This Historic Center of Siena is a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site located in the Siena Province of Central Italy. Home to Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque houses and important historical attractions, this charming Medieval city will surely surprise you. Although most visitors only visit the city on a day-trip tour from Florence, Rome or Pisa, we suggest staying overnight so you can accomplish everything at an easy pace. Whether this is your first trip to Italy or you’ve been here a few times before, a weekend adventure to the city opens up tons of new and interesting things to do. The sequence of activities and attractions below are just a guide and you can definitely change it to suit your interests.
Things to know before traveling to Siena, Italy:
Language – Italian is the official language of Italy. Most Italian in the city and other main tourists spots, speak English so you can absolutely get by without speaking Italian language. Like other countries, speaking at least some Italian phrases or attempting to learn is greatly appreciated by the locals.
Etiquette – Most Italians don’t like vulgar and loud people. As a visitor, you are expected to behave politely and dress appropriately. When you enter a shop or restaurant, acknowledge the people by saying “Buon Giorno”. First impressions are important, so conduct yourself properly while being aware of any social hierarchies. Always greet with Signore (for a man) and Signora (for a woman) followed by the family name. If you get into conversation with an Italian, do not go on the subject of mafia as this is considered to be rude.
Currency exchange – Italy uses euros, the same currency now used by most Western European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Norway. Prior to traveling, you can buy some euros (enough for one day or whatever your preference) and then exchange your money in the banks to get the best rates. You can also use the ATMs (called bankomat) at all main squares of every town, major airports and train stations. Credits cards are commonly accepted in most shops, restaurants and hotels. If you are going to take taxis, please note that most taxi drivers prefer cash payments as credit card transactions require them to pay a commission to the banks.
Getting there – The city of Siena, the capital of Siena Province, is located in Central Italy. If you are coming from Florence (Main Train Station), travel time to Siena can last up to 1 hour and 30 minutes. If you prefer a direct travel from Florence’s airport, then you may take a bus at the auto-stazione (bus station) in Via Santa Caterina da Siena, which gets you in the heart of the city. You may use the Go Euro App or website to help you navigate independently in Italy.
Getting around – The historical center of Siena is small enough to explore on foot and pedestrian-friendly since bicycles and automobiles are prohibited. Make sure to download a map or print a map before your trip. Also, ask directions from your hotel since the orientation in Siena can be quite confusing. If you are short on time or you prefer less time walking outside the historic center, you may get around bus network and taxis.
Where to stay – Siena offers heaps of accommodation to suit every pocket, from budget hostels to luxury cave hotels, where you can base yourself for your stay. Staying at one of the charming monasteries turned hotels in the city is one of those quintessential Siena experience which can’t be skipped. There are plenty of accommodations offered online, especially in Airbnb, so make sure to read reviews first before you make your reservation.
Hotels to consider in Siena:
Grand Hotel Continental Siena – Starhotels Collezione
Day by day itinerary: 2 days in Siena, Italy:
Depending on your time of arrival, you can either take it easy and soak up the atmosphere in Siena or you can begin your tour of its famous attractions. After your arrival, check into your preferred hotel/guest house. Rest and settle in before you start the tour. Make sure to drop by the Siena Tourist Information Office at Piazza Duomo to get printed maps, bus schedules and tour recommendations.
Undoubtedly one of the best travel experiences in Siena is a visit to the medieval Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral). Considered as one of the finest Romanesque-Gothic churches in Italy. the Duomo houses the works of Michaelangelo, Donatello and Pissano. This walking tour can certainly be done on a DIY-style, but we recommend a guided tour called the Gate to Heaven (Porta del Cielo) Tour so you can appreciate its cultural and historical relevance. Cathedral tours normally include a visit to the Biblioteca Piccolomini (Piccolomini Library), Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana, Panorama dal Facciatone, and Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistery).
Another way to get acquainted with the city is by visiting Complesso Museale Santa Maria della Scala, which is one of the most loved museums in Siena. A tour in this medieval hospital turned museum will give visitors insights into ancient Siena history. Some of the most notable parts of this hospital complex are Church of Santissima Annunziata, Pellegrinaio (Pilgrim’s Hall) and Corticella.
You may also allow yourself some downtime in the late afternoon and enjoy a dinner with a fantastic view of Piazza del Campo, one of Italy’s grandest squares. Afterwards, soak in the chill vibe of the city by having a night cap at La Diana (Via Stufasecca, 1), where you can get a great craft beer.
On day 2, check out from your hotel/hostel and leave your stuff in the hostel’s reception. Then, enjoy a comfortable walking tour through Siena to see the attractions you missed the previous day.
After breakfast, visit Torre del Mangia (Tower of the Eater) located in Piazza del Campo (Campo Square). Built at a whopping 88 metres high, the tower stands the same height as the Duomo di Siena to represent the equal amounts of power of the state and church. Climb over 400 narrow steps to get a stunning panoramic view of Siena and beyond. If you want to learn more about its magnificent architecture and its equally interesting history, then you can join the city’s guided tour offered daily.
At the square, you will find the Palazzo Pubblico, which is the seat of the government of Siena. The town hall itself has a magnificent Gothic Secular architecture with an equally interesting history. Not to be missed is Museo Civico (Civic Museum) located in the first floor of the city hall.
Have you been to Siena or anywhere else in Italy? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.
Featured image: The medieval city of Siena in Southern Tuscany, Italy (Jaroslaw Pawlak / Shutterstock)