What to see and visit in Siena, Italy? What are the main points of interest of this wonderful city that so attracts international tourism? You will be soon amazed, when, having reached it by public transport or leaving your car in one of the car parks, you will be greeted by the historic centre of Siena and be immediately struck by the light and colours of this medieval city, not surprisingly famous for the colour that takes its name, the Sienna. See it for yourself to understand! Siena, Italy is considered the most gentle city in Tuscany and many (especially the Sienese) consider their dialect as the nearest to the Italian official. But here in Siena you will not hear the dialect expressions of Arezzo, Pisa or Florence. Among historic buildings, squares and churches, there are numerous things to do in Siena and its surroundings area, and we suggest you wear comfortable shoes because the streets are quite hilly. Take your time, to enjoy every corner of this city, and when you reach the Piazza del Campo, finally you can have a rest or even lie down! Make the most of it, you are in the heart of Siena! In Siena, Italy the points of interest and monuments are plentiful, but no place is like this square. Piazza del Campo has a unique form: a shell with nine segments separated by white lines, a terracotta floor with reddish brick colour and a very inclined slope that makes it unique in the world. The very high tower you see in the background is the Torre del Mangia, named in honour of its medieval bell ringer nicknamed 'Mangiaguadagni'. Closer to you is the Fonte Gaia, another unmistakable element of the square. Evaluate your endurance and your resistance to vertigo before climbing to the top of the tower! It could just be enough for you to visit the Chapel of Piazza although the view from up there is really sublime!
The descent of the square leads you to the beautiful Palazzo Comunale silhouetted against the sky, in continuity with the reddish colours of the floor: the building dates back to the times of the Republic of Siena. What to see in Siena once you arrive? Inside the Palazzo Pubblico (another name for the building) is the Civic Museum, divided into rooms with noble names such as the Hall of the Globe, Hall of Nine, Cardinals Hall... you will see that there are many works of art and things to see in Siena. The museum boasts masterpieces of Tuscan artists, including Ambrogio Lorenzetti (Effects of Good Government), Domenico di Niccolò, Simone Martini (of the latter artist we highlight the famous fresco of the Majesty).
On the second floor you will find the Loggia, from where it is possible to enjoy a great view of the Market Square. Besides a museum, the building has a beautiful courtyard (Cortile del Podesta): here you can admire frescoes, badges and decorations of the 14th century, at the time of the Government of the Nine in Siena. Visiting these Siena sights will take you back in time through an aristocratic and quiet atmosphere. When you exit the building observe the square ' from below ' and notice the palaces all around : if you not standing against the sun, take plenty of photos!
It may be, though, that what you are looking for is a bit of the action and excitement of the medieval battles. You are lucky because the city of Siena is ideal for this kind of time travel! We do not want to take you to another museum, don’t worry.
It's finally time for us at toscanainside.com to speak of the famous Palio of Siena. One of the best things to do in Siena, Italy is to attend this incredible and unique race. The giostra of the Palio, we must warn you, is not exactly just one of those things to see in Siena, but one of those to take part in with passion! The city is completely absorbed and enthralled by this important event that annually attracts visitors from all over the world. We suggest you make a note of these two dates: July 2 and August 16. On these two days every year the seventeen districts of Siena challenge each other in a medieval joust on horseback. Tuscany is often synonymous with traditions and historical re-enactments, but here this is evident even more! The discrepancies between families of different districts of the town, the separations of the districts, the fanaticism of the race, the organizational commitment and pride of the city are the engines of this event full of expectations and enthusiastic citizens. If during your tour of Tuscany it is useful to have a guide book for visiting Siena, a separate one would be needed to understand the rules and history of the Palio. And you, what district do you support? The Goose or the Porcupine? It is hard to choose ...
Far from the fury of the race other places await equally interesting and quieter to discover Siena with a Siena guide and to fully understand and appreciate its beauty. Like any city in Tuscany, here there is a majestic cathedral full of treasures. The Cathedral of Siena is located just off the Piazza del Campo and boasts a range of colours different to the buildings we mentioned above: the marble of the Church of Santa Maria Assunta is in fact black and white; it is a special feature that you will notice already at first glance. What you cannot see from the outside are, however, the floor full of decorations and the mysterious Piccolomini Library (Piccolomini was the name of Pius III before he became Pope). The Library is located on the left aisle of the church and its interior has frescoes by Pinturicchio and the Piccolomini Altar designed by Andrea Bregno. When you are, instead, under the Dome, raise your eyes to the ceiling and you will discover a true wonder! Among the statues that are likely to attract your attention , there may be the four by Michelangelo, look carefully! Not least is the Pulpit by Nicola Pisano in the 13th century: an authentic sculptural and architectural masterpiece with alternating scenes from the life of Jesus, biblical symbols and allegories.
After this tour you will have seen the Siena’s main sights which are some of the most important in the history of art and architecture...apart from the Baptistery of St. John, just behind the cathedral. For the Siena inhabitants it is a very important because of the Baptismal Font which is at the centre of the Baptistery. The gilded bronze reliefs represent episodes from the life of St. John the Baptist and were born from the minds and hands of several artists, including Jacopo della Quercia and Donatello. The church also hosts a beautiful cycle of frescoes by Renaissance artists from Siena.
After your visit to Siena, it is also worthwile to explore and discover Siena’s surroundings. We perfectly agree. Take a break to taste Chianti or Vernaccia of San Gimignano and sit back and think again of all the wonders you have just seen. If you want to explore wine further, we suggest a take a nice day trip to Montalcino!
Perhaps, before moving on to the second glass, you had better think about putting something in your stomach ...
The city of Siena is famous for its olive oil from the hills of Chianti and its traditional Tuscan cuisine which is one of the simplest ones in Tuscany. Let us guide you through the different moments of the day: in the morning go to Nannini and sample ricciarelli or cavallucci (don’t bother with Panforte when you have just woken up) with a nice cappuccino. Lunch could include boar crostini and pecorino cheese with honey, whereas in the evening treat yourself to ribollita with bean or pici with hare sauce. If you want to leave the restaurant at the end of the dinner with a sweet taste in your mouth, ask for a glass of house Vin Santo.
In the evening the historic centre of Siena is pretty quiet, the shops you saw animated during the day are closed and the locals tend to return home by midnight. Despite this city houses some of the most important universities of the region (Law, Medicine, Anthropology and many others) and the University for Foreigners, student life is not noisy and causes little disruption to the city. Perhaps the continuing vision of such beauty is making its inhabitants so in tune with the environment, or perhaps young people prefer to study and enjoy the parties in the students lodgings? In any case, it will be one of the most romantic walks of your life: enjoy the silence between the narrow medieval streets and the night sky above you and then lie down in Piazza del Campo to watch the constellations.
If you have a few more days at your disposal to discover Siena in Italy, we suggest another destination that is definitely worth seeing. Siena hosts, in front of the Duomo, the museum complex of Santa Maria della Scala. It is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe and an ancient xenodochio. Nothing strange: this technical term used to indicate its ancient function. Xenodochio is a word of Greek origin: the term is created by Xenos which means foreigner and docheion (from the verb dèchomai 'to get, to receive') and it basically means receptacle, place of collection. During the Middle Ages, this structure needed to house and shelter pilgrims and strangers on the road. Since the Via Francigena was passing by this place, it was a very busy place and provided a safe palce for travellers. The ancient hospital was run by monks and was a place of help for the poor and the orphans of the city. Today the large complex is divided into four levels and different areas, offers you the opportunity both to visit the Archaeological Museum (with Etruscan and Roman finds) and the whole structure of the old building: it is certainly something fascinating worth visiting in Siena.
If you want to move from the centre and stay in the outdoors, but do not want to venture too far from the city of Siena, you can head to the Medici Fortress in the district of San Prospero, or climb to the top of the city to spend the afternoon at the Orto dei Tolomei. In the latter, you'll notice a strange sculpture: if at first glance it seems like a pear, then you're like the Siena inhabitants (although it really should be a drop!). The sculpture 'The Drop' is a work by the famous contemporary sculptor Tony Gragg: 7 meters high and made of travertine (limestone) it has been in the city since 1998 thanks to an exhibition dedicated to the British artist in 2000 when it was moved to the Orto dei Tolomei. In the summer the park holds concerts, shows and film festivals for all to enjoy during the cool evenings!
Finally, do you want to visit the places to see around Siena? There are numerous interesting places without going too far: Crete Senesi, Val d'Orcia, Monte Amiata, and the Terme of Rapolano. You can make itineraries dedicated to nature, to relax or wine and dine. However, if you prefer medieval villages then we suggest a trip to San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, you will be ecstatic, trust us!
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Day trip to Siena, San Gimignano and the Chianti area: departure from Florence
Duration: approx. 11 hours
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Food and wine walking tour of Florence at sunset
Duration: approx. 2 hours
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Private guided tour of Siena with a short course in ice cream making
Duration: approx. 1 hour and 30 min.
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Private day tour from Livorno Port to Florence and Siena
Duration: approx. 10 hours
Tours & Activities
Private day tour from Livorno Port to Siena and San Gimignano
Duration: approx. 10 hours