Posted by: stacystyle | January 10, 2012

Travel Tuesday—Duomo di Siena

On trips to Europe there is inevitably the moment when I reach my cathedral quota. You know, that moment when you couldn’t possibly look at another gilded baptistry or stained glass window. Then there are the moments when unexpected greatness brings you to the verge of tears. Even if you think you’ve seen as many gargoyles as your European trip can handle, here’s an Italian one you shouldn’t miss.
On a trip to Italy two years ago my boyfriend and I drove from the airport in Rome north to Siena specifically to see the Duomo di Siena that we had heard so much about.

Now we’re not great historians, but we were amazed to find out that construction of this church began in the 1200s during the Dark Ages, the crusades, and before Marco Polo made his voyages to China. Even using today’s construction techniques this is a phenomenal structure that would take decades to build. The church evolved over hundreds of years. However, look at the design and color. It instantly looks modern and daring even today with its black and white striped marble columns.

The stripes are so reminiscent of many recent designs. This is a bag by Karen Young, founder of Hammocks and High Tea that incorporates black and white stripes.

This dining room from House & Garden UK uses the same design idea.

It appears again in this top in an image from Atlantic Pacific.

Then there are the amazing floor designs, making this church one of the most ornate in all of Europe. They were created in the church from the 14th to the 16th centuries.

The stars on the ceiling within the dome (with a lantern designed by Bernini) reminds me of the wallpaper designs of Audrey Sterk.

It looks like designers whether they realize it or not have been influenced by this amazing church for centuries.



  1. I remember being speechless when Sally and I walked throguh the front doors of that particular church. We also had one of our best meals of our trip there, in a little dive of a place. Probably the equivalent of a Mom and Pop dinner here in the states.


    • Sounds like you absolutely did it right, John!

  2. I was entranced by all of the different types of marble inside the cathedral. Actually, Siena itself was amazing, with gorgeous groin vaulted ceilings everywhere- outdoors.

    • Thanks so much for commenting, Annie!

  3. One beautiful spring day in 2005 my son and I held our own little private service in the Duomo di Siena. No one noticed it and it went entirely unrecorded. On that same day my mother’s ashes were interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

    The Italians are really good at celebrating life, death and communion.

    • John,
      I would love to hear more about this. What an experience!

  4. Love this cathedral. The zebra cathedral! So pretty.

  5. Great and Inspiring entry!!!

    • Thanks so much, Bruce!

  6. love the architectural reference!

  7. I recently visited Siena and fell in love with it! It’s one of my favorite cities I’ve been to Italy! Thanks for sharing and letting reminisce through your beautiful photos!

    • Thanks so much for visiting, Ashley!

  8. I was there this past July, three days after the running of the Palio in Siena’s town square. There was still sand in between the cobblestones that had been trucked in for the event. I loved everything about Siena and will have to go back. It just takes your breath away walking up the steps of the Baptistry (a sight in and of itself) and then rounding the corner and seeing the Duomo. I saw the black and white marble striping elsewhere, even faux painted on the little church in Monterosso. Art is everywhere in Italy.

    • That sounds amazing, Laurie. That black and white stripe is everywhere throughout the city as it is part of their symbol. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our cities had ancient symbols like that?

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