Few buildings have pedigrees as splendid as this 13th-century palace. Home of the Piccolomini family (of which Pope Pius II was the most prominent member) during the Renaissance, it was acquired by the powerful Saracini family in the 18th century and inherited a century later by a scion of the wealthy Roman Chigi family. Today it houses the Fondazione Accademia Musicale Chigiana and its art-adorned interiors are a testament to the wealth, erudition and taste of the Saracini and Chigi families.
Highlights include the Rococo concert hall, the dining room with its unusual 'painted tapestry' walls and the salotti (salons), which house paintings produced between the 13th and 18th centuries. Valuable decorative arts and furniture include antique musical instruments, such as Liszt's piano and the oldest harpsichord in existence. A collection of photographs of famous artists who have been guests here is a testament to the musical taste of the last Chigi owner, Guido Chigi Saracini, who established the fondazione in 1932. These have included Arthur Rubinstein, Pietro Mascagni, Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim.
The only way to visit the entire palace interior is to join a one-hour guided tour. Note that these are sometimes postponed in winter, and when musical master classes are in progress. For tours in English, it is essential to book in advance by email or telephone.
There is also a small picture gallery and a cafe on the ground floor; the latter has both courtyard and indoor seating.