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#SIENAFRANCIGENA In the footsteps of the pilgrims to discover Europe's oldest hospital

#SIENAFRANCIGENA
In the footsteps of the pilgrims to discover Europe’s oldest hospital.

Every Sunday, from the 7th of May until the 25th of June and from the 3rd of september to the 15th of October 2017, you can go urban trekking, following the route of the Via Francigena, like pilgrims and travellers of days gone by, on a trip lasting about 4 hours, in the company of an expert guide, from Porta Camollia to Porta Romana, visiting Santa Maria della Scala: the oldest hospital in Europe.

The journey
Entering through Porta Camollia, we catch sight of the Torre del Mangia, which guides us along the route of the Via Francigena around the walls; hostelries, taverns, palaces and piazzas, the city welcomes visitors from all over the world to the most important place documented in European travels since the 12th century: Santa Maria della Scala.
Here, participants can collect and stamp the “Pilgrim’s Credential”, which certifies their journey, and enjoy an experience that will help them understand the history of Santa Maria della Scala, admire the architectural structure and the treasures it guards.
The journey continues to Porta Romana, which completes the stretch of the Via Francigena within the city. Lastly, a well-deserved stop for refreshments: lunch in the “pilgrim’s pouch”, filled with locally sourced products from Siena, which will be eaten in a veritable green “oasis”, a piece of countryside inside the walls, just a short distance from Piazza del Campo, at “l’Orto dei Pecci”, a restaurant, cultural centre and educational farm managed by a social cooperative.
Europe’s oldest hospital: Santa Maria della Scala
Built in front of the Cathedral steps, from its birth at the end of the 12th century, Santa Maria della Scala welcomed the pilgrims who travelled the Via Francigena and helped the poor, as well as abandoned children.
Over the centuries, it extended its services, becoming a modern hospital.
Only in 1997 did it become an important museum and cultural centre.

Significant restoration work has made most of the entire complex, which is distributed on various levels, open to visitors. Access to the monumental area is from Piazza Duomo and here stand the church of the Santissima Annunziata, the Pellegrinaio delle Donne (The Female Pilgrim’s Hall), the Old Sacristy, the chapel of the Madonna and that of the Mantle. From here we enter the Pellegrinaio with its famous 15th century cycle of frescoes, through a bright area called Passeggio (which was originally a pilgrim’s hall), from which side rooms lead off. These side rooms were once used as hospital wards and are now dedicated to exhibition and museum spaces.
Descending to the lower level, we enter the so-called Corticella, a node of all the walkways within Santa Maria della Scala, overlooked by the medieval Hay barn, which houses the original fountain Fonte Gaia by Jacopo della Quercia, by two lay confraternities filled with works of art and still active today (the Compagnia dei disciplinati sotto le volte dell'ospedale and the Compagnia di Santa Caterina della Notte), and by the atmospheric Magazzini della Corticella, in which the Tesoro di Santa Maria della Scala (Treasure of Santa Maria della Scala) is displayed. From the Corticella we descend to the so-called "labyrinths" where, inside atmospheric tunnels dug into sandstone and brick vaulted spaces, we find the Archaeology Museum and “Siena. The story of the city from its origins to the Middle Ages”.

INFO AND BOOKINGS: Participation in the trek, including a guided tour, entrance to the museum and “pilgrim’s pouch”, costs € 20 per person and € 10 for children up to the age of 11. The guided tours are in Italian and English.
Other languages on demand.

For bookings, please contact (by 3 p.m. on Saturday):
TO C-way
Tourist Service Booking Office
Santa Maria della Scala
Piazza Duomo 1
Tel. +39 347 6137678 39 3480216972

 

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