The Way of Saint Catherine

The Way of Saint Catherine

Experience history from the inside out: in the footsteps of the patron saint of Italy!

A walk through history.

Experience 14th century Siena in the footsteps of Saint Catherine, an extraordinary individual and patron saint of Italy. An expert guide will lead you on this tour that promises a fascinating glimpse into the everyday life of medieval Siena.

Private guided tour for groups of up to 20 people.

Departure & Meeting Point: San Domenico Church, at the dedicated “totem.”

Times & Dates:

From March 17 to October 15:

Between 10:00am - 12:00am and 3:00pm - 5:00pm (last tour at 4:00pm)

From October 16 to March 16:

Between 10:00am - 12:00am (last tour at 11:00am)

  • Tour includes admission tickets to the places to be visited. These will be picked up by the guide at OPA ticket office upon arrival at each museum.
  • You can choose to visit Santa Maria della Scala on your own (admission not included).
  • Tour guide available in Italian, English, French, German, and Spanish. Upon special request also in Portuguese, Japanese, and Hungarian.
  • Reservation must be made at least 10 days in advance.
  • Tour lasts about 90 minutes.

Save time ordering! Add all the museum tickets you want into your basket, then fill in the form and send your request.

PLEASE NOTE: Immediately after submitting an order, you will receive an email with your order summary plus a second email confirming your successful payment. A confirmation email with links to the vouchers will be sent one business day after you place your order (Monday afternoon for orders submitted on Friday and during the weekend). Please make sure that your anti-spam filter does not block automatic emails from [email protected]

IMPORTANT NOTE: The time you select on the order form is your preferred time. The museum or attraction will automatically confirm the closest available time, which can be any time during opening hours on the selected date, if your preferred time is no longer available.


For cancellations up to 7 days before the date of the visit: once a confirmation code has been assigned to the reservation, we can refund the cost of unused tickets and guide minus a service fee (reservation fee and online booking fee). Later cancellations and no shows are not refundable. Please note that the reservation fee is non-refundable.



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  • From the North: A1 Highway - exit Firenze Certosa. Take the Superstrada Firenze Siena - exit Siena Porta San Marco. Follow indications to Il Fagiolone Parking, Strada di Pescaia (checkpoint) and continue until Porta San Marco, where your visit of Siena begins.

  • From the South: A1 Highway - exit Bettolle. Then take the Raccordo Autostradale Bettolle Siena - entrance Siena West Ring Road - exit Siena Porta San Marco. Follow indications to Il Fagiolone Parking, Strada di Pescaia (checkpoint) and continue until Porta San Marco, where your visit of Siena begins.


During her lifetime, Saint Catherine of Siena exercised an irresistible charm on the people she encountered. Catherine participated fully in the life of the society of her time. Her worldly life makes her an excellent guide for those who wish to enter into the spirit, the culture, the splendor and power, the joys and the pains of 14th century Siena, one of Europe's most vibrant cities at the time.

The itinerary:

The Basilica of San Domenico

A visit to the Basilica of San Domenico is an opportunity to experience the influence of the Dominican friars in Saint Catherine’s Siena. Saint Dominic and Saint Francis created a new way of living the religious life, well-suited to the new commercial cities. Their friars did not produce everything they needed, as did monks. Instead, they depended on the generosity of the people in whose midst they lived. The Franciscan and Dominican friars were therefore known as “mendicants.”

The convents were located where the poorest people lived at the edge of town. The large size of the churches was meant to accommodate great masses of common people during religious services. Saint Catherine attended Holy Mass in this church, which dominates the district of Fontebranda where she lived, a great many times.

This place also explains Saint Catherine’s theological background: the official name of the Dominicans was the Order of Preachers, because their aim was the teaching of the truths of the faith. Raised in this tradition and despite her humble origins, Saint Catherine was able to build on a solid religious teaching. Later, she would develop this more deeply and fully with her divine revelations.

The Shrine of the House of Saint Catherine

Why is Saint Catherine's house considered more representative of her than a convent? The answer lies in the fact that Catherine belonged to the Third Order of Saint Dominic. After taking the habit of a tertiary (called “mantellata”, because a cloak was part of the habit), Catherine continued to live in her family’s house. This tradition was in keeping with the new way of living in dedication to God first introduced by Saint Francis and then adopted by Saint Dominic.

The institution of the Third Order was a response to the many faithful lay men and women who wanted to pursue an intense Christian life without living in a convent like the friars. Belonging to the Third Order offered the possibility of living the faith in the world. From the 13th century onwards, this proposal of ‘lay holiness’ captured a great number of adherents, thanks to the force of the message it contained: in every condition of life lies the opportunity to live the Gospel, and the call to holiness is not reserved for some, but is universal.

The story of Saint Catherine is an emblematic example of this way of life: living her life in her home and on the streets of the city rather than in a convent. Being a lay sister rather than a nun did not keep Catherine from entering into deep communion with God and living according to His teachings.


The public fountain of Fontebranda, the oldest in existence in Siena, leads us into the social context in which Catherine lived. It is the reason why she is remembered as the Saint of Fontebranda.

The presence of the fountain made this area one of the main centers of Sienese daily life. Siena is built on arid hills, far away from waterways, and water access was therefore of great importance to the city. Inhabitants patiently dug an extraordinary web of underground aqueducts (“bottini”) through the rock. These fed water into the city’s fountains, wells, and cisterns.

One of the main “bottini” in the system was the one at Fontebranda. Consequently, the water in this fountain was especially abundant and quenched the thirst of half the city for centuries, including that of Catherine and her family. The fountain also guaranteed the water necessary to support her father’s cloth dying business.

Via del Costone

This is where Catherine had her first vision at the age of just seven, while she was walking home from Fontebranda with her brother Stefano. The memory of this event is preserved in an open air fresco created in the 18th century.

Oratory of the Company of Saint Catherine of the Night

This evocative space is located in the heart of the thousand-year-old hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, one of the most ancient hospitals in Europe. Founded in the 9th century as an expression of God’s love for those in need, this charitable institution was first and foremost a hostel for the many pilgrims on the Via Francigena, as well as a place of welcome for the poor and for abandoned children. Over time, the care and treatment of the sick was added to these aims.

Such a place could not help attracting Catherine, who came here every day, bringing aid and comfort to those in need. Catherine prayed with the brothers and spent long nights at the bedsides of the sick in Santa Maria della Scala, seeking only moments of rest in the little cell on the left side of the oratory.

Though Catherine never became a member of the Company – membership was open only to men – the name of the Company was changed to Santa Caterina della Notte (Saint Catherine of the Night) in honor of her in 1479.


As was custom for all the citizens of Siena for centuries, Saint Catherine was baptized in the Baptistery of San Giovanni. This place has great importance, because through baptism Christians become members of the universal Church and of their local community.

Compared to the usual structure of Baptisteries, the one in Siena has some distinctive characteristics. First and foremost is its position in the back of the Cathedral rather than in front. It still fulfills its symbolic function of access to the Church, since it faces towards the heart of the city.

Price per group:
Tickets & Guide for 1 to 20 people: € 200.00
Reservation Fee: € 20.00

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