WHAT TO SEE AND DO:
- Piazza del Campo – This iconic square is the historic center of Siena and boasts the distinction of being one of Europe’s most grand medieval squares. The famous Palio di Siena horse race is held on July 2 and August 16, drawing visitors from all over the world to witness this incredible spectacle. Be sure to take the time to stand in the middle of the unique shell-shaped square and take it all in.
- Torre del Mangia – Located in the Piazza del Campo, this 87-meter tower provides sweeping views of all of Siena and the distant hills of Tuscany. Built in the 1300s, a trip to the top of this gem should be on every travel bucket list. With over 400 steps to climb to reach the top, but the effort is well worth it.
- Fonte Gaia – This historical fountain also calls the Piazza del Campo home. While the remains of the original fountain are now located at the Museum complex of Santa Maria della Scala, this replica is breathtaking in its own right.
- Duomo di Siena – The heavy Roman Catholic influence is felt all over Siena, but especially at its venerable cathedral. This medieval church dates back to the mid-1200s and is a stunning example of Romanesque-Gothic architecture. While duly impressive from the outside, stepping inside the interior of the church will make anyone gasp in amazement at the beauty. The cathedral is adorned with works by various artists, including Donatello, Michelangelo, and Pinturicchio.
- The Battistero di San Giovanni – Located right next to the Duomo, the Baptistery includes a myriad of awe-inspiring frescoes and other artifacts that encapsulate the grandeur of ancient Siena.
WHAT TO EAT: There is no shortage of mouth-watering specialties that await you in Siena. The entire Tuscan region has built a strong reputation on its fresh and local ingredients that harness the best flavors of the season. The region is known for its traditional panforte dessert, the Cavallucci and ricciarelli sweet biscuits, pappardelle pasta paired with grilled meat, wild boar, local sausages, and a bounty of cheese platters with all of the accompaniments. You also must not miss a bowl of the classic ribollita. This slow-cooked mixture of bread, beans, and vegetables is a hearty meal perfect for cool evenings in Siena.
WHAT TO DRINK: It is no secret that wine reigns supreme in Siena. The wine of choice in this region is Chianti with the varietals of Brunello di Montalcino, Montepulciano, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano close behind in popularity. The wine flows like water in Tuscany, making it an affordable treat while traveling in this ancient city.
SIENA BY NIGHT: Unlike some Italian cities that close up shop early, Siena comes alive when the sun begins to set on its cobbled streets. The Piazza del Campo is a central gathering spot of tourists and locals. A bevy of wineries, breweries, and night clubs encourage visitors to have a drink and connect with others. Street performers are also milling around looking to entertain wanderers for a small amount of money.
Siena is best explored by foot. It is easy to get lost in this quaint city. Part of the fun is to wander the streets, shopping for handmade leather goods and artisan crafts, sampling the authentic Italian goodies, and soaking up the magic of this historic city.