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Il Museo della Tortura--Museum of Torture

Address: Piazza del Campo (Vitolo del Bargello, 6) Siena, Italy




Hours: Only on Saturday and Sunday 10:00am-18:00  

Students: Euro 7  

Adults:    Euro 10

With the purchase of one ticket at the Museum of Torture, you can go to the death penalty museum in San Gimignano for free…for life!


The Beginning The Museum of Torture was built on 26 ottobre 1972. I find it interesting that the information on the plaques do not indicate whether or not the specified method of torture was used in Italy or in what parts of Italy if used. Some of the plaques also stated that some of the torture techniques are still practiced in different parts of the world. I had to catch myself when I read that. I had assumed that because these methods of torture are not generally practiced on people in America (although maybe practiced on captured terrorists and other 'wanted' individuals by the government),that they could not possibly be performed on people in other societies. I made a generalization based on my American background. My views of modernization are up for change as I consider the information I learned about while visiting this museum. 

I had the chance to go to the torture museum in San Gimignano recently. If you have seen one torture museum, you have seen them all. The majority of replicas in San G. were very similar to Siena's museum. However, there was a small exhibit on Seppuku, a form of suicide (by disembowelment) committed by samurai warriors to preserve their honor and escape torture from enemies. 

 My Visit

The Museum of Torture in Siena, Italy is a hidden gem in one of the many narrow strade(streets) near Piazza del Campo. When my Visual Memoryscapes partner, Nina, and I visited the museum for the first time, it was empty, except for a few other American students and tourists. There weren’t any locals and it wasn’t the ‘cool’ place to be. I could see people standing outside of the museum, chatting with one another, not daring to enter.

Now from the outside, the museum doesn’t look like much. At first glance, I thought it was a hokey museum just for tourists. It is kind of hokey and touristy, since the plaques had various translations, including English. We were also allowed to take pictures of the torture instrument replicas. In the background, ambient, medieval music played to set the mood and the smell of incense filled the room. 

Of course I think torture is cruel and gruesome, but I can’t help finding it fascinating. While looking at the past, and even in current societies that still use these torture methods today, we can question and analyze what it means to be human in these acts of torture.

 The Inquisitorial Trial

The Registrar would write down every utterance of his victim, including cries of pain in his book of records, while the victim hung from a rope that bind his hands together. 


The Interrogation Chair

A chair of torture (with spikes), or what the museum calls ‘the interrogation chair.’  If you survived the chair, you would certainly come out with bloody flesh wounds.



Genital Extractor



This finely crafted instrument, though seemingly harmless (maybe) was used to extract the genitals specifically from heretical preachers and male homosexuals.

Punishment of Children

 I found it especially disturbing when I got to the plaque about corporal punishment in schools. For lazy, disobedient children, punishment would consist of being whipped, kneeling on grains of corn for hours at a time, or sitting on a toy donkey (similar to a rocking chair) and getting ‘flogged,’ beaten by the teacher while the students watched, to learn from the beating so as not to disobey.

There is plenty to see and learn about the different mechanisms of torture. I won’t spoil the rest for you. See the museum for yourself, if you‘re aren‘t easily disgusted!


Photos taken by Kristin Disarufino, except for  'the genital extractor'

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Taken on January 21, 2013