Siena is a small city in the charming region of Tuscany, Italy. It has a little bit more 50,000 residents, and for most travellers, it is love at first sight. From historical medieval streets and delicious food, to great events, such as the famous Palio horse race, Siena is a little piece of heaven in the middle of Tuscany. Additionally, the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which makes it worth the visit, doesn’t it?
Set on three hills, Siena benefits from a variety of environments that surround it. You can take advantage of them with day trips to beautiful towns like San Gimignano or enjoy wine tasting in the Chianti area, one of the most beautiful countrysides of Italy. There are many things Siena has to offer and this is why we have created the ultimate guide to visit Siena.
Siena is one of the best places to visit in Tuscany. It is a city full of history and tradition, with events such as the Palio di Siena. We hope you enjoy the city and its surroundings as much as possible and that you’ll want to return again!
This ultimate travel guide to Siena will show you all the most beautiful places in Siena, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Siena and things to do in Siena which will help you in planning a trip to Siena.
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Table of Contents
How to Get to Siena
Located in the middle of Tuscany, it is really easy to reach Siena from other regions by car, train or bus. The closest town to Siena is Florence, just 90km away, or you can arrive from Pisa, which is 120 kilometers away. There are many trains departing regularly to Florence, especially from big cities such as Milan or Rome. You can check the official website of Trenitalia, the national railway system.
Even though the train station is situated outside the city (2km distance), you can easily take a bus from the train station to the city center of Siena. If you are traveling on a budget we recommend you to look into Flixbus, which offers bus tickets at prices between 5-15 euro (one-way trip) from Rome, Milan or Florence. If you arrive by car, it is important to know that the city center is closed to vehicle traffic, so inside the city, plan to walk or use public transportation.
What to Expect in Siena
The primary language in Siena is Italian and there is no specific dialect. In general, younger people tend to speak English more than older adults, so this is a great opportunity to learn some Italian words! Italians are warm and friendly people, so don’t be put off if they seem too enthusiastic and boisterous. They just like to interact with people and have fun. In general, expect a lot of easy going people, ready to enjoy life every single day!
Also, when it comes to tipping in Italy, it should be based on the quality of the service provided. It is not mandatory to include the tipping in the bill (it is called servizio incluso), although you might find it in many places (especially touristic ones). Although there is no set-in-stone rule for tipping in Italy, it is is highly appreciated, so most patrons simply round up to the nearest euro per bill.
How to Get Around Siena
Getting around Siena is quite easy. It is not a big city, and you’ll be delighted to walk on narrow streets full of beautiful brick buildings with charming colors. Something important to take into account is that the historical center can be reached only on foot. (A bike or scooter is also an option, if you want an Italian Vespa experience).
If you want to explore the areas around Siena, you can rent a car for a day or take a public bus to get to places such as San Gimignano. If you prefer to leave the driving to the locals, then taxis are also available. For organizing day trips, you can check out our recommendations at the bottom of the post.
The Best Time to Visit Siena
Siena has a typical Mediterranean climate, with the hottest month being July. April, May, September and October are the best months to visit Siena, when the temperature is between 16 and 24 grades. If you go during Autumn, you might get the chance to see vineyards at their best or, if you are more interested in historical tradition, you can go during July and August, when the famous horse-races called Palio take place.
Palio di Siena is a horse race held twice a year, on the 2nd of July and the 16th of August and it lasts for four days. The event takes place in the main square of the city, where ten horses and riders represent ten of the seventeen contrade (city wards) in a complex race. The origins of Palio are from medieval times and it is an exciting tradition for everyone! If you wish to have an unforgettable memory and you are willing to suffer the heat, Palio di Siena is the best time to visit Siena!
Things to Do in Siena
There are many things you can do in Siena while enjoying the charming streets. Start by visiting the heart of the city, the beautiful Piazza del Campo. This is one of the landmarks of the city! After this, you can head towards del Duomo. Fortunately, most of the landmarks are in between these two, but of course you are free to explore every single corner of the city. Even though one day is enough to see the city, take your time to truly enjoy the Tuscan spirit.
Piazza del Campo
Piazza del campo is a magical place. It is the center of life of Siena since 1300. In the past, the market here was the place for Sienese gatherings during important events, such as politics, parties or simple celebrations. The Square holds landmarks such as Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia.
The Palazzo Pubblico serves as the seat of the Republic of Siena’s government, and it is also the home of The Civic Museum. This museum is a must-see because it has one of the world’s most famous allegories: The Bad and the Good Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. Ready for some art?
Climb to the top of the Torre del Mangia
Not moving at all from Piazza del Campo, you have the opportunity to see the whole city from Torre del Mangia. Whether you are in shape or not, climbing to the top of the Torre del Mangia is a must for the breathtaking view. From the top, you can see all of Siena: Piazza del Campo, the cathedral and also the hills beyond Siena. The tower is 88 meters tall, and you have to climb around 400 steps! It is quite an effort, but it is totally worth it!
In the square you can also find Fonte Gaia, with blue water and impressive architecture. Even though the architect is unknown, the fountain has always been loved by locals and it is considered a landmark of the city. Many times locals set up the fountain as a meeting point. “See you at the fountain!” and everyone knows where this is. It is a beautiful fountain and in the summer, you can find a lot of surrounding bars and terraces where you can relax.
Cathedral of Siena
Siena’s Cathedral, “Duomo di Siena,” is a medieval church dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. The church was consecrated in 1215 and completed in 1348, with an interesting architecture style mixing Gothic, Romanesque and Classic.
The façade of the cathedral is impressive; it has 35 statues of prophets and patriarchs grouped around the Virgin. You can also find the Piccolomini Library here, with important choir books and frescoes painted by Pinturicchio (or Umbrian Bernandino di Betto).
The Church of San Domenico
Another landmark you might want to see is the Church of San Domenico. It is characterized by its impressive architecture and the relic of the Holy Head of Saint Catherine from Siena. Although Siena is full of religious spots, they each represent the vast history of this medieval city. As many of the tourist attractions are located between the Cathedral and Piazza del Campo, it is easy to see a lot of the city just by walking around!
What to Eat in Siena
Besides the traditional pizza & pastas that you can eat all over Italy, there are a few dishes that are a MUST when you visit Siena.
The best pasta in Siena is called Pici. It is a kind of pasta from Celle sul Rigo in Valdorcia that is special because it is made only with flour and water. No eggs are included in the original recipe; this makes the spaghetti quite thick and rough. Usually you can eat the Pici Cacio e Pepe (with seasoned pecorino cheese and black pepper) or Pici all’aglione (with tomato sauce and a lot of garlic.)
Siena also has a lot of local cheese, soup, sausages and liver to try. Whatever you eat in Siena, do not forget to try the great wines that this province offers, such as Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Montepulciano and Vernaccia di san Gimignan.
If you are more into desserts, luckily you have plenty of options! From cantucci biscuits, to panforte, cavallucci and ricciarelli, there are plenty of sweet treats in Siena to satisfy your sugar cravings!
Where to Stay in Siena
Siena is not as popular with tourists as Rome, Florence or even Pisa, yet it has a lot of hidden places that make your stay totally worth it. The most convenient place to stay is the city center, but expect hotels to have higher prices because of the location. You can find cheaper accommodation a little bit further from the city center but plan to spend more time, and money, traveling to and from the city center each day.
You can check websites such as booking.com and Airbnb.com to find hostels or rent apartments and houses. If you are on a budget or on a solo-trip and you want to meet new people, you can check hostelword.com, which has several hostel listings in Siena.
Tours to Do in Siena
Sure, you can take a free walking tour or just walk around on your own and enjoy the city. But why not doing something different? Here are a two unusual things to do in Siena Italy that you might really want to try:
Italy is most famous for Italian cuisine, so why not create your own experience with Italian food? Try one of the cooking tours in Siena, where students learn how to cook specific dishes, while learning the history and culinary techniques of Siena. At the same time, enjoy the company of other travelers and foodies.
Of course, let’s not forget about the best part of a Siena cooking class: eating the delicious Tuscan cuisine. Once home, you can relive your Tuscan vacation by recreating these dishes in your own kitchen.
Explore Siena and its surroundings in a FIAT 500
Do you want to have a real Italian experience? Driving a FIAT 500 is a travel memory you won’t forget! On this tour, you’ll have the opportunity to drive around in one of the most iconic cars of Italy, enjoying the Italian breeze and the Mediterranean sunshine! Not to mention all the amazing Instagram photos you’ll have of you in your cool car.
Day Trips from Siena
Day Trip to San Gimignano, Chianti and Montalcino
Once you’ve explored all the fun things to do in Siena, it’s time to plan a few day trips from Siena. In one day, you can see the charming landscapes of San Gimignano old town, the strong Montalcino fortress and the breathtaking Chianti valley. A guided tour will visit the highlights of the region, allowing time for wine tasting in Chianti.
Bike tour and wine tasting
Do you prefer a more active way to explore the region surrounding Siena? A cycling tour of Tuscan vineyards is the perfect tour for travelers who want to combine adventure and culture. You’ll be able to ride through quiet country roads and vineyards, with the chance to taste the classic Chianti wine.
Truffle Hunting Tour
Have you ever asked yourself where truffles come from? Find out on a tour of Tuscan forests. With a guide and trainer dog, you’ll learn about the mysterious process of finding the most prestigious raw food in the world.
Recommend tours in Siena
- Skip the Line: Siena Duomo and City Walking Tour
- Small-Group Brunello di Montalcino Wine-Tasting Trip from Siena
- Small-Group San Gimignano and Volterra Day Trip from Siena
- Small-Group Montepulciano and Pienza Day Trip from Siena
- Self-Drive Vintage Fiat 500 Tour from Siena: Tuscan Hills and Winery Lunch
- Hot Air Balloon Flight Over Tuscany from Siena
- Private Tour: Secret Siena Walking Tour
- Perugia and Assisi Private Umbria Day Trip from Siena
- Sensory Wine Tour and tasting in Siena
- Siena Private Photo Shoot
- The best of Siena – Private Walking Tour
- Tuscan Cooking Class in Siena
- Chianti and Castle Tour from Siena
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