Across the square from the city’s soaring cathedral, the Maria della Scala hospital is a large complex of chapels and buildings where passing pilgrims, as well as Siena’s poor and orphaned children, were housed from the 12th to the 18th century. The most influential families in Siena donated funds and works of art to the hospital to demonstrate their piety and power. Though the external frescoes are now lost, many interior works remain.
Santa Maria della Scala is one of the top attractions in Siena, and a highlight of most walking tours of the historic center, along with the main square (Piazza del Campo) and cathedral. Siena is a popular stop on day trips to Tuscany’s Chianti region from Florence and Rome, along with Pisa or the hill towns of Tuscany. Full-day sightseeing itineraries usually include a stop for lunch and wine tasting.