8 Things to do in Siena, Italy
Siena is a small and beautiful historical city in the famous region of Tuscany. The city is home to endless beautiful buildings in various terracotta and rose colors that line a maze of alleyways and hidden squares.
Among these buildings, discover the historic center of Siena, which is of such high historical value its been named a UNESCO world heritage site. It’s known for its medieval art and beautiful frescoes, which can be found inside magnificent buildings, showcasing that you can find just as many treasures on the inside as you can on the outside in Siena.
The city was hit badly by the Plague in the 1300s and hasn’t changed since, so a visit here feels like a time machine to the past. As such, days in Siena can be taken slowly, learning, taking photos, and admiring the fantastic views you’ll find from many of the steep hilltop streets. Here are the top things to do in Siena!
1. Piazza del Campo
Piazza del Campo is the main square in Siena, known fondly by the locals as Il Campo (meaning ‘field’ in Italian). It’s easy to see why when you enter the vast shell-shaped square lined by beautiful ancient buildings. You’ll find many of the important sites on, or close to, this square, so it’s a great place to start any city walking trip.
Discover Torre del Mangia, Palazzo Publico and the Fountain of Gaia. The fountain sits at the center and is used as a meeting point by locals, so it’s a great place to sit and people-watch.
2. Cathedral Siena (Siena Duomo)
The Cathedral of Siena is one of the most spectacular sights and a top thing to do in Siena. The mammoth gothic building was built using white stone and rose marble, with various colors running through it. Treasures are waiting inside, where you can find some of the most breathtaking frescoes across the ceilings and walls. (Book your skip-the-line tickets easily online here)
3. Battistero di San Giovanni
Battistero di San Giovanni sits at the back of the Cathedral on a lower level that is accessed by some steps. This small church, another gothic building, is much quieter than the cathedral and a nice place to spend half an hour and escape the heat on summer days. Look out for its incredible frescoes, detailed decoration, and famous hexagonal baptismal font.
4. Palazzo Pubblico – Top Thing to do in Siena!
The Palazzo Pubblico is a stunning palace on the Il Campo square. Created in the 13th century, this beautiful building was once where the republic government would sit. Every room inside has intricate decorations, paintings, and frescoes which can be seen on a guided tour.
However, the adjoining tower, Torre del Mangia, is the real icon of Sienna, dominating the skyline for miles around. Standing at 88 meters tall, you can snake your way up the 400 steps all the way to the top. You get a magnificent birdseye view of the city and the surrounding Tuscan countryside from this height. Enjoy this top thing to do in Siena!
5. Church of San Domenico
The Church of San Domenico might not be as luxurious as the Cathedral, but it’s still beautiful inside and out. Plus, it has the uniqueness of an unusual mix of styles as bits of the church have been added over the years. However, the best part of all is its hilltop location, providing fantastic views out onto the orange tiled rooves and terracotta buildings of sienna. This traditional Italian building, surrounded by green Cypress trees, is a must-see on your trip to Siena.
The Elsa Trail is a beautiful natural area located just a 30-minute drive from Siena. This stunning walking path is a slice of heaven, away from the city’s bustling streets, that worms between milky blue pools and waterfalls. Pack a picnic and jump in the car, crossing gorgeous Tuscan landscapes to enjoy a refreshing swim in the waters.
Tip: If you don’t have a car, you can take a public bus from the center of Siena (number 130 or 131).
7. Visit San Gimignano from Siena
Close to the Elsa Trail and Waterfall is San Gimignano, whose remarkable nickname is Manhattan of the Middle Ages. It owes the nickname to the large number of residential towers that were once a status symbol for families building the highest. The higher, the better.
San Gimignano is about a 1h 15 min drive from Siena but if you combine this with the Diborrato waterfall it’s a perfect thing to do from Siena.
8. A day trip to Pienza and Montepulciano
Montepulciano and Pienza are two beautiful locations located in the southern part of Tuscany. From Siena, it is about a 1-hour drive by car. Pienza is a charming little hilltop village known as the capital of the tasty pecorino cheese.
Montepulciano is a small medieval city with great little restaurants and sites to visit. The two are very different and, therefore, a great visit on a day trip from Siena.
Tours in Pienza and Montepulciano
How to visit Siena in Italy
Renting a car in Italy is one of the best ways to get around Tuscany, giving you the freedom to enjoy the top things to do in Siena and the beautiful nature in the surrounding region. We recommend renting a car from Sunnycars as they work with local car rental companies. Once you get to Siena, you can park it in this free parking spot.
Siena is a small city and very walkable. In fact; inside the historical center this is the only option as there are no cars allowed. It’s the best way to see the tiny streets and find fantastic wine bars, beautiful townhouses, and more medieval gems.
Alternatively, do as the Italians do and rent a Vespa for your trip. Have fun driving the Vespa through the picturesque Italian streets!
Where to Stay in Siena
The historic center is the best option as this puts you right in the heart of Siena so you can walk everywhere and wake up to the sight of ancient buildings in the morning mist. Please be aware that you can’t drive or park in this area, so it might be better to stay outside of this area if you’re driving a car. (Here are all hotels options in Siena)
Many people choose to stay on a farm in the Tuscan countryside instead, venturing into Siena for a day trip.
Best Time to Visit Siena, Italy
The summer months in Siena are hot, and the small compact city gets busy with travelers on their summer holidays. Although this makes for a great atmosphere, the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn can be a better option for quieter streets, lower prices, and warm temperatures that are perfect for a day of sightseeing.
Best Cafes and Restaurants
The food in Siena doesn’t disappoint! There are lots of local delicacies here, such as truffle, porcini mushrooms, and the typical almond cookie of Siena. Head to a cozy trattoria and enjoy the local pasta, Pici (made with flour and water), and a delicious homemade sauce of tomato and garlic. Plus, the region is famous worldwide for its wine, so you can pair it with some of the tastiest varieties.
Some of our favorite restaurants were:
- Osteria Permalico
- Osteria Degli Svitati
- Torrefazione Fiorella