The Cathedral of Siena is, without a doubt, one of the most spectacular buildings that you can visit in Tuscany, but its real treasure is actually the one that’s normally kept out of sight, and you’re walking all over it! The entire floor of Siena’s Cathedral is in fact one of the most incredible works of art of all time: a spectacular inlaid marble mosaic floor, something described by Giorgio Vasari as "the most beautiful, largest and most magnificent floor that ever was made".
Crafted by about forty artists and artisans between the 14th and 16th centuries, the 56 panels that constitute the floor vary in size and shape - most of them have a rectangular shape, some a hexagon or a rhombus one - and are made mainly by two different techniques: one known as graffito (tiny holes and cutting lines created in the marble and then filled with black stucco and mineral pitch) and the one called “marble intarsia” (black, white, green, red and blue marble employed in much the same manner as wood inlaying). The panels create an interlocking marble carpet throughout the apse and nave of the cathedral – a masterpiece! – drawing the figure of the Sibyls, scenes from the Old Testament, allegories and virtues.
Being as beautiful as it is fragile, the floor is normally covered by sheets in order to protect it from the wear caused by visitors’ shoes. Usually, but not always! Every year from June 29 to July 31 and from August 18 to October 26 Siena's Duomo unveils its mosaic floor. You don’t want to miss this! All the info about opening times and tickets here.
Cover image credit: Efe Arat