Siena is a small city, but it has many of the main attractions of Tuscany, so it is no surprise that it is one of the most important destinations in the region. With a beautiful historic center, which is crowned by the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, Siena offers interesting alternatives for visitors.
Among the activities you can see and do to discover Siena, you can walk around the Piazza del Campo, contemplate the open views and sunsets from the Torre del Mangia, take a wine tour, tour Tuscany on full-day excursions, see the city's medieval fountains and visit the Museum of Torture, which is one of the most striking in Italy.
1. Lose yourself in the historic center of Siena.
Siena is a city that had its heyday in medieval times and is therefore built around the historic center. During your tour you will visit it frequently to see the Cathedral, the Piazza del Campo, the Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Comunale, but I also recommend that, before leaving the city, you get lost in the intricate streets of the old town to discover the local spirit.
There you will find taverns with the flavors of Tuscany, quiet stone streets and many of the most beautiful buildings in the city, which may not house museums or exhibitions included in the tourist circuits, but will certainly give you some of the best pictures of your tour of Siena.
Moreover, walking through the historic center is one of the best things to do in Siena at night, especially when the squares are artificially illuminated and the bars and restaurants become the most visited places in the city.
2. Visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption
The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, with its facade that neatly combines Gothic and Romanesque styles, is Siena's main attraction. Located in the heart of the historic center of the city, it occupies a huge complex that also contains museums, but the Duomo is a spectacle in itself and not only for its architecture, which is heavily influenced by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.
The floor inside the Cathedral is considered the most beautiful in the world, as it has a layout of Roman tiles and mosaics that was designed by Pinturicchio and inside the central nave the pulpit, frescoes and sculptures were designed by Michelangelo, Raphael Sanzio, Nicola Pisano and Amico Aspertini.
You can also attend masses at the Cathedral, which are held every weekday at 9:30 am and on holidays in different shifts, at 8:00 am, 11:00 am, 12:15 pm and 6:00 pm. These hours are modified during the summer and you can visit the Duomo until 7:30 pm.
Details of interest
- Price: the entrance ticket for the Cathedral and museums has an initial cost of approximately 20 euros for adults and 5 euros for children up to 11 years old.
- Hours: daily from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. The museums' program is modified during public holidays.
- Location: Piazza del Duomo 8, Siena.
3. Walk through Piazza del Campo
The Piazza del Campo is included in the best tours of Siena as one of the most representative sites of the city and for its reputation as the most beautiful square in the world, as described by the French philosopher Michel de Montaigne in his diary of his trip to Italy.
This square marks the heart of the city and in the disorder of the historic center is striking for its perfect concave planning, which is composed of 9 parts that symbolize the 9 neighborhoods of Siena. The Palio, one of the most important popular events in Italy and Europe, has been held there every summer for more than 500 years.
In the area of Piazza del Campo you can find some of the best restaurants in town, making it ideal for a lunch stop during your tour of the city, or you can simply relax by fulfilling a tradition in Siena, which is to sit on the floor of the dry square and enjoy the scenery.
4. Climb to the top of the Torre del Mangia
Very close to the famous Piazza del Campo you can visit the Torre del Mangia, which is a bell tower and clock 88 meters high and has the privilege of being one of the highest points of the old town. In addition, this tower keeps alive some of the legends of Siena, such as the out-of-tune sound of its bells that can be heard in each edition of the traditional Palio.
The name of the building, which in English means "tower of the eater", refers to its first caretaker, Giovanni di Duccio, who was famous for spending all his income on meals served in local restaurants and bars. Hence also Siena's reputation as one of the cities with the best gastronomy in Tuscany.
From the top of the Torre del Mangia you can access one of the best wide and open views of the city, especially during the summer, and if you visit in the late afternoon you can also enjoy one of the best sunsets in Siena.
Note also that the complete tour, from the base to the top, including also the descent, takes less than an hour, so it is compatible with a short visit to the city, as it will not take you much time. If that is your case here is a list of things to see and do to discover Siena in 1 day.
Details of interest
- Price: the entrance to visit the top of the tower has an initial cost of approximately 10 euros per person.
- Hours: you can visit it every day from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.
- Location: Piazza del Campo 1, Siena.
5. Take a wine tour outside Siena
Siena is an ideal city to use as a base for touring Tuscany's best vineyards, as wine tourism is one of the region's main attractions. On these half-day or full-day food tours you can do wine tastings, enjoy Tuscan food and also see some of the most beautiful sites around Siena.
Whether you choose an excursion to the vineyards of Chianti, Montalcino, Pienza or Montepulciano, you can discover the local wine varieties and also the best landscapes of Tuscany. On your tour you can taste Chianti, which is one of the most famous Italian red wines, or Brunello di Montalcino wine, which is one of the finest wines in Italy.
Keep in mind that doing a wine tour in Siena will take you almost the whole day, so if you have planned a short visit it might go against your plans to visit other places in the city. In that case what you can do is to visit some of the wineries in the old town and do a wine tasting in the cellars in the center, without having to travel to the periphery.
6. Visit the medieval fountains of Siena
Siena is a very eclectic city, so in addition to religious temples, majestic towers and perfect diameter squares, you can find beautiful medieval fountains, which are ancient architectural masterpieces and were used in the past to drain water from the countryside areas to the city.
You can visit these fountains in the old town of Siena and also in the green areas near the walls and in all cases you will find yourself in front of artificial tunnels that allowed the city to access a permanent flow of water, even when there is no surrounding river or other fluvial resource in the area.
The best known of these fountains is Fontebranda, which not only dazzles with its design, but is also famous because it was named by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy. In addition, the nearby area was home to Saint Catherine of Siena, who is the patron saint of Italy, and who is known religiously as the Saint of Fontebranda.
You can also find fountains on the fortified peaks of the Monastery and in the historic center, where you will see the fountain of Casato and the fountain of the Market, which in the past was used as a public washing place. In all cases you can also discover Siena' s medieval past as an Italian power.
7. Tour the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana
The Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana houses the works of the Cathedral of Siena and is located within the Duomo complex, but it is a different and separate attraction from the religious building, as you could even choose to visit only one of them during your tour, although I recommend that you visit both and get the most out of your visit to the city.
In this museum you will find the sculptures that were removed from the Cathedral during the modifications, such as the Madonna and Child, believed to have been made by Donatello. In the pictorial heritage, which reaches 500 works, stands out Maestá, by Duccio, an impressive two-sided altarpiece.
If you want to visit this attraction, which is one of the best museums in Siena, you can choose to buy the full ticket that will allow you to enter all the museums of the complex and also the Cathedral for approximately 20 euros or purchase the ticket for the museums, which has an initial cost of approximately 13 euros.
Details of interest
- Price: the entrance ticket for the museums of the complex has an initial cost of approximately 13 euros for adults and 2 euros for children up to 11 years old.
- Hours: daily from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. The museum program is modified during public holidays.
- Location: Piazza del Duomo 8, Siena.
8. Take a full day tour to Tuscany
If you have a multi-day trip to Siena planned and you want to see more than just the main attractions of the city and the old town, you can make the most of your tour by also seeing the best landscapes of Tuscany. To do this, you can opt for a full day tour and visit some of the main sites in the outskirts such as San Gimignano, Volterra and Monteriggioni.
On these tours you can go hiking, take sunset walks from the Tuscan hills, see the rugged landscapes and also enjoy the local gastronomy, which stands out for its pecorino cheese and red wine. A day trip from Siena will also allow you to get to know the heart of Tuscany and the rural roads of one of the most beautiful regions in the world.
These full day excursions to Tuscany are usually by bus, but depending on the activities you want to do, you can opt for Vespa rides through the medieval streets of the villages or tours in vintage cars along the flowery regional roads.
9. Discover the Oratory of San Bernardino
The Oratory of San Bernardino is a minor basilica in Siena that, although it does not have an important influence as a religious building in the city, it is home to some of the best works of art in the diocesan museums. In its small rooms you can find frescoes and paintings by leading Sienese artists such as Sodoma, Domenica Beccafumi, Girolamo del Pacchia and Sano di Pietro.
In addition, the Oratory is still a place of worship and its proximity to the Basilica of San Francesco makes it one of the most visited sites for religious tourism in Siena, which includes the Cathedral and the adjacent museums, but also the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta in San Gimignano, the complex of Sant'Agostino and the Benedictine Abbey of Sant'Antimo.
If you want to visit the museum you can buy the ticket separately at the ticket office of the Oratory or if you buy the ticket to visit the Cathedral of Siena and the museums of the complex, you can also visit the exhibitions of San Bernardino at no extra cost.
- Price: the entrance ticket to the Oratory museum has an initial cost of approximately 9 euros. Children under 12 are free.
- Hours: usually open daily from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm.
- Location: Piazza San Francesco 9, Siena.
10. Visit the Torture Museum of Siena
The Torture Museum has one of the most striking exhibits not only in Siena, but in all of Italy. There you can take a tour through the long history of torments and the elements that were used to obtain confessions and apply punishments from Antiquity to the present, through the time of the Inquisition and contemporary wars.
The rack, the lathe, the nail chair, the clearing rooms and the saws of the medieval inquisitors are some of the elements of the exhibition, which you can visit on your own or with the assistance of an expert local guide, who will tell you the reasons for the location of this museum in Siena and the influences that the city has had on the history of torture.
The total tour of the museum will take about 2 hours, so you can combine it with a short visit to the city. If that is your case, here is a list of activities you can do to get to know Siena quickly in 2 days.
Details of interest
- Price: the entrance to the museum has an approximate initial cost of 10 euros for adults and 7 euros for children under 12 years.
- Hours: usually open daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.
- Location: Chiasso del Bargello 6, Siena.