During your vacation in Tuscany one of the places you must visit is the city of Siena that you can easily see in a day. It is located south of Florence and is an hour’s drive away.
Siena is the best example of a medieval city built on three hills, and it is still characterized by small up and down alleys, red brick houses and fascinating squares and architecture.
It is known for being the city of the Palio, the most famous historical horse race in the world that has taken place in Siena twice a year since the Middle Ages and is always celebrated with great enthusiasm by locals and visitors.
Being a medieval city, it might take some time to figure out how to find your way, but this is also its charm: getting lost and exploring unexpected corners is what we really recommend!
If you only have one day to spend in Siena you can find below our suggestions to get the real taste of this fascinating town.
1. Piazza del Campo: this is definitely a must-see in Siena, the only shell-shaped square in Tuscany very famous for hosting the Palio horse race every July and August but also full of splendid views and attractions that usually can be seen in postcards such as the Fonte Gaia, a Renaissance public fountain that stands in the center of the large square.
2. Palazzo Pubblico is the large palace that stands in Piazza Campo and has been a political seat since the Middle Ages. The high tower known as Torre del Mangia literally tower of eating, offers an unforgettable view from the top. The best way to climb the tower and also to visit the Civic Museum with impressive medieval art masterpieces is to buy the ticket directly at the ticket office: it is not necessary to book in advance.
3. Basilica of San Domenico, is the church close to the Medici Fortress in the western part of the city. The Dominicans founded the basilica during the 1200s and it is very important for Siena because it houses the relics of Saint Catherine who is the patron saint of Italy and because all the districts of the Palio are represented inside with their flags: a mixture of sacred and profane! Click here you can have more information.
4. Santuario Casa di Santa Caterina, the Sanctuary is not far from the Basilica and is the birthplace of Santa Caterina who lived there and performed some miracles. This is a very sacred place that tells you a lot about the history of Siena. You can visit the house, the small church and the medieval portico. Free access! See the official website to learn more
5. Vicolo delle Carrozze, this is undoubtedly the most authentic medieval alley in the city and an unmissable stop on your trip to Siena. First you have to find it because it is a bit hidden, but the right directions are, take Via Diacceto and find it parallel to via Franciosa. It also houses the headquarters of the Selva contrada, one of the very interesting districts of the Palio to visit.
6. Loggia della Mercanzia is an elegant loggia located in Via dei Banchi di Sopra, the main shopping street of the city just above Piazza del Campo. It was built in marble in 1400 with a style in transition from Gothic to Renaissance and decorated with the statues of the important patron saints of Siena. It was the place where merchants sat with their stalls and exchanged money and is today a point of interest and a crossroads for the city.
7. Duomo of Siena, the Cathedral of Siena dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a masterpiece of the Gothic style in Italy. The rich decoration on the outside gives an idea of the beauty of the treasures you can find inside. An incomparable inlaid marble floor and a huge number of works by the best Tuscan artists will make you understand the richness of Siena in the Middle Ages. You can visit the cathedral by booking your ticket here.
8. Battistero di San Giovanni, behind the Duomo is the Siena Baptistery, connected by a majestic marble staircase. It is worth visiting to admire the works of Donatello, one of the fathers of the Renaissance. Book your tickets in advance by checking here.
9. Santa Maria della Scala Museum Complex , the museum tells the art, history and archeology of Siena since its foundation and is a highlight for culture lovers. The building that houses the exhibitions was born as a hospital that welcomed pilgrims and is also the oldest hospital in history that is definitely worth a visit. To find out and book a ticket see here.
10. Palazzo Chigi Saracini, is located along Via della Città one of the main medieval streets of Siena characterized by many other noble palaces. It is a good example of medieval construction which was then enhanced with Renaissance elements. It houses the important Chigiana Music Academy that calls musicians from all over the world and also inside it is possible to visit an art gallery with works of excellence. Find more information here
If you visit Siena in the next future and you wish to experience the city with a local guide have a look at our page.
How to reach Siena city centre:
From Florence or Pisa Airport you can reach Siena only reaching first Florence Santa Maria Novella from where either the bus or train are leaving. To reach Florence Santa Maria Novella you find the shuttle or the metro outside the terminals.
From Firenze Santa Maria Novella you can take the local regional train to Siena (twice per hours and just one direct) main station in Piazza Rosselli that is not located in the city centre but a bit outside. To reach the centre you can take a taxi or you can walk climbing the stairway which takes you to Porta Camollia (500 mt distance)
From Firenze Autostazione placed in Via Santa Caterina da Siena, find the bus which takes you to Siena (choose the fast and direct one) main station in Piazza Rosselli that is not located in the city centre but a bit outside. To reach the centre you can take a taxi or you can walk climbing the stairway which takes you to Porta Camollia (500 mt distance)
From the A1 Autostrada (motorway) take the Exit Firenze Impruneta and follow the direction to Siena (Firenze – Siena) and exit at Siena Nord. You can park the car at your hotel or at the public parking of La Fortezza.
Blog created by our tour guide Chiara Degano!