10 things to do in Siena

10 things you must see and do during your stay in Siena

The beauty of Siena can be appreciated after some days you left the city. When you are there you are too concentrated in to see as much as possible, so you don’t immediately realize the beauty that surrounds you in this little city situated in the centre of Tuscany. The memories come to the surface after some days: the first thing that you remember is Piazza del Campo, then the Palazzo pubblico and the Torre del Mangia or the Black and white of the Duomo, the Baptistry, etc. But, maybe, the thing that you are going to remember better is the colour of the frontages and of the roofings, that very known colour Sienna, that makes the city landscape coherent, harmonious and lovely to watch. Siena it’s not changed in appearances from the middle age to nowadays and walking through its streets it’s a kind of travel in time, the search of a golden age. Once this appearence was common for the Italian cities, but Sinea is the one which preserve this sublime past look.

Piazza del Campo in Siena Siena - Piazza del Campo - Photo by DiEgO

Piazza del Campo in Siena

Piazza del Campo in Siena is considered one of the most beautiful places of the world. It has a characteristic shell-shape divided in 9 slices, you can admire this particular form from the top of the tower del Mangia. From the 1300 this square it’s the centre of everyday life of Siena and it has the function of market place, of meeting point for all the city dwellers during important political moments or celebrations, for example twice a year in occasion of the well known palio. Today Piazza del Campo is the tourist place par excellence, the point you must see of the city, full of souvenirs markets (which doesn’t damage the beauty of the place). The slight slope makes the silhouette of the tower del mangia with the palazzo pubblico even more impressive while all the place is surrounded by beautiful and impressive nobility houses. The tourist rite in this place wants the people to sit or lie down on the ground to admire the sky in very unusual and original position. Actually it is a way to rest after all the ups and downs in the city’s alleys. On the top of the place there’s the “fonte Gaia” one of the most beautiful fountains of Siena. It was carved by Jacopo della Quercia between the 1409 and the 1419, the one you can admire in the place today is a copy of the original.

Torre del Mangia in Siena Siena - The Tower "del Mangia"

Torre del Mangia in Siena

If you suffer from vertigo maybe you shouldn’t go on the top of this tower which is 88 meters high, but we warn you: you’ll lose an exceptional view. Up there the spectacle is breathtaking, you can see all the city: The place, the Cathedral and all the hills that surrounded the city. The tower takes its name from Giovanni Duccio, first keeper of the tower, also known as “mangia-guadagni” (Litterally: “Money eater”, in Italian it’s a way to call people who waste their money), who spent all his money eating in all Siena’s taverns. That’s why the tower is called “Torre del mangia” (Litterally: Mangia’s tower). The legend tells that during the construction at the foot of the tower were hidden some lucky coins and that at the 4 corners of the tower there are stones on which are engraved sentences in Latin and Hebraic with the task of keeping away thunders and storms from the tower.

How to get here: By feet, facing about 400 steps.
When: From the 16th October to the end of February, everyday from 10 am to 4 pm (the ticket office closes at 3,15 pm). From the 1st March to the 16th October, everyday from 10 am to 7 pm (the ticket office closes at 6,15 pm)
Tickets: 7 € or 12 € the ticket which comprehends the visit to the Civic Museum too.

The Cathedral of Siena Siena - The frontage of the Cathedral

The Cathedral of Siena

Tourists usually arrive at the Cathedral after visited Piazza del Campo, so they didn’t expect to remain surprised again. Nobody thinks that can be something else of so spectacular. Well, they wrong. There’s still the Cathedral with its black and white frontage. It has a stupendous frontage and it has a stupendous interior too. This impressive church is dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption. The richest jewels are in the inside: the floor full of esoteric symbols and religious stories: for example all the sibyls of the history, the slaughter of the innocents, king David, Hermes Trismegist, the life of Moses and the Sacrifice of Iefte. In the left aisle, just before the transept, there’s the Piccolomini Library, frescoed by Pinturicchio, that in spite of the name it never housed the books of the Pope Pio II.
Just beyond the library there’s the Piccolomini Chapel, in which there are 4 statues made by Michelangelo (he worked there from 1501 to the 1504), his statues ornate the 4 inferior niche of the Chapel. The pulpit deserve attention too: there are represented scenes taken from the Bible and Jesus life, it was made by Nicola Pisano.

When: From 01/03 to 31/05 – 10,30 am - 7,30 pm Public holiday 1,30 pm – 5,30 pm
From 01/06 to 31/08: 10,30 am – 8 pm Public holiday 1,30 pm – 6 pm
From 01/09 to 01/11: 10,30 am – 7,30 pm Public holiday 1,30 pm – 5,30 pm
From 02/11 to 28/02: 10,30 am - 6,30 pm Public holiday 1,30 pm - 5,30 pm
Tickets: 3 €

The Baptistery of Siena Siena - Baptismal font of the Baptistery

The Baptistery of Siena

The Baptistery is situated just at the back of the Cathedral. From 1325 it compete with the Cathedral for the role of the most important religious building in Siena. Under its ogival arch all the Siena’s city dwellers have been baptised. On the nave and the two aisles you can find the frescos by Benvenuto di Giovanni ( “The miracles of Saint Anthony of Padova” – 1460) Pietro degli Orioli (“The washing of the feet”) and Lorenzo di Pietro known as “il Vecchietta” (he made the frescos on the vault that represent “the articles of Faith”, 1447 – 1450). But the protagonist of the baptistery is the baptismal font made of bronze and marble and situated in the centre of the church. It has been created by the great artists of that period: Jacopo della Quercia, Giovanni di Turino, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello. The latter realized two of the six bronzed angels which decorate the canopy.

When: from 01/03 to 31/05: 9,30 am – 7 pm
From 01/06 to 31/08: 9,30 am – 8 pm
From 01/09 to 01/11: 9,30 am – 7 pm
From 02/11 to 28/02: 10 am – 5 pm
Never: 1st January, 25th December
Tickets: 3 €

The Public Palace of Siena Siena - Night view of the public palace

The Public Palace of Siena

The Public Palace of Siena is the seat of the political power of the city. Since the “9 government” (that in 1300 made Siena become the beautiful city that we can see today) to nowadays all Siena’s governors lived there. If only nine politics succeeded in thinking and realizing these wonders we would expect something better from the thousand politics that in this times crowd the city halls.
The Public palace of Siena is considered one of the most beautiful civil palaces in Italy. It has always been admired for its harmony and majestic. A beauty yet perceived during the construction of the palace, so much that the city government during the works passed an edict that obligated the owners of the buildings in piazza del Campo to build their houses observing rules of stylistic coherence, but, at the same time, they should not be more beautiful or bigger than the Palace. In the Palace there’s the Civic Museum of Siena too, decorated with the famous frescos of Ambrogio Lorenzetti which represent the allegories of good and bad government.

The civic museum in Siena Siena - Allegory of the good governement - Civic Museum

The civic museum in Siena

The civic museum in Siena houses one of the most known allegories of the world: the allegory of the good and bad government, painted on the walls by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. In 1337 the “government of the 9” asked Lorenzetti to decorate the room (where the guests were received), with a fresco that representing the ideals that guided the city and its governors. For the first time an allegoric fresco cycle had a civil subject and not religious. The result is this allegory that tells how a good or a bad government can decide the well-being or the decadence of the society. The other great protagonist of the Museum is the “Majesty” painted by Simone Martini, the nine’s asked this work to testify the great devotion of Siena’s city dwellers to the Virgin.

Tickets: Full ticket 7,50 €, with reservation 6,50 €. Reduced ticket 4,50 €, with reservation 3,50 € (students, over 65, military and invalids)
When: 1st November - 15th March 10 am – 6.30 pm
16 March – 31 October 10 am – 7 pm

Eating in Siena Siena - Pappardelle with boar ragu - Photo by marco.ziero

Eating in Siena

It isn’t possible to talk about Siena’s food without talking about the territory in which it is produced. The hills that surround the city has given for centuries (and still give…) oil, wine, meat and groceries. Thanks to the rural ability, cultivated during the centuries, this ingredients has become part of authentic and genuine food not influenced by modernity. The boar (in particular the “cinta senese”) and the hare are the principal ingredient to flavour crostini (slices of grilled bread), pappardelle (home made pasta) and dishes of grilled meat. Always with the crostini (served as appetizer) you can taste various kind of boar ham and salami, pecorino (ripe cheese), honey and fegatelli (small pieces of pig’s liver). Among the soups the “ribollita” is the one that helps better to face the cold of the winter. Always present on the table the wines of Tuscany: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Montepulciano and the Vernaccia di San Gimignano. People who loves dessert won’t be deceived: cantucci (biscuits with toasted almonds), ricciarelli (soft biscuits with icing sugar), panforte (cake with fruit nuts and spices) and cavallucci (biscuit with honey, walnut, candied fruits and spices) generally served with Vin Santo (dessert wine).

Going out in Siena Siena - Nightlife in Piazza del Campo - Photo by Patrik Axelsson

Going out in Siena

Siena doesn’t have a real night life, it’s a little city and it’s clear that people who choose this Tuscany’s jewel don’t care about going out in the night. Moreover after a long day passed walking through its ups and downs, visiting museums, churches and palaces it’s complicate to have the strenght to go out. In the night, the favourite activity of the tourists in Siena is having a dinner in beautiful and typical restaurants and then have a walk in the alleys of the city (even because Siena’s food is very nourishing…) When the weather is good someone likes to sit or to lie down on the ground in piazza del Campo and watch the stars. Looking at so beautiful starry sky who cares about discos and fashionable clubs?