Yes, our favorite place in Italy is not Florence but Siena. A medieval city in the Tuscany region surrounded by olive groves and vineyards of Chianti. Its romantic, it’s alluring and it’s captivating. Winding alleyways, tall stone colored country houses, cobblestone pathways and roadside restaurants with candle lights.
Siena is indeed one of the most popular places in Tuscany, rich in art & history with deep-seated local traditions and is famous for the horse race called Palio which is the biggest annual event of Siena.
The apartment we stayed in probably was owned by someone who too had a deep interest in art and culture. Beautiful paintings and great books. This is the good part of Europe- the homes speak of their sophisticated taste and love for art.
We were in Sienna for a day only. Sure, you can finish most sightseeing places of Sienna in a day or two but this place is not really for touch and go tourism. We could have happily spent a week in Siena alone, given enough time.
Morning walks in alleys admiring the medieval architecture and world-famous frescos, afternoons with colorful gelatos & truffles, evenings with music, theatre & cultural shows ending in dinner at one of those cute roadside restaurants. What say?
And of course, you could also go for the popular wine tours in Chianti region around Siena. Compelling right?
Siena city is easily walkable so no need to worry about local transport as long as you plan to stay in the center of the city. However, please note Siena doesn’t have metro and the Siena train station is outside the city so you may have to take a bus or a taxi to reach your accommodation.
Places to see in Siena – One-day Itinerary
Siena is a UNESCO heritage site with significantly different and well-preserved architecture. So much to see in a day.
Piazza del Campo
One among the most important medieval squares in the whole of Europe, Piazza del Campo is a slopping Piazza renowned for its architectural integrity. Once a Roman marketplace, this Piazza has always been the center of all social and civic life of Siena. And you would find many buildings and landmarks of historic importance that surround the piazza. It has 9 sectors representing each of the 9 ruling governers/landlords who were in charge of the city once upon a time.
If you visit Siena during July-August, you may also witness Palio, the famous horse race, and festival that is conducted twice a year in the same Piazza. You would find most other Siena attractions around this piazza namely, Torre del Mangia, Palazzo Publico and Fountain Gaia.
Torre del Mangia
Let me warn you, this tower wasn’t built for tourists to easily climb up and down. Its a 102 meters tall tower looming over Piazza del Campo. The initial steps may seem no sweat but as you go higher, climbing the uneven stairs could be a daunting task. Unlike Mangiaguadagni not everyone can do it. As legend says, Giovanni di Balduccio, who was nicknamed Mangiaguadagni, the first bell ringer would climb all steps at a particular time of the day to ring the bell for the public of Siena. Hmm, must have been quite an energetic person. You can see here, I chose to stay downstairs however they say the panoramic view of Siena from the tower is incredible.
Please note: The Civico museum is also in the same building so if you like, take the combined ticket for the museum as well the tower.
Museo dell’ Opera Metropolitana
This museum in the south of Siena Cathedral, is also a good place for the panoramic views of Siena besides the fact that it hosts one of the greatest masterpieces of the early Fourteenth century by Buoninsegna: the altarpiece of the Majesty.
Once you reach Piazza del duomo, you can visit the Cathedral, the Crypt, and the Piccolomini Library. We had bought a combined pass – OPASi Pass to see all Siena attractions which made perfect sense. The Cathedral is a Roman style-Gothic church in Italy. Absolutely gorgeous interiors augmented with works of artists like Donatello and Michelangelo.
The crypt is below the cathedral. You would find frescoes representing scenes of the Old and New Testament here. Another place to admire frescos is the Piccolomini Library. Here’s the picture that I took.
Located in Piazza San Giovanni, St. John baptistery is also richly decorated with beautiful frescoes. At the center, there’s a baptismal font adorned with bas-relief bronze plates developed by some of the greatest sculptors of the Renaissance including Donatello.
The piazza itself is so photogenic and look at the grand entrance door.
One thing we had missed was Santa Maria della Scala, one of the oldest hospitals in Europe. It is located right in front of the duomo. Please include this too in your itinerary, if you have time.
Siena did strike my heart at the first visit itself, am sure you will love it too. Let us know if you have been to Siena in Italy or if you are planning to go. Please comment below if you have anything to share. Buon viaggio !