Planning a road trip of Tuscany and looking to create a to do list for the best things to do in Siena? Our comprehensive guide on things to do in Siena features the city’s best attractions, bars, restaurants and historic sights.
While many tour groups visit the medieval city on a day trip, we suggest a more relaxed two day itinerary. Siena is a perfect weekend getaway in Tuscany!
Things To Do in Siena
Siena is one of Tuscany’s most visited destinations. Located in the heart of Tuscany, it’s easily accessed by car, train or bus.
Siena’s historic centre is largely closed off to traffic. You can enjoy all the best things to do in Siena on foot, so bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
The medieval city in Tuscany is a popular destination year round. It’s famous Palio di Siena, one of the world’s most famous horse races, takes place twice each summer. Many tourists plan their holiday in Italy during the festival period as the celebratory race is one of the most exciting things to do in Siena each year!
The city’s main attractions are located between Piazza del Campo and Siena Cathedral. If you only have 24 hours in Siena, you can enjoy the city’s best sights in the pedestrian-friendly old historic quarter.
Via Banchi di Sopra, 39-0577-56011
Grand Hotel Continental Siena – Starhotels Collezione is the only luxury 5-star hotel in the historical centre of Siena.
Located in a 17th-century building, the award-winning boutique hotel features 51 suites with frescoed ceilings, ornate ballroom, sun-soaked cocktail bar, fine dining restaurant and lauded wine cellar decorated with thousands of Tuscany’s best bottles.
If you’re planning a romantic weekend getaway, the Grand Hotel Continental Siena offers the city’s best location, quality of service and an opulent ambiance to boot!
Sienese cuisine sums up all of Tuscany’s best flavours and ingredients. The art of Sienese contemporary culinary stylings is on full display at Grand Hotel Continental Siena’s Sapordivino Restaurant.
The hotel’s signature fine dining restaurant is attached to the indoor courtyard of the 17th-century palazzo on the ground floor. Chef Luca Ciaffarafà’s seasonal menu showcases the simplicity of Tuscan cuisine by highlighting unique ingredients native to the region. You’ll always find a typical selection of top quality Tuscan charcuterie, pecorino cheeses from Pienza or the highly esteemed saffron from San Gimignano.
Ranked as one of Siena’s best restaurants, we suggest enjoying a romantic dinner at Sapordivino’s pretty pink dining room.
Wine Cellar by Sapordivino
Located under the Grand Hotel Continental’s eponymous restaurant, Wine Cellar by Sapordivino houses a 3,000-bottle ode to Tuscany’s best wine makers.
Siena’s best wine cellar is located in the base of the luxury hotel’s medieval tower, excavated in the ancient Pietra di Torre, a Sienese cavernous limestone. Its thick stone walls, dating back to the 13th century, combined with modern elements such as glass and steel on the design of famed wine expert Luca Maroni, house a vast collection of fine Italian labels.
If you’re an enthusiastic oenophile, a tutored tasting at Sapordivino’s Wine Cellar is one of the most memorable things to do in Siena.
Via dei Pellegrini, 39-0577-281106
If you’re a culinary enthusiast with a sweet tooth we suggest spending a morning at Panificio il Magnicfico.
Ranked as one of the best bakeries in Siena, Panificio il Magnifico has been producing authentic Sienese sweets for decades. The popular bake shop and Italian delicatessen is conveniently located near the Siena Cathedral.
Owner and Pastry Chef Lorenzo Rossi wakes up at the crack of dawn each morning to tend the bakery’s ancient ovens. Rossi’s must-try Sienese specialities include panforte, cantuccini, cantuccioni, pan co’santi, ricciarelli and classic panettoni.
Piazza del Duomo, 39-0577-286300
Located in a pretty piazza above the Piazza del Campo, the Siena Cathedral (also know as the Duomo) is one of Tuscany’s most visited attractions. Considered one of Italy’s great Gothic buildings, Siena Cathedral is filled with art treasures by Pisano, Donatello, Michelangelo and Pinturicchio.
Built between 1215 and 1263, Siena’s Duomo is built in the form of a Latin cross, featuring a soaring dome and iconic bell tower. The cathedral’s interior and exterior are decorated in alternating stripes of white and greenish-black marble, the symbolic colours of Siena.
If you’re looking for one of the most exclusive things to do in Siena, we suggest booking tickets for the Gates of Heaven Tour. Visitors start the tour by climbing up a spiral staircase to the Duomo’s ancient attic, offering a birds eye view of the cathedral below. Visitors also have the opportunity to walk on the balcony outside, offering photography fans incredible 360 degree panoramic views of the city below.
The interior of the Siena Cathedral is often congested, buzzing with adoring art fans. Because there is so much to see, visitors often unintentionally miss out on one of the Duomo’s star attractions. Once you’ve walked halfway inside the cathedral, take a left and skip into the Piccolomini Library.
Siena Cathedral’s hidden library was built by Pope Pius II’s nephew, who later became Pope Pius III. The jaw-dropping Piccolomini Library was built in loving memory to his uncle and as an elegant space to store his collection of manuscripts.
While his beloved manuscript collection ironically never made it inside, visitors today tip toe through the famous library to gawk at frescoes by Pinturicchio. The elaborately decorated walls inside the Piccolomini Library are divided into 10 scenes that represent important stages in the life of Pope Pius II. Take your time to slowly circulate through the room and you’ll spot the Pope as an ambassador to European courts and paying respects to the new Emperor.
The Baptistery of San Giovani is located directly beside the Siena Cathedral. Built between 1310-1320s by Camaino di Crescentino, the Siena Baptistery offers an excellent overview of early Renaissance art.
The interior is divided into three vaulted aisles covered in elaborate frescoes that are considered the best representation of 15th century Sienese art. The decorative scenes above illustrate the Twelve Articles of the Christian Faith and were painted by Lorenzo di Pietro between 1447 and 1450.
Turn your head towards the baptistery apse and on the triumphal arch you’ll find the Assumption of the Virgin Glory with Angels, the Annunciation, Passion of the Christ, Flagellation and the Ascent to Calvary.
Siena Baptistery’s true gem are the bronze panels depicting scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist by Donatello. The panels are located in the baptismal font, a masterpiece based on designs by Jacopo della Quercia.
Piazza del Duomo, 39-0577-534571
Located directly across from the Siena Cathedral, Santa Maria della Scala is a former medieval hospital turned modern museum.
Santa Maria della Scala’s primary points of interest include a labyrinth of hallways, colourful frescoes, archive of archaeological finds and glittering treasures in the hall of relics.
While the building is known as one of the oldest hospitals in Europe, today the museum collection features a range of historical artifacts. Skip through the large complex and you’ll find ancient items from Etruscan and Roman times, through to the Middles Ages and glory days of the Renaissance.
The star attraction at Santa Maria della Scalla are the well preserved walls in the eye-popping Pilgrims Hall. The cavernous and long hall was originally designed to be the hospital’s first ward. The superb cycle of frescoes were painted in the mid 1400s by Agostino di Marsiglio, Lorenzo di Pietro, Domenico di Bartolo and Priamo della Quercia.
Via di Citta, 39-0577-220928
Fans of classical music should check out the ongoing concert program at the acclaimed Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena. Located in an ancient palace, the Accademia Musicale Chigiana is recognized as one of Italy’s most prestigious musical institutions.
The first course was taught here in 1932 and featured prestigious musicians such as organist Fernando Germani, pianist Claude Gonvierre, vocalist Giulia Varesi Boccabadati, harpist Ada Sassoli Ruata, violinist Arrigo Serato and cellist Arturo Bonucci.
Today, music lovers can visit the palace and its treasures that include important private collections featuring paintings, marble and terracotta statues, bas-reliefs, porcelain, chinoiserie, ceramics, murals and a photo gallery of the great musical artists of the 20th century who have performed in concert here.
The palace is also home to one of Siena’s best cafes, which brilliantly showcases Accademia Musicale Chigiana’s love for classical music. After checking out the museum pop by the cafe for a frothy cappuccino and Sienese pastry. Then take a stroll through a series of intimate dining rooms where video recordings of notable classical music concerts project onto the walls.
Piazza del Campo
If Siena had its own beating heart in the city it would be Piazza del Campo. The principal public space in the historic centre is considered one of Europe’s best medieval squares. A stroll through the bustling Piazza del Campo is most certainly on every visitors list of things to do in Siena.
The shell shaped plaza is home to the city’s architectural icon, the Palazzo Pubblico, the refreshing Gaia Fountain and a slew of al fresco restaurants and bars.
Piazza del Campo shows off her celebratory side twice a year during the annual Palio di Siena. Considered to be one of the world’s most famous horse races, Siena’s famous festival is truly a sight to behold. Thunderous horse hooves circle around the edges of the piazza as onlookers cheer with glee and gelato!
Sitting perched over the Piazza del Campo, Palazzo Pubblico has frequently been at the centre of civic life in Siena. Built between 1297-1308, Siena’s city hall is an excellent example of Italian medieval architecture with Gothic influences.
Its bell tower, Torre del Mangia, was built later, between 1325 and 1344 with its crown designed by artist Lippo Memmi. Palazzo Pubblico’s iconic tower was designed to be taller than neighbouring rival Florence. When Siena’s tower was finally complete it laid claim as the tallest structure in all of Italy!
After gawking up at the palace’s awesome architecture, skip inside to enjoy a tour through the Siena Civic Museum.
Piazza del Campo, 39-0577-292615
Every room inside the Siena Civic Museum is covered in beautiful frescoes. The paintings inside Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico are unique for the period as they were commissioned by the government body of the city, rather than the Catholic Church.
Because the money that funded these masterpieces came from the city itself, they are also unusual as they mostly depict secular subjects instead of religious iconography, which were overwhelmingly the norm for Italian art during that era.
The most famous of the secular frescoes at Siena Civic Museum is a three panel series depicting government in the Hall of Nine. The iconic wall paintings were created by Ambrogio Lorenzetti and are collectively known as The Allegory of Good and Bad Government.
Take your time to inspect the characters and scenes on each wall and you’ll find the personification of Justice as a woman, gesturing to the scales of balance. A convicted criminal can be found beheaded while the largest figure is a judge surrounded by personifications of peace.
The allegory’s intention was to offer a strong social message to a mostly illiterate population. It clearly conveys to the public what a stable republic should look like, combining elements of relatable secular life with an homage to religion.
The history books claim that fresh water first reached Piazzal del Campo in 1342, after eight years of exhausting construction. Locals, ever eager to celebrate their new public space, unveiled Gaia Fountain the following year, in 1343.
A hundred years after the “joyous fountain” was completed, it was decorated with sculptures by Sienese Renaissance artist, Jacopo della Quercia.
The sculptures that tourists can admire today are 19h-century copies. The original work was badly damaged over the years and are now conserved inside the museum of Santa Maria della Scala.
On a hot summer day skip over to Fonte Gaia with a few scoops of gelato and dip your hands in the ancient fountains refreshing cool waters.
Piazza del Campo bustles with visitors every day from dawn until dusk. If you’re staying in the city for a weekend getaway, enjoying a late night aperitivo cocktail is one of favourite things to do in Sienna.
Siena’s public plaza transforms into a quiet and romantically intimate space after the sun goes down. If you’re a fan of people watching in the evening, we suggest grabbing a front row seat of Palazzo Pubblico at one of Siena’s best bars.
Bar Il Palio is the best restaurant and bar on the Campo to enjoy cocktails at night. For a truly romantic evening, we suggest ordering a classic Italian Negroni or Aperol Spritz while watching the night sky twinkle above.
Basilica di san Domenico is a vast brick church founded by the Dominican order in 1125. Later, in the 14th-century the church was enlarged, resulting in a more Gothic style.
The enormous and severe structure juts out from one of Siena’s more modern neighbourhoods. Step inside and you’ll find the famous church is designed in the shape of an Egyptian cross.
Siena’s Dominican church is most famous for housing the relics of St. Catherine, whose family house is located nearby. She made herself known very quickly by being marked by phenomena such as stigmata and a mystical marriage. Her influence over Pope Gregory XI actually played a role in his decision to leave Avignon for Rome.
After St Catherine of Siena’s death in 1380 the Catholic devotion to her developed rapidly. Today, devout Catholic’s enjoy pilgrimages to Siena to visit Basilica di san Domenic where her severed head and thumb are entombed.
Via Pianigiani, 39-0577-2301
If you’re a curious foodie looking to sip and sample through Siena’s best local products we suggest organizing a shopping trip to Consorzio Agrario di Siena.
In operation since 1901, this posh farmer’s co-op feels more like a fancy Whole Foods. The beautifully designed culinary emporium sells food and wine, all of which is produced within the region of Siena in Tuscany.
You’ll find local nona’s doing their grocery shopping, patiently lining up at the butcher, cheese monger and baker. If you’re looking to enjoy an authentic taste of Siena, Consorzio Agrariro di Siena is the perfect place to pack a picnic.
You’ll find a variety of aged pecorino, endless charcuterie options, freshly baked Tuscan bread and a gallery of fine wine. If in need of a quick grab and go option or cheap lunch, there’s a bar area selling pretty panino and pizza slices.
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