Siena is without doubt one of Tuscany‘s highlights. With its atmospheric Medieval streets and squares, the stunning Piazza del Campo and Cathedral, it’s one of Tuscany’s favourite destinations. Here we take a look at the top things to do in Siena in 2017; sights and experiences that should be included in every traveller’s itinerary this year.
Siena Cathedral – Ascend to the Gate of Heaven
This organised tour in Siena’s Cathedral really does seem to lead you up towards heaven. The tour takes you up spiral staircases, through passages and balconies up to the Cathedral’s roof level. From here you’ll be afforded some spectacular views of the church with its feast of striped columns, inlaid marble floors, elegant chapels and frescoes. And you’ll see why Siena’s Duomo is considered one of the architectural wonders of Italy.
The views of the exterior are equally rewarding; from Duccio di Buoninsegna’s beautiful stained-glass rose window, to the “Facciatone” – the unfinished extension of the Duomo. From up here you can also see right over the rooftops of the city to the surrounding countryside.
‘Gates of Heaven’ Tours are available from March to January the 6th. For more information, see the official site.
Time travel in Piazza del Campo
You can’t go to Siena without spending a bit of time in Piazza del Campo, widely regarded as one of Europe’s greatest Medieval squares. Take a break from the sightseeing and sit yourself down on the ancient stones to soak up the sun with the students. Or choose a table at one of the outside bars.
Arrive very early in the morning, before the city wakes up, and it feels almost as if you’re stepping into a Medieval film set. A mounted knight would not be out of place riding down these narrow streets that lead to ‘Il Campo’, (the popular name for the square). If you visit during the Summer months, you’ll see Siena dressing itself up for the Palio – the horse race held here on the 2nd July and 15 August. Even if you don’t attend the horse race itself, it’s still a pleasure to go and see Siena decked out in colourful flags and Medieval finery.
Explore Santa Maria della Scala – Beautiful and eerie
Entering the complex of Santa Maria della Scala Museum is not an experience you are likely to forget. Built around the year 1000, the building acted as a hospital and orphanage throughout its history. Located opposite the Cathedral, this very special museum has a fascinating story and many rooms to explore. Once inside you can walk through its underground halls and winding paths, deep down inside the history of the city.
A ‘Hospital’ in Medieval times wasn’t only there to treat the sick. It also provided lodgings for visiting pilgrims. Many of them would have stopped off at this hospital as they passed along the nearby Via Francigena. In the Pilgrim’s Hall you’ll see some fascinating frescoes that tell the story of the hospital’s daily life.
The eclectic collections include religious artefacts, archeological finds, the original Fonte Gaia, and the underground chapel where Saint Catherine used to pray. It’s a very atmospheric place, and though there isn’t much in the way of detailed explanations, it’s still one of the top things to do in Siena in 2017.
Try a taste of Siena – eat a Ricciarello
Sweet tooth anyone? Try a ricciarello. This soft, almond biscuit is one of the culinary symbols of the city. Visit one of the many pasticcerie in Siena. Nannini is an institution, and has been baking since 1930. Pasticceria Bini and Nocino are amongst the locals’ favourite. Ricciarelli are a part of the history of Siena, and your palate will certainly thank you.
Attending the Tuscan Wine School is one of the top things to do in Siena in 2017
This school is completely dedicated to the study of Tuscan wine. A professional English-speaking sommelier will guide you through a variety of different experiences. These include everything from tastings to foodie tours of Siena. It’s lots of fun, and you’ll get to taste a variety of local wines, including Chianti and the sublime Brunello di Montalcino.
You’ll learn about the different Tuscan winemaking regions, their climate, terroir and traditions. And you’ll get the lowdown on the most important grapes of each area, and what characteristics they bring to each wine.