Siena, Tuscany | The Medieval Jewel in Italy’s Most Famous Region

Welcome to Siena!

As the Willie Nelson song goes, I was On the Road Again, leaving Cortona and heading towards beautiful Siena, a truly magical city in my opinion and a must see when touring Tuscany.

Universally known for its history, art, landscape and its preservation of medieval cultural and civil heritage, Siena’s historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (since 1995!).

Siena comes to life throughout the year with its over 600 event, yes 600, which range from music events, major exhibitions, football games, through to the famous Palio, running since 1566!

While you are there, you will remain amazed by the handicrafts, gastronomy, wines, culture and tradition, that exudes from each Via of this wonderful Italian city.

Siena
My photo arriving into Siena – spectacular!

Curious Palio fact: The city is divided into 17 districts called Contrada’s, each is represented by an emblem. Flags are hung throughout the districts to indicate where each contrada is from. It is a tradition that has been kept from the very start of this captivating event.

Why visit Siena?

Siena
Siena historical center

1. As one of the most beautiful towns in Italy, it is a must see so leave a full day to explore it. 

2. The aromas of ‘Via Camollia’!

Now this is where you will find the locals come to life and experience the best trattorias in town, all on one street (Restaurants). I thoroughly enjoyed both my dinner at Osteria Il Vinaio & lunch at Fonte Giusta. 

Siena
Osteria Il Vinaio

3. Admire the Piazza del Campo.

As you will read throughout my posts, Piazza’s in Italy are one of the most important parts of a city/town and Piazza del Campo is one of the most famous throughout the country (and Europe).

As you walk into Piazza del Campo, your eyes will dart immediately upwards, as the sky is dominated by the red Town Hall (Palazzo Pubblico) and its tower, Torre del Mangia.

What makes it so unique? It’s original shell shape. While I would not recommend you eat here (tourists traps), I do recommend an aperitivo or a gelato – you get the amazing view for a quarter of the price.

For a really great photo, stick around for sun set while sipping on a delicious prosecco!

Siena
Piazza del Campo

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 you are lead 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.

Siena – Why visit (continued)

4. History/mythology.  

Legend says that Siena was founded by Senio and Ascanio, sons of Remus (Romulus and Remus who founded Rome), but being a legend it hold now historical foundation, however, it definitely makes for a great story.

Check out this great video on Siena found on the UNESCO website.

Siena
The Cathedral

5. The Cathedral of Siena!

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, which is really a breathtaking spectacle.

Discover some of the most amazing works from Pinturicchio, Nicola Pisano, and Michelangelo!

What stood out was the amazing mosaic floor – a true masterpiece. I have borrowed the above photo by Tourismo in Toscana. 

Where to Stay?

Albergo Alma Domus rooms
Photo from the Albergo Alma Domus website

I used Monastery Stays to book my 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 (highly sought after), classic and economy.

Regardless of how the room looks, this place offers some amazing views of the city, however, the do book out quickly. For reference, I was in a classic room. Comfortable, simple and perfectly okay for a one night stay but next time I will make sure to book a superior room. 

As with many other Italian cities a ‘city visitor charge’ will be added to the cost of your stay. 

How to get to Siena

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.

By Car:

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

By Train:

From the Firenze airport you take a shuttle bus (approx. 6 euro one way or 10.00EUR round trip), which is just outside the airport, and it will take you to the main railway station Santa Maria Novella.

You will then find a number of trains from Santa Maria Novella to Siena. For train schedules and prices go to Trenitalia.com.

The train station in Siena is located approximately 2 km from the historical centre (follow directions “bus centro” which will lead you into the mall) and you will take an elevator down to where the bus stop is.

Unsure? Ask one of the locals, they will be sure to help.

On my various trips I have used bus numbers 3, 8, and 10, however, if still unsure ask your driver if he/she will stop at Piazza Gramsci (pronounced Gram-shi).

* 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.

By Bus:

Within walking distance of Santa Maria Novella, head towards the bus station.

The fastest way to get there is, with the tracks behind you, go right and follow the directions to the bus station. You will exit the train station and have to cross the street.

Via Santa Caterina da Siena, 7 – is the address of the Bus station in Florence.

There are two bus lines for Siena: Rapida and Ordinaria.

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, while the Ordinaria, line 131O (click for times), does two.

Buses contain adequate space for luggage.

* Validate your ticket on the bus.

I found some great transport info via Discovery Tuscany and Frommers.

Have you been to Siena?

Share your stories of Italy with other followers of Tourist by Chance and help everyone have memorable ‘Vacanze Italiane’.

Authors Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Siena in Photos

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