The small city of Siena, located in the region of Tuscany, Italy, has one of the oldest historical centers in the country. Full of ancient buildings, squares, museums and churches, its narrow streets invite you to walk through it to learn how the past is interwoven with its culture.
In this article I propose a two-day tour of Siena, organized around its two main squares: Piazza del Campo and Piazza del Duomo, where you will find the best things to see and do in Siena, so you can get to know the most representative of this city.
Day 1: Piazza del Campo, Palazzo Piccolomini, Piazza del Mercato and Fortalezza Medicea
On your first day in Siena you can take the opportunity to tour its historic center, in particular Piazza del Campo, which is the central square of the city and is surrounded by buildings of great historical and architectural value. Afterwards you can go to the Piazza del Mercato, where there is a nice view of the countryside, and have lunch in the surrounding area.
This whole area is of great tourist interest and is always very lively, which is why it is included among the best tours of Siena. It is a good idea to walk through its narrow streets, full of stores, old buildings, bars and restaurants. Besides, everything is very close, which makes it ideal for walking around, although you should be prepared for ups and downs.
In the afternoon, I suggest you visit the Medicean Fortress, inside which there is a park and an amphitheater. And if you still have some time left, you can go to see the best panoramic view of the city very close to the Fortress. You can also take a guided tour so you won't miss anything of this city full of history.
1. Piazza del Campo
The tour begins in Piazza del Campo, which is striking for its fan or shell shape with some unevenness, as it is located in a place where the three hills on which the city sits converge.
From the square depart the 3 main streets, which you can take to fill yourself with the spirit of Siena. The square is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, because it houses buildings dating back to medieval times, and in which it seems that time has not passed.
One of the most interesting buildings around the square is the Palazzo Pubblico, in Gothic style, where the ancient seat of government was located, and which today houses the Civic Museum on its second floor. The tower of the Palazzo is the Torre de Mangia, which you can climb. Another building is the Cortile de Mangia, which is located next to the Tower, and from where you can access the Museum and the Tower.
In front of the Palazzo Pubblico is the 15th century Gaia Fountain, a fountain full of symbolism, where you will see reliefs by Jacopo della Quercia, that of the Madonna and Child and the Theological and Cardinal Virtues.
In Piazza del Campo is the Torre del Mangia, which was built between 1338 and 1348. This 88-meter high bell tower is the tower of the Palazzo Pubblico, the former seat of government, and the tallest tower in Siena.
From the top of the tower, you will have a beautiful view of the square and the city, but you can only go up by stairs and there are 400 steps, so you need to have some fitness. Also, you should go with time because the entrance is first come first served and there can be queues, especially in summer.
Next to the tower there is a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary that was promoted by the survivors of the black plague at the end of the 15th century.
- Hours: from 10 am to 4 pm in winter, and from 10 am to 7 pm in summer.
- Admission fee: about 10€ for adults and free for children under 11 years old.
- Duration: you can only stay 15 minutes at the top of the tower. The visit lasts about 40 minutes, and up to 50 people can go up at a time.
- Recommendations: the climb requires some fitness.
2. Piazza del Mercato
From your last stop you can go to Piazza del Mercato, which is about 200 meters behind Piazza del Campo. It is notable for its turtle-shell shaped gallery. On Sundays there is a market where you can find cold meats and other foods.
It has a beautiful view of the Tuscan countryside, and is perfect for picnicking and taking pictures of the scenery. There are also restaurants and bars nearby where you can have lunch. Its construction dates back to the 19th century, although Siena's market began operating in the 13th century.
3. Medicean Fortress and Amphitheater
From Piazza del Mercato, you have to go back to Piazza del Campo and from there walk about 1 km to the Fortalezza Medicea, one of the fortresses built by the Medici between the 16th-17th centuries in Italy, commissioned by Duke Cosimo de Medici. You can also go by bus, but if you walk you can pass Fontebranda, Piazza San Domenico Square and Basilica, the Artemio Franchi stadium, the statue of Santa Caterina Benincasa and the Lizza Garden.
The Fortress is in Piazza della Libertà, and its perimeter is 1500 meters. Inside there is an interesting amphitheater and a public park. Concerts and other shows are held there, and there is an open-air cinema.
4. Panoramic view of Siena from Via Bruno Bonci
From Piazza della Libertà, going back along Via Bruno Bonci and passing the Stadium, in front of one of the corners of the Piazza and behind the Basilica San Domenico, you can see one of the best panoramic views of Siena. It is ideal for you to go at sunset, after having toured the Market Square and the Fortress of Siena, to enjoy the clear skyline and low houses of the city.
It is possible that, if you have not lingered too long in Piazza del Campo, you can pass through Fontebranda before continuing on to the Medicean Fortress, as it is on the way. It is about 650 meters from Piazza del Mercato, on the street of the same name. Although it is close, it can be tiring to get to, as there are ups and downs.
This 13th century fountain, the oldest in Siena, is fed by one of the city's most important ancient aqueducts, which at the time was part of the network that distributed water to the region. It is characterized by Gothic arches and is associated with St. Catherine, who lived nearby.
Near Fontebranda is the Basilica San Domenico, also built in the 13th century and enlarged in the 15th century. It is Gothic in style, and is notable for its large windows. If you tour Siena at night, you will be amazed at how it looks illuminated.
Day 2: Piazza del Duomo, Siena Cathedral and Museums
Your second day in Siena, I suggest you start in Piazza del Duomo, which is 400 meters from Piazza del Campo. Piazza del Duomo is an L-shaped square located on top of the hill of Santa Maria. This square is home to the famous Siena Cathedral, the most important cathedral in the city.
It will take you some time to walk around the Cathedral, as well as the other sites of interest that are part of the Duomo Complex, such as the Baptistery and the Museo dell'Opera. You can then visit two of the city's most important museums, the Museo Antropologico and the Pinacoteca Nazionale, to continue learning about the art, history and culture of Siena.
1. Piazza del Duomo
The origins of this square coincide with those of the Cathedral, which began to be built in the thirteenth century on an older structure. This square is also home to the Santa Maria Della Scala Museum. You can tour the square and the Cathedral on your own, or hire a guided tour to learn the most important facts about this unique building.
2. Duomo Santa Maria Assunta of Siena
The Duomo Santa Maria Assunta of Siena is the main building in the square, and a must-see of the city. It is one of the most important Romanesque-Gothic style cathedrals in Italy, with its imposing facade of white and green Prato and red Siena marble. Although it was planned to be larger, it could not be completed due to the Black Death of 1348.
The first thing that strikes the eye inside is the black and white marble motif with horizontal lines, which is related to the legend of the city's founding horses that were of those colors. In addition, the Cathedral houses works of art by Michelanchelo (the sculptures on the altar), Donatello and Domenico Beccafumi, among others.
Of particular note are the mosaics depicting scenes from the Bible and legends of Antiquity, known as the Pavement. They are not always visible to the public, as they are covered to protect them from footprints. If you go between late June and mid-October, you will have the privilege of seeing them.
What is included in the entrance ticket to the Duomo
The cathedral is part of the Duomo Complex, and its Porta del Cielo entrance includes a tour of:
- The Piccolomini Library, where there are frescoes by Pinturicchio.
- The Museo dell'Opera, where the statues of the façade of the New Cathedral are located.
- The Panorama del Facciatore, which offers one of the best views of the city.
- The Porta del Cielo, where you can see up close the roof of the Cathedral, and also the floor.
- The Crypt, which was discovered only in 1999.
- The Battistero, located in another building, where baptisms used to take place.
Everything in this complex is loaded with symbolism and a rich history, so I recommend that you take your time to visit it, and that before you go you find out about the different tickets to the Cathedral of Siena that you can buy, their prices and discounts.
More information about the Cathedral of Siena
- Hours: from 10.30 am to 5 pm in winter, and from 10 am to 7 pm in summer.
- Ticket price: the Opa Si Pass ticket costs about 17€ for adults, 5€ for children between 7 and 11 years old, and free for children under 6 years old. The ticket that includes the Porta del Cielo tour costs about €20 for adults.
- Recommendations: check holiday and mass schedules on the website of the Cathedral.
Baptistery of San Giovanni
The Baptistery of San Giovan ni is one of the oldest churches in Florence, built on a primitive structure dating back to the 4th-5th century, but whose construction was completed in the 13th century. It is located in front of the Cathedral of Siena and was formerly where baptisms were held.
The building is clad in white and green marble like the Duomo. It is a construction of octagonal shape and dome really worth seeing, both inside and out. Not to be missed are its three bronze doors, built later, one by Andrea Pisano and two by Lorenzo Ghiberti.
3. Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana
In front of the Cathedral is the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana, one of the best museums in Siena and one of the oldest in Italy, founded in 1869. It houses the original statues that adorned part of the façade of the New Cathedral, which could not be completed due to the Black Death.
In the Museo dell'Opera you will see sculptures by Arnolfo di Cambio from the 14th century, and sculptures by Donatello, Lamberti, Ciuffagni, Bigello (attributed), the Madonna and Child with Saints by Bernardo Dadi and the Bandini Pietà by Michelangelo in the basement, among others, as well as sketches and tools used during the construction of the Cathedral.
- Admission fee: the Opa Si Pass (which includes admission to the entire complex, except for the Gate of Heaven tour) costs about 17 Euros for adults, 5 Euros for children between 7 and 11 years old, and free for children under 6 years old.
- Hours: from April to October inclusive from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm, and from November to March inclusive from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. From 26/12 to 6/01 from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm.
- Recommendations: consult the schedule of holidays and masses on the website of the Cathedral.
4. National Etruscan Archaeological Museum
The National Etruscan Archaeological Museum is also located in front of the Cathedral, where the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala used to be. This museum houses archaeological remains found in the region. There are statues, bronzes, mosaics, ceramics, urns, among others. The oldest date back to the Bronze Age
It is ideal if you are particularly interested in history, but it can also be an opportunity to learn more about the antiquity of the region.
- Location: Piazza Duomo, Complesso di S. Maria della Scala 2 - Siena.
- Hours: Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm, except Tuesdays when it is closed and Thursdays open until 10 pm. Reduced opening hours in winter.
- Admission fee: about €9 for adults. You can also buy the ticket together with that of the Cathedral complex, which is about 17 € for adults and 4 for children between 7 and 11 years.
5. National Gallery of Siena
The Pinacoteca Nazionale di S iena houses medieval and older paintings belonging to the school of Siena, especially paintings on wood with gilded background of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is housed in two adjacent palaces, the Buonsignori and the Brigidi. The works are arranged in chronological order by period on the different levels of the Museum.
In this Museum you will see works by Ambrogio Lorenzetti such as La Piccola Maestà, and by Duccio, such as the Madonna, and by artists such as Simone Martini, Pietro, Giovanni di Paolo, Sassetta, Matteo di Giovanni and Francesco di Giorgio Martini.
Admission fee: about €6 for adults. Guided tours (in Italian) can be booked in advance on the Pinacoteca website.
Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 7 pm, and Sundays and holidays from 9 am to 1 pm. Reduced hours in winter. Free on the first Sunday of the month.
Location: Via San Pietro 29 - 53100 Siena.
Here ends the tour of Siena that I propose you, organized in two days so that you can see the most representative sites. In the evening it is a good idea to join a gastronomic tour in Siena, to get to know the best culinary proposals of the region and a little more about its culture.
And if you have already visited Siena before, or the museums are not of your interest, or you just prefer some outdoor activity, you can join one of the best wine tours in Siena and get to know the delights of the region with expert guides.