Siena, one of the top hill towns to visit in Tuscany, has two events not to be missed. First is the exciting horse race for the Palio of Siena, run twice in summer around Siena's main square, Piazza del Campo. The second important annual event is the unveiling of the magnificent floor mosaics in the cathedral, il Duomo di Siena.
Dating from the 14th - 16th centuries, these stunning mosaics were created by pricnipal artists of the time. They depict 56 scenes including stories from the Bible and secular scenes. On display for a short period each year, most of the mosaics are kept covered for protection since the cathedral is still in use and sees many worshipers and visitors. During 2012, the mosaics are uncovered from August 18 through October 24 and can be seen with a special ticket purchased at the cathedral.
The 13th century duomo itself is one of Italy's best examples of a Gothic cathedral with Romanesque elements. Its black and white striped facade is adorned with intircate carvings and statues. Inside are many important art works, on display all year, including frescoes by Pinturicchio, a beautiful marble pulpit with carved figures, and creations by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Donatello. A few of the mosaic panels are visible all year as well.
In addition to the cathedral, visitors should also see the other parts of the monumental complex - the Baptistery, the richly frescoed Piccolomini Library with a collection of illuminated books, and the Crypt under the duomo that presents an archeological look at the site.