedral

The yellow Siena marble, rare and precious, is extracted in the Montagnola Senese and is still processed by only a handful of artisans. Shades in yellow, gray and white make it unique in the world. It has often been used in the construction of religious buildings, such as the Floor of Siena Cathedral, the Fonte Gaia (a fountain in Piazza del Campo), the 15th-century masterpiece by Jacopo della Quercia in Piazza del Campo, and Florence Cathedral.

Even today the extraction of yellow, gray and white marble continues, some of it processed in the area, where artisans enhance the natural beauty of the product. Thanks to innovative techniques that improve its workability, Siena marble now lends itself to an unlimited range of even highly complex processes, finding a place in contemporary architecture.


Pottery from Siena

Campane di Santa Lucia, Siena
Campane di Santa Lucia, Siena - Credit: la finestra di Stefania

The clay-rich hills have enabled the inhabitants of Siena to become experts in making pottery. As early as the 14th century, in fact, clever artisans showed their skill in creating objects in terracotta and majolica. Even today furnaces continue to keep this tradition alive, creating jugs, lamps, and vase holders in golden, warm colors.

If you want to give yourself an artistic gift, among the typical products of Siena are the terracotta campane di Santa Lucia (Santa Lucia Bells), hand-painted lucky charms in the colors of the contrade (districts).

The application of the gold leaf on a traditionally Tuscan object: the barberi of Siena
The application of the gold leaf on a traditionally Tuscan object: the barberi of Siena - Credit: Artex Artigianato Artistico

In Siena the world of handicrafts is also linked to the Palio di Siena, with embroiderers engaged in restoring flags and blacksmiths making Palio-inspired objects in iron and copper.

If you are lucky you can also find the characteristic Barberi, an ancient game (not just for children) for which they use balls decorated with the colors of the contrade running on a wooden track, like a miniature palio.

Il Palio dei Barbieri

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