Welcome to Siena!
In the video – Siena —> Next = Part 4 Monte Oliveto & San Miniato
I left you in Cortona (link) and am now on Part III of my week long journey around Tuscany.
As the famous Willie Nelson once sang, On the Road Again (a classic!). I left Cortona and found myself in beautiful Siena, a truly magical city in my opinion and a must see when touring Tuscany.
Siena is universally known for its history, art, landscape and for the fact that no other city keeps its medieval cultural and civil heritage so well preserved. In 1995 the historic center was given the UNESCO World Heritage Site title.
The city comes to life throughout the year with its over 600 – yes 600! – events, which range from music events, major exhibitions, football games through to the famous Palio (click to watch the video), running since 1566! Do not forget the amazing handicrafts, gastronomy, wines, culture and tradition that you will discover when you visit this amazing city.
Curious fact: The city is divided into 17 districts called Contrada’s and each is represented by an emblem. These emblems are then hung throughout the district prior to the Palio. This has been the tradition since the start and it really is beautiful to see the flags hanging through the streets.
I only had 36 hours in this amazing city and I tried to cram in as much as possibile but I will return! A thank you goes to the great staff at Albergo Alma Domus (link) for giving me the tips on what to see and do, in such a short time.
Siena – Why visit
1. As one of the most beautiful towns in Italy, Siena is a must see whether you are visiting Tuscany or Italy in general. So if you just planned a trip to Rome, Florence and Venice – leave a day for Siena.
2. The fantastic ‘Via Camollia’! Now this is where you will find the locals come to life. Experience the best trattorias in town, all on one street – Restaurants (link). I really enjoyed our dinner at Osteria Il Vinaio & lunch at Fonte Giusta.
3. Piazza del Campo. As you will read via our many posts, Piazza’s in Italy are one of the most important parts of a city/town. Now Piazza del Campo is one of the most famous throughout the country (and Europe). What makes it so unique? It’s original shell shape. While I do not recommend you eat here (tourists traps), I do recommend an aperitivo or a gelato 😉 and do not forget the photos – and try one from each angle. For a really great photo, stick around for the sun set – your photos will look amazing!
Piazza del Campo is dominated by the red Town Hall (Palazzo Pubblico) and its tower, called Torre del Mangia. The Town Hall, as well as the Duomo of Siena, were built during the Council of the Nine (1286-1355), which was the greatest economic and cultural splendour of Siena. From the courtyard of the Town Hall leads to the Civic Museum and the Torre del Mangia, on top of which, climbed the 500 steps, you can enjoy a splendid view of the city. Once of our many days on Twitter, Valery Collins shared her love for Siena with us and thought we would share her post here.
4. History/mythology. Legend says that Siena was founded by Senio and Ascanio, sons of Remus, of the famous duo Romulus and Remus who founded Rome, but without historical foundation. I read on the history of this beautiful city at About Siena website . See this great video found on the UNESCO website.
5. The Cathedral! You cannot miss it, as you drive into the city, with its mostly white and black façade, you will find it dominating the panorama of Siena – a true spectacle. Here you will find works from Pinturicchio, Nicola Pisano, and Michelangelo. What stood out was the amazing mosaic floor – a true masterpiece – which is usually covered by sheets to protect it. I was lucky enough to see it. (Photo right: by Tourismo in Toscana).
Where to Stay?
I stayed 1 night. As for all my trip through Tuscany, I used Monastery Stays to book our stay at Albergo Alma Domus, with incredible views of the city. Here you have the choice (depending on availability) of 3 types of rooms – superior (almost always booked out), classic and economy. Regardless of how the room looks, one thing is 70% always available – a view of the city and it is worth it. For reference, I was in a classic room. Comfortable, simple and perfectly okay for a one night stay. Next time I will get a superior room (newly renovated). Like many other Italian cities a ‘city visitor charge’ will be added to the cost of your stay.
Have you been to Siena? What were your thoughts and experiences during your visit? Please make sure to tell us your story and what you discovered on your trip – we love to hear the perspective of other travellers visiting our beautiful country.
How to get there
While I visited by car this time round, I do recommend public transport to get to Siena, as it is very easy, cheaper and less of a headache with parking. The city itself is easily done on foot and when you are ready to leave, you can take the train back to Florence and use a car hire from there. Normally car hires are cheaper when booked in bigger cities.
The following are indications from Florence, as it is the biggest city in Tuscany, with the closest airport to the city, but rest assured that you can get to Siena by bus or train from Rome, Pisa, Perugia, and many other parts of Italy. There are only regional trains to and from Siena. You can take the high speed train to Florence from all major cities (read more) and take the regional to Siena.
From Florence, take the A1 and exit at Firenze Certosa. Take the Florence-Siena junction and in about 30 minutes you are in Siena.
Free and paid parking is available outside the historic city center. For full detail see the very useful Parking Website.
If you land at Firenze airport you have to take a shuttle bus (approx. 6 euro in 2015, 20-30 minutes) which is just outside the airport and it will take you to the main railway station Santa Maria Novella.
For train schedules and prices go to Trenitalia.com.
The train station in Siena is located approximately 2 km from Siena’s historical centre (follow directions “bus centro”, you have to enter the mall to find the bus station to the city center) and you will take an elevator down to where the bus stop is. If unsure, ask one of the locals – they will be sure to help. From experience, we have used bus numbers 3, 8, 10, but make sure to ask Piazza Gramsci (pronounced Gram-shi). You can also take a series of escalators up to town from the shopping center—these too are poorly marked, but as long as you’re going up you’re moving in the right direction.
* Always remember to validate your ticket before boarding the train. Look for the yellow or green machines (click to view images) found on the pillars before heading to a platform. Fines do apply.
** We recommend this option for families as you will have more room and the kids can stretch their legs (and so can the parents).
The bus station in Florence is within walking distance of Santa Maria Novella. It can be a bit tricky to find since it’s located on a side street and hidden inside a building. The easiest way to get there is, with the tracks behind you, go right and ask for directions to the bus station. The address is: Via Santa Caterina da Siena, 7.
There are two bus lines for Siena – Rapida (i.e. fast) and Ordinaria (i.e. regional) . The Rapida, line 131R (click for times), is a direct non-stop bus from Florence to Siena and is approximately an hour and 15 minutes, depending on traffic. The Ordinaria, line 131O (click for times), stops in two towns during the trip is approximately an hour and a half. Buses contain adequate space for luggage.
The bus takes you to Piazza Gramsci, in the historic center or at the train station. To the left of the square you will find stairs, here is the is the ticket office (open weekdays, from Monday to Friday, 6.30 to 19.30. Saturdays & public holidays from 7.00 to 19.30), where you can also ask questions and find a toilet and luggage storage. Generally there are two buses per hour. From research online the cost of a single ticket costs € 7.80 by buying it at the station before the trip and € 10 if purchased on the bus.
* Always remember to validate your ticket in the machine when you get on the bus.