Siena: the first 10 things to be seen

24 Mar

Siena is one of the most beautiful Italian cities of art.  Sixty kilometers south of Florence, Siena, one of the world heritage site by UNESCO in Tuscany, is famous for the Palio that take place every year the 2nd of July and the 16th of August, for its characteristic medieval narrow streets, the beautiful Cathedral, the unique Piazza del Campo, but not only.

Here, there is a list of the 10 most interesting monuments, churches and building to be seen during a first visit to this beautiful Tuscany city, but before describing the city’s features, it is important to underline the beauty of the countryside there around.

The Chianti hills are located north of Siena, the Crete Senesi instead are south of Siena. These two areas are proud of some of the more amazing panoramas, with unique castles, stone-farmhouses, medieval villages, unbelievable vineyards, olives’ grosves. In particular, the southern area is also rich of thermal baths and soft hills. Some of the more beautiful villages and towns aound Siena are: Monteriggioni, Colle Val d’Elsa, Castelnuovo Berardenda, Montepulciano, Montalcino and the queen of the towers: San Gimignano.


  1. Piazza del Campo the square is one of the biggest medieval ones of the world. It is really unique thanks to its particular shell-shape.  At the top of Piazza del Campo, in front of the Torre del Mangia is located the Fonte Gaia, a very beautiful fountain. The square hosts the Palio, twice a year and all the main events happening in the city.
  2. Torre del Mangia It is located in Piazza del Campo. The tower is 88 meters high and offers a wonderful breathtaking view. From here it is possible to see all of Siena: Piazza del Campo, the Cathedral a little further away and beyond, the distant hills.


3.The Cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption. It has a white and black façade, but the precious part of the church, is its interior: the floor, representing esoteric symbols and religious stories; the Piccolomini Library enriched by the frescoes of Pinturicchio; the Piccolomini Chapel, where Michelangelo worked for 3 years, carving the statues of the four lower niches, and the pulpit by Nicola Pisano, with Biblical scenes and the Life of Jesus.

After the Palio race is finished, the contradaioli (the inhabitants of the contrada) of the winning contrada, go from Piazza del Campo to the interior of the Cathedral with their flags and the just won Palio to sing a thanksgiving Tedeum. Men, women, young, kids, and old people, professionists, workers, hosewives, businnesmen, all together joint in the name of the contrada, shouting, singing and crying…. If you have the chance to assist to a Palio, immediately after it, don’t miss to go to the Cathedral and assist to the unique event of the Te Deum.


4.The Baptistery. is located very close to the Duomo. The Baptistery is the place where for many centuries the inhabitants of Siena were baptized under the rib vault of the Baptistery. Inside it is possible to admire frescoes and the bronze and marble baptismal font.

5.The Public Palace of Siena is the building of Siena’s political power. All the rulers of Siena have lived here. In the Palace you can find the Civic Museum of Siena.

6.The Civic Museum of Siena contains one very famous allegory, entitled the Bad and the Good Government, realized by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

7.The Complex of Santa Maria della Scala in the past it was a civic hospital dedicated to taking care for abandoned children, the poor, the sick, and pilgrims. Currently the complex is a museum, located in front of the the Siena’s Cathedral. Around the 1330s Santa Maria della Scala commissioned many beautiful interior and exterior frescoes as well as several important altar pieces. The Santa Maria della Scala complex hosts several museums and splendid monumental areas. Sometimes the Complex hosts also important arts’ exhibitions.


8.The Church of San Domenico contains the relic of the Holy Head of Saint Catherine from Siena, hosted in the St. Catherine Chapel, adorned by Sodoma’s frescoes.

9.Food in Siena: Siena has also a great food tradition. Some examples: the Pici senesi are handmade thick spaghetti dressed with aglione sauce, pesto or meat sauce. The Wild boar (in italian Cinta Senese) for tasty salami, ham, sausages or meat to be grilled.  In the Province, in particula in the area of Pienza, an excellent pecorino cheese is produced. The Siena  province is also a land of great wines production: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. It is also possible to visit the wines areas following the wine’s roads. Siena is a also a city with a long tradition of great desserts such as Ricciarelli, Panforte and Cavallucci and Cantucci, better if tasted with the classic Vin Santo.


10. Il Palio: this one can be considered the first reason to come to Siena. The Palio is not only a simple horse race, it is much more for the Senesi. It is a reason of life. The Senesi live the Palio all year around, and the race is a concentrated of emotions that it can be difficult to understand in full, but it is beautiful to experience live.

In addition to these first ten suggestions, I would like to add the eleventh, just for for the basket lovers: Siena has one of the longest basket tradition in Italy. The Siena team, currently called Monte dei Paschi di Siena, is one of the most prestigious Italian basket team. Don’t miss to assist to a match of Monte dei Paschi, when the team plays in Siena.

The  suggestion number twelve should have been dedicated to Accademia Chigiana, that since many years is promoting the great music in Siena.

How to arrive to Siena

Siena is 75 kilometers far (47 miles) from Florence and 40 kilometers far (25 miles) from San Gimignano.  Siena is located in the centre-south of Tuscany. It is recommended that you plan your visit in advance because is not very well directly connected to all cities.

By train The train station is about 3 kilometers from the historic center of Siena, from where it is connected by  a bus stop that takes you to the centre of the city in about 15 minutes (drop off in Piazza Gramsci or Piazza del Sale). Buy the bus ticket before getting on the bus as it’s cheaper, and  remember to validate the ticket inside the bus.

From Florence: direct line and/or change at Empoli (1h30’)

From Rome: change at Chiusi (3h)

From Pisa: change at Empoli (2h)

By bus

From FlorenceBus Station: opposite Santa Maria Novella Railway Station ‘rapida bus’ (1h 15mins) ‘diretta bus’ (1h 35 mins) Autolinee TRA-IN spa (tel. +39 0577/204245) SITA (freephone: 800 – 373760)

From Rome: Bus Station: Roma Tiburtina, (2h 45m) SENA (freephone: +39 0861 554889)

From Bologna: Airport – terminal arrival: 11.45 / 13.50 Siena Railway station Airport – terminal arrival: 18.45 / 20.50 Siena Railway station

By car

From the North: A1 exit “Firenze Certosa” Dual carriageway Firenze/Siena (40 min.)

From the South: A1 exit “Valdichiana” then Bettolle-Siena link road (2h 30min.)

From Florence: Take the “Autostrada Siena-Firenze” and follow the traffic signs to “Tangenziale Siena Ovest” (towards Arezzo/Grosseto). Exit at “Siena Sud” and follow the road signs to “Porta Romana” or Piazza Gramsci where you can look for paid parking spots.

By plane

From Florence: “Amerigo Vespucci” Airport Shuttle bus to S. Maria Novella railway station every 45 mins

From Pisa: “Galileo Galilei” Airport (150 km)

From Bologna: “G. Marconi” Airport (170 km)

Enjoy your stay in Siena renting a villa with pool with Vacavilla, a villa rentals experts offering a wide range of tailor-made solutions for your needs.

Contact Susi and Andrea at or +39 0577 1656 690



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