Overview : Siena is one of Tuscany's true gems. A beautifully preserved medieval city that has always held on proudly to its traditions, the city... more »
Siena is one of Tuscany's true gems. A beautifully preserved medieval city that has always held on proudly to its traditions, the city... more » makes an easy day trip from Florence.
After meandering the medieval streets, stopping for a coffee and pastry or browsing Siena's elegant shops and taking in beautiful monuments, why not partake of Siena's other gift to the world - wine. A wine tasting or even better, a wine class, for those who want to delve deeper, and a nice meal would be the perfect way to spend a day taking in La Dolce Vita in Siena. less «
To reach Siena from Florence by public transport, your best bet is to take the local SITA bus (just over an hour's drive) rather than ... more »the train. The SITA bus stop is located next to Florence's Santa Maria Novella train station on Via Santa Caterina da Siena. Buses run regularly and drop you conveniently in Piazza Gramsci, in Siena's centre.
Siena is small and walkable, but it is a hill town, built on a hill top that allows some stunning views of the surrounding countryside, so bring some comfortable shoes, especially if you plan on walking up to the top of a tower for those views! less «
Arriving in Siena by bus, take a short walk to Via Banchi di Sopra, a street that immediately gives reference to the reason this city has always been so wealthy: banks.
The first point of reference is the little Piazza Salimbeni where the elegant headquarters of the world's oldest bank, Monte dei Paschi di Siena, are still located. The bank has... More been in function since 1472, when Siena was a money-handling capital.
Via Banchi di Sopra (the banks of the upper road - distinguished from Via Banchi di Sotto, the banks of the lower road, by its geographical position) is one of Siena's main arteries. Lined with nice shops and hotels (and of course banks), it is the street that will eventually lead you to Siena's heart, Piazza del Campo.
Meander down this road for a nice bit of window shopping until you reach Siena's well-known coffee shop Nannini.Less
Make an obligatory stop for a coffee and one of the excellent pastries at Cafe Nannini - a great way to start your visit of Siena.
Pay first at the cash register, then take your receipt to the counter to order.
There are some local pastries, cookies and cakes to make note of when you are in Siena. They are essentially medieval recipes and will... More guarantee you the energy you'll need to explore the medieval streets of this hill town! Be on the look out for panforte, a low, dense, calorie-bomb of a cake made of nuts, dried fruit, sugar, honey and spices and covered in icing sugar. It's great served in a thin slice with coffee.
Local cookies include ricciarelli and cavallucci, heavy cookies made with similar ingredients. Ricciarelli are almond-based, while cavallucci usually have some spices and dried fruit.Less
Quite possibly the most beautiful piazza in the world, Piazza del Campo is Siena's heart and soul. It is the site of the city's famous Palio horserace, a 600 year old tradition that sees the piazza turned into a race track for dangerously bareback jockeys. Summer is the high point for the Palio, when the races are held every 2nd of July and 16th... More of August.
The unusual, clam-shell shaped piazza was paved in 1349 in 9 sections to represent the Government of the Nine who ruled the city. This wide, open piazza contrasts greatly to the chaos of medieval streets, which were built close together and cramped, with few windows at street level.
The piazza is built in such a way that feels like all the winding medieval streets of the city naturally flow into the piazza (handy to know if you feel you're getting lost). There are, in fact, eleven little streets that will bring you into Piazza del Campo. The piazza slopes downhill towards the city hall, the Palazzo Pubblico, and its 14th century Torre del Mangia, an 88-meter tall tower (which you can visit for a stunning view across the countryside).
Note: You cannot pre-book tickets for the Torre del Mangia (open 10am-4pm) and they only allow 15 people at a time, so at certain times of the day you may find a bit of a queue where you'll have to wait to climb up. Tickets cost 8 euro.
You can also visit the Palazzo Pubblico with its beautiful frescoes, open 10am-6pm.Less
This beautiful cathedral is one of Tuscany's most striking monuments. The current structure dates back to 1215 and it is characterized by its black and white striped marble exterior AND interior, symbolic of the colors of the city of Siena: black and white.
It is an unusual cathedral in that it's main attraction is actually its floor (but don't... More dismiss the Bernini chapel, Donatello's Feast of Herod, the Michelangelo sculptures or the Pisano pulpit).
Unique in the world, the ornate floor is a sort of "mosaic" (more accurately, it is inlaid marble with graffito technique, where a black marble is ground into powder, made into a paste and used to "draw" an outline of the designs). Made up of 56 different panels designed by over 50 Italian painters between the 1300s and the 1500s, some of the world's most precious marbles were used for these decorations, showing off the wealth of this city during this time. It is extremely impressive.
Most of the year, parts of the floor are covered up to protect them but during the months of September and October, the floor gets entirely uncovered for the joy (and luck) of visitors who happen to come at this time of year. The ticket price goes up slightly but it is well worth seeing this absolute masterpiece of Tuscan art.
Also worth noting is the lovely Piccolomini library, not really used for books as much as it is a beautifully frescoed room holding chorales. The frescoes depicting the life of Siena's favourite pope, Pope Pius II, were done by Pinturicchio, an assistant of Perugino, and look as fresh today as the day they were painted (between 1502 and 1503).
The Duomo is open from 9:30am to 7:30pm most of the year (in the winter it closes earlier at 5pm). Tickets cost 3 euro, but during the uncovering of the floor they cost 6 euro. You can purchase a cumulative ticket to also visit the Baptistery and Museum of the Duomo for 10 euro.Less
After being dazzled by the beauty of Siena's Duomo, you may need to sit down and rest your legs with a wine tasting or two. After all, Siena is at the heart of some of Tuscany's most important wine regions, from Chianti to Montalcino to Montepulciano.
If you want to delve deeper into the culture of vino, choose from the crash class, the Tuscan... More wine class, the Italian wine class or (on Saturdays) a food and wine class. Three different classes are held a day, the classes run for 2 hours each.
Walk-ins are welcomed but booking ahead might also a good idea so you can fit in your preferred class with your visit of Siena.
If you find your tummy rumbling at this point, you can try the nearby Osteria del Gatto (less than a 5 minute walk away) on Via San Marco, 8 for a simple and authentic meal.
Tuscan Wine School:
Via Stalloreggi 26, Siena
Osteria del Gatto (closed Saturday lunch and Sunday all day): Via San Marco 8, Siena