This article may contain compensated links. See our full disclosure here
Cradled in the heart of Italy, Siena is a captivating city in the Tuscany region that attracts travelers with its timeless charm, rich history, and remarkable architecture. There are so many exciting things to do in Siena that you’ll want to take some time to plan the perfect visit.
Siena flourished during the Middle Ages, gaining many riches and waging wars with the nearby Florentines. Its historical significance is reflected through its well-preserved medieval architecture, quaint cobblestone streets, and the breathtaking Piazza del Campo.
The city is perhaps best known for its bi-annual horse race, the Palio di Siena, an exciting event, steeped in age-old tradition and rivalry, that is the perfect reflection of the city’s history and spirit.
Siena’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasts the enchanting Gothic architecture of the Duomo di Siena. If you consider yourself an appreciator of art, there is plenty to indulge in at the city’s art museums. They house masterpieces by renowned painters such as Lorenzo Lotto, Simone Martini, and Albrecht Durer.
Whether you’d prefer indulging in delectable Tuscan cuisine or immersing yourself in the city’s vibrant festivals, you’ll find there are almost endless things to do in Siena. A visit to Siena is a captivating journey through time that should not be missed on your Tuscany itinerary.
What to Do in Siena, Italy
Siena is the perfect place to visit if you want to experience a little bit of everything that Italy has to offer. It’s one of the best towns in Tuscany to explore, with rich history, beautiful architecture, delicious cuisine, and so much more.
Here’s a closer look at the best things to do in Siena, Italy.
Explore Siena’s Old Town
Siena’s Old Town is where you’ll find most of its magical sights. Plus, it’s a wonderful place to roam around and snap some photos.
Piazza del Campo
You can’t visit Siena, Italy, without experiencing the charming Piazza del Campo. This iconic square, nestled in the heart of the city, is a masterpiece of Italian architecture. The unusual shell-shaped piazza is where you’ll find cheerful locals enjoying social gatherings and cultural events.
At Piazza del Campo, you can indulge in a leisurely stroll, shop for souvenirs, savor delicious gelato, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere. While you’re there, make sure to take a closer look at the intricate marble details of Fonte Gaia, Piazza del Campo’s dazzling fountain.
Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena)
The Duomo di Siena is one of the most captivating places to visit in Italy’s Tuscany region. Also known as the Siena Cathedral, this building is the perfect testament to Siena’s rich heritage in art and architecture. The cathedral, adorned with delicate marble carvings and statues, attracts visitors from around the world.
Once you enter the cathedral, you’re immersed in its opulent interior, with intricately adorned frescoes and a stunning mosaic floor. The cathedral was built between the years 1215 and 1263, making the impressive structure over 600 years old.
Within the Siena Duomo complex, you’ll also find the Biblioteca Piccolomini or the Piccolomini Library. The room’s ceiling and walls are embellished with elaborate paintings from the 16th century, which depict the life of Siena’s Pope Pius II.
Climbing the spiral staircase to the Panorama del Facciatone offers unbeatable panoramic views of the city.
If you’re yearning to immerse yourself in even more of Siena’s art and history, Palazzo Pubblico should be on your list. This unique palace that dates back to 1297 is a showcase of Italy’s stunning medieval architecture.
You’ll likely notice its towering bell tower, known as the Torre del Mangia, on your visit to Piazza del Campo. Standing at an impressive 285 feet, the construction of this structure was an incredible feat for its time.
The palace, which curves slightly to compliment the shape of the piazza in which it sits, houses the Civic Museum, which boasts masterpieces by many Sienese artists. Sala della Pace (the Hall of Peace) is adorned with magnificent frescoes that depict the Allegory of Good and Bad Governance.
Interestingly, the Allegory of Good Governance personifies Justice as a woman who gestures toward Wisdom that holds the scales of balance. This depiction is especially renowned for its inclusion of women in power, which was unusual for its time.
Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico
If you’re looking for a way to engage in the city’s spirituality during your day in Siena, visiting the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico is a wonderful idea.
Dedicated to Saint Catherine of Siena, who lived from 1347 to 1380, the Basilica of San Domenico boasts a blend of Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. Saint Catherine was a doctor of the church who had an integral impact on the Catholic Church as well as Italian literature.
When you visit, you can admire the saint’s relics and explore the tranquil Chapel of Saint Catherine. A trip to the basilica provides a fantastic opportunity to appreciate the artistic treasures that decorate its sacred spaces and experience the spirituality of the great Saint Catherine.
Fontebranda is the most famous of fountains built during medieval times in Siena. It is also one of the last standing medieval city gates of the Tuscan city.
The remarkable structure was constructed in the 13th century but saw many renovations as the years went by. Eventually, the fountain was rebuilt with travertine stone and bricks to serve as a permanent water source, as it stands today.
What makes Fontebranda particularly special is its unique architecture. Unlike many of Italy’s famous fountains, this structure appears more like a fortress, with large Gothic arches and a castle-like facade. It’s exceptional design and gleaming water make it a worthwhile visit.
Interestingly, Fontebranda and Fonte Gaia share a long pipeline that feeds both the fountain at Piazza del Campo and Fontebranda. That’s over 10 miles, which is undoubtedly impressive for medieval construction.
Discover Siena’s Food Scene
Siena doesn’t only have history and architecture to offer, but also a world of delicious Tuscan flavors, and one of the best things to do in Siena is immerse yourself in its culinary scene. The city of Siena boasts an array of restaurants renowned for their unique approaches to gastronomy and the use of fresh local produce.
While you’re roaming the streets of Siena, you are sure to come across many varieties of cured meats, cheeses, pasta dishes, pizzas, pastries, Tuscan wines, and more. Be sure to try pecorino di Pienza, a delectable cheese made from sheep’s milk and often drenched with honey. This pairs beautifully with locally-produced cured meats like finocchiona, buristo, and capocollo.
You can’t leave Siena without sampling its sweet treats. The panforte is Siena’s most iconic dessert, which is a cake made with citrus flavors, honey, cinnamon, and vanilla. Plus, if you’re there in time for the Feast of All Saints Day, you can try the traditional bread called Pan co’ Santi, which features walnuts and raisins.
To really immerse yourself in the culture, take a Tuscan cooking class in the heart of Siena.
If you’re looking for the best restaurants and cafes in Siena, try these spots:
- Torrefazione Fiorella – A quaint and popular family-run coffee shop that has been serving wonderful coffee since 1985.
- Pasticceria Nannini – Visit Nannini Dolci e Caffè for the best sweet treats in town. You can even take some home in a gift box.
- Morbidi – This cocktail bar is the perfect place for afternoon drinks and snacks in Siena.
- Taverna di San Giuseppe – This restaurant has a fantastic traditional Tuscan menu with a modern flair. It’s also a great environment to sip on some local wines.
Experience Sienese Culture
There is a lot to love about Siena, from the magnificent architecture to the delectable cuisine. But one of Siena’s most alluring features is its rich and prominent culture. If you want to dive deeper into Sienese culture, here’s how to do it.
Palio di Siena
The legendary Palio horse race, or Palio di Siena, is a thrilling event that takes place twice yearly on July 2nd and August 16th. The first race honors the Madonna of Provenza and is appropriately called Palio di Provenzano.
The latter, Palio dell’Assunta, honors the Assumption of Mary. The event is held in the historic Piazza del Campo, with the beautiful Torre del Mangia towering over the celebration.
The famous horse race features ten horses, representing 10 of Siena’s 17 districts, and ten jockeys riding bareback around Piazza del Campo. They race to win the Palio, a hand-painted banner of silk, and a lifetime of bragging rights.
While some love the race itself, others would argue that the best part of the legendary Palio horse race is the atmosphere and camaraderie during the events. Although the entire event lasts just a few hours, Siena’s locals look forward to it all year.
Museums and Art Galleries
Rowdy crowds, horses, and competitive spirit are not your cup of tea? You can take a journey into Siena’s history and culture through the pieces displayed at its museums and galleries instead.
The city boasts an incredible array of museums, housing artworks that span centuries of Italy’s artistic expression. The Museo dell’Opera is home to exquisite sculptures, paintings, and religious artifacts, displaying the craftsmanship of Italian artists such as Jacopo della Quercia, Donatello, Giovanni Pisano, and many others.
Because of its valuable collection and integral role in preserving the Renaissance, it is considered one of the world’s most important museums.
The Pinacoteca Nazionale is the national art museum in Siena. It has a vast collection of paintings, especially those from the late medieval and Renaissance periods.
The museum presents works by renowned artists like Duccio di Buoninsegna and Simone Martini. The building itself was constructed in the 14th century, and it attracts many visitors and art enthusiasts from around the world.
The Museo Civico, or the Civic Museum of Siena, is located in the heart of this Tuscan city, within the Palazzo Pubblico. It boasts historical artifacts and stunning frescoes, providing insights into Siena’s rich artistic and political history.
How to Get to Siena From Florence
Now that you know what to do in Siena, Italy, you’re probably wondering how to get there. Luckily, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to transportation from Florence to Siena. The city of Siena is one of the most popular destinations for day trips from Florence because it’s only around an hour away, and it’s accessible by train, bus, car, and even bicycle (if you’re feeling adventurous).
How to Get to Siena By Train
While traveling by train is usually the preferred method of transportation when going from one Italian city to the next, Siena is not on the main train line like other major cities. So you won’t find any high-speed trains going to Siena.
From Florence’s Santa Maria Novella station, you’ll have to hop on the regional train to Siena. The journey will take just over an hour (1hr 15mins) and should cost around €11. The downside to traveling by train is that Siena’s station is a bit outside of the historic city center, so you’ll have to walk or take a taxi for just over a mile to Piazza del Campo. You can purchase tickets from Omio.
How to Get to Siena By Bus
The easiest way to get from Florence to Siena is by bus. The journey is a little shorter than the train ride, and it is less than half the price. It’ll cost you around €4 to get to Siena from Florence by bus, and you’ll arrive at your destination in under an hour.
You can purchase tickets from the Omio App or at the bus station. Another great thing about traveling by bus is that it stops just a short 10-minute walk outside of Piazza del Campo, so you don’t have to worry about arranging transportation to explore some of the top attractions
How to Get to Siena By Car
While the drive to Siena is simple and very scenic, finding parking and navigating through Italy’s small towns can be challenging. For this reason, renting a car to go from Florence to Siena is not recommended. However, if you would prefer to be behind the wheel, you can hire a car from Florence Airport. The drive is about an hour long if you don’t stop to admire the beautiful Chianti along the way.
By Guided Tour / Private Transfer
If you’re looking to visit Siena on a day trip from Florence, booking a guided tour or a private transfer is the best way to go. A guided tour with transportation will allow you to see the city’s highlights without the hassle of arranging transport and individual site tickets. Plus, you’ll often get to experience a few other Tuscan towns along the way.
This tour from Florence to Siena, San Gimignano, and Chianti is the perfect way to experience the Tuscan countryside.
Where to Stay in Siena
Siena offers a wide selection of charming places to stay when you’re visiting the city. The best place to be is near the city center. Here, you’ll be close to all the action and just a short walk away from the best things to see in Siena, Italy. After a long day of exploring Tuscany, here are some great places to rest your head.
Il Battistero Siena Residenza d’Epoca
This boutique hotel is a fantastic option for anyone who wants to experience all of the best things to do in Siena. It’s located less than a mile from Piazza del Campo and a short walk from Siena’s train station.
This hotel offers a selection of rooms that sleep up to four guests, with the option of adding connecting rooms. Dining is easy at the hotel’s on-site restaurant, and there are also many restaurants nearby. The hotel has Wi-Fi in all areas, a concierge service to book activities, and a laundry service for your convenience >> Check Rates and Availability.
Hotel Santa Caterina
Looking for a quaint place to stay on the outskirts of the historic center of Siena? Hotel Santa Caterina offers traditionally decorated rooms a stone’s-throw from the city center. Each room is spacious and equipped with a private bathroom, TV, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning.
The hotel’s main draw is its fantastic location, and you’ll also enjoy a delicious breakfast and friendly service >> Check Rates and Availability.
Things to Do in Siena – FAQs
Here are the answers to some of your burning questions about things to do in Siena.
Is Siena Worth Visiting?
Absolutely. Siena is one of the best places to visit in the Tuscan countryside, and it has many exciting things to see. Siena can be a fantastic day trip destination for every type of traveler.
How Long Should We Spend in Siena?
Siena is a fairly small town. For that reason, 2-3 hours is enough for you to see Siena’s most important highlights. Taking a day trip from Florence and stopping in Siena for a few hours is the best way to see the city.
Is Siena Worth a Day Trip?
Yes. Siena is around an hour away from Florence, and it’ll only cost you about €20 to travel to Siena and back via public transportation from Florence. There is also lots to see and do in Siena, which really makes it a worthwhile day trip.
Siena, Italy, Things to Do – Wrapped Up
So, there you have it, the best things to do in Siena, where to stay, and what to eat. Enjoy a visit to the vibrant Piazza del Campo, the spiritual Basilica of San Domenico, the impressive collections of Siena’s museums and art galleries, and other Tuscan highlights.
While you’re there, don’t forget to indulge in Siena’s delectable culinary scene and sample traditional dishes, locally produced cured meats, and cheeses. And, before you leave, make sure to pick up some unique gifts from Tuscany and a few trinkets to remind you of your wonderful vacation in Siena.