Siena, Tuscany, Italy

A view over Siena's rooftops into the Italian Countryside, Italy, Europe

A view over Siena rooftops into the Italian Countryside.

Why visit Siena?

Piazza del Campo, Il Campo square, Siena, Italy

Piazza del Campo (aka Il Campo), the enormous town square where Il Palio takes place twice a year.

Siena is of course best known for its thrilling and dangerous bareback horse races in July and August, Il Palio, that skids around Piazza del Campo, the city’s beautiful scallop-shaped market square. But Siena has a lot more to it than historically nutty nag thrashing.

Enclosed by an ancient wall, Siena is Europe’s best preserved medieval town, containing many outstanding works of art and architecture.

The entire town is in warm terracotta bricks, with a laid-back atmosphere and pedestrian friendly streets that make it a delight to walk around, though motorbikes and small public vehicle can be aggressive sharers.

The historic centre of the city is a UNESCO a World Heritage Site and one of Tuscany’s most popular tourist attractions.
A classic Tuscan hill town, Siena was first settled about 900–400 BC by an Etruscan tribe known as the the Saina who were famously advance in terms of architecture, lifestyle and culture.

Siena attractions

view of Siena's brilliant Il Campo square featuring the Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia, Siena, Italy

Another view of Siena’s brilliant Il Campo square featuring the Palazzo Pubblico (City Hall) and Torre del Mangia. Photo by Myrabella.

• The café lined Campo with the Tuscan gothic Palazzo Pubblico/Torre del Mangia/Museo Civico.

• The town hall/Mangia tower/civic museum, the home of marvellous frescoes including Guidoriccio da Fogliano and Maestà by Simone Martini, and the ‘Buongoverno fresco’ – the first known artwork with a landscape as subject – by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

• The Duomo (cathedral) is a work of art outside and packed with art inside too, on floors, walls and ceilings.

The huge and curving Piazza del Campo is the core of the town, tourist central and home to Palazzo Pubblico’s museum and Torre del Mangia’s magnificent views, in addition to the Palio horse race. Inside the Palazzo Pubblico is a renowned art museum including many magnificent frescos.

There is very little traffic permitted to enter Siena so if you’re driving find one of the car parks outside the city walls. La Fortezza and Il Campo are closest to the centre but are pay parks; further out near Porta Romana are free car parks.

Siena Duomo

Duomo flags, Siena, Italy

Il Duomo (Cathedral) of Siena.

Inside Duomo, Siena Italy

Inside Il Duomo.

• The Duomo; work on Siena Cathedral started in the 12th century and took a hundred years to complete. In Romanesque-Gothic style the cathedral has a superb inlaid marble floor (revealed for only a few weeks in August), and an awesome pulpit carved by Nicola Pisano.

The Duomo's Libreria Piccolomini is magnificent, with vivid frescoes and illustrated books, Siena, Italy

The Duomo’s Libreria Piccolomini is also magnificent, with vivid frescoes and gorgeously illustrated books.

– Outside Siena Cathedral on Piazza del Duomo, there is Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana (Duomo Museum) showing ‘Maestà’ by Duccio di Buoninsegna, the famous Sienese artist.

– Pinacoteca (National Picture Gallery), is home to ‘Madonna of the Franciscans’ by Duccio di Buoninsegna.

Palazzo Medici, Siena, Italy

Palazzo Medici.

Siena night on Piazza del Campo, Italy

If you like this city, also try Lucca, home to Puccini, 17 km north of Pisa, another enchanting, seriously walled Tuscan medieval town and a lot less visited. Lucca’s biggest asset are the incredible, massive and totally intact town walls that are a delight to walk or cycle around. Both  offer a relaxed, old-world ambience but the latter wins as far as sights are concerned, even when the Palio is not happening.

Getting There

Siena is situated in the heart of Tuscany, 70 km south Florence, and 230 km north of Rome.

Trains run  from both Pisa and Florence, tho’ you have to change at Empoli. The rail station is at the bottom of a long hill outside the city walls so be prepared to jump on a bus or taxi from the station unless you’re fit or carrying little baggage.
Buses go to and from Florence in less than an hour, as well as from Rome (3 hours), Milan (over 4 hours), and some other Tuscan towns.
Driving  via various autostrada is quite easy, such as the Autostradale RA03 from Firenze.

The greatest festival: Il Palio pictures