See the best of Siena in a day. All the insider tips and ideas on how to plan your perfect day, and get the most from this fascinating destination in Tuscany, Italy.
Siena is compact enough that it can be easily explored on foot. In a day you can see the main sights, enjoy a drink in the stunning Piazza del Campo, visit the gorgeous Cathedral and shop for local souvenirs and delicacies. But one of the pleasures of this Medieval wonderland is just to wander around its narrow streets and steep alleyways and discover all its enchanting details and hidden corners.
What to do in Siena in a day – See the highlights of Siena
VISIT THE CATHEDRAL
Start with a visit to the Cathedral, one of Italy’s Gothic marvels. The Cathedral’s treasures include statues by Michelangelo and Donatello, a magnificent marble pulpit by Nicola Pisano, the Piccolomini Library frescoed by Renaissance master Pinturicchio, and the inlaid marble pavement. Allow at least one hour for the visit, and an extra hour if you’d like to join the Gates of Heaven tour that takes you on the walkway above the Duomo and offers spectacular views. If you’re an art enthusiast you might want to round off your experience with a visit to the Baptistry and the Museo Opera del Duomo.
SOAK UP THE ATMOSPHERE IN PIAZZA DEL CAMPO
Piazza del Campo is the core of the city and one of Italy’s most beautiful squares. So take your time to sit at one of the open- air tables for a cappuccino or a drink. Yes, it’s a little overpriced but it’s the best place in Siena to experience its uniquely Medieval atmosphere. You could spend hours just taking in all the details of the red stone buildings, especially the stunning Palazzo Pubblico. The pointed arches, the slender tower, the biforate windows. And then of course, there’s the Fonte Gaia, the most beautiful of Siena’s fountains. A real feast for the eyes.
If you like frescoes, visit the Museo Civico that hosts the famous “Allegory of Good and Bad Government” (1338-40) – a fresco cycle by Lorenzetti. They form one of the most important secular paintings of the Middle Ages.
TAKE A STROLL AROUND THE HISTORICAL CENTRE
This may sound obvious, but a walk around Siena is so much more than a walk in any other city. Strolling around the steep alleyways and quaint streets gives another meaning to the word ‘picturesque’. Find unexpected corners, splendid little squares like Piazza Salimbeni and look for the signs of the contrade or city districts. You’ll see plaques and flags all around the town bearing their symbols – the cunning owl, the fiery dragon, the slow but relentless turtle. These details make a walk extra special.
If you’ve got more time, and would like to learn a bit more about the fascinating history of Siena, you might want to visit the Museum Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala and the San Domenico Basilica, a sturdy, barn-like Gothic church that contains the preserved head of Siena’s patron saint Catherine. A piece of Medieval weirdness if ever there was one.
A day in Siena, Tuscany Italy – Top tips for your visit
If you arrive nice and early it’s worth having a look at Piazza del Campo in complete tranquility before the crowds get there. It’s pure magic. If you are not an early bird, consider staying for dinner and walking around at night. Quiet and beautifully lit, it’s an enchanting time to experience one of the most beautiful squares in Tuscany and Italy.
Our advice is to wear comfortable shoes, and be prepared for some of the steep streets.
Remember that if you’re travelling in high season, you should expect some crowds. So it’s better to plan visit the Cathedral quite early to enjoy it best. Keep in mind that before and during the Palio (that happens every year on the 2nd of July and 16th of August) the city is busier than usual.
Best way to reach Siena from Florence, Tuscany
If you’re based in Florence, getting the bus is the best way to reach Siena. It takes roughly an hour. The buses leave from the Busitalia SITA station in Via S. Caterina di Alessandria, a few steps from S.M. Novella train station. You can also get there by train, but bear in mind that the train station in Siena is located a bit outside the city centre, while the bus leaves you right in the centre. Find out more about travelling from Florence to Siena.
First time in Florence? Check out all the unmissable sights in our Florence’s guide for first timers!
Eating in Siena
For lunch or dinner we love Osteria Le Logge, Osteria da Divo (delicious, ever-changing seasonal menu), Trattoria la Nonna (very local), but best of all the most reliable and best value, La Finestra, which never disappoints.