Siena: the main sights in one day
Siena in one day

Siena: the main sights in one day

Siena is the eternal rival of Florence, the Italian capital of art of the XIII century, a beautiful Tuscan city with a perfectly preserved medieval center, and today one of the largest tourist centers in Italy. Siena’s history is a story of prosperity and defeat, Trecento luxury and centuries of poverty — and a resounding revenge in the twentieth century, when tourists discovered that the city had kept its medieval architecture intact, simply lacking the money for renovation and rebuilding.

There are two cities in Tuscany vying for the title of the second most «authentic» and «Tuscan» after Florence: Siena and Lucca. One day is not enough to get into the atmosphere and feel like a Sienese — you should at least spend a night in Siena. I’ll tell you what to see in the city in one daylight.

Siena’s main attractions

Main Square (Piazza del Campo)

Piazza del Campo is 333 meters square and is unique in that its shape resembles a seashell. The first historical records of the square date back to 1169.

This square twice a year, on July 2 and August 16, is the site of the famous Siena Palio horse race . It is a fascinating spectacle: flags and coats of arms are hung on the houses, spectators gather from all over the world, riders try to rein in the unsaddled horses, and festive processions take place all night long. If you want to go to the races, plan your trip a few months in advance: during the days of the Palio all accommodation is sold out not only in Siena, but also in the neighboring towns. During this period, the opening hours of all attractions may vary.

On ordinary days, local students sit on stones in the square and discuss something heatedly. Siena is called the student city: of the approximately 54,000 inhabitants, more than 20,000 are students.

Palazzo Pubblico (Palace of the Public)

The palace was originally built in the 15th century, and two centuries later the building was enlarged and side parts were added. Previously, the palace served as the city administration. Now the city council occupies the second level, and on the ground floor there is a museum with works of local craftsmen. The lower part of the town hall houses the Teatro del Rinnovati (Rinnovati Theater).

  • Opening hours: from March 16 to October 31: from 10:00 to 19:00 (admission until 18:15); from November 01 to March 15: from 10:00 to 18:00 (admission until 17:15).
  • Admission: adult 10 €, with reservation 9 € under 19 years old — 9 €, with reservation 8,5 € family (two adults and a child from 11 to 19) 22 €
  • Public Palace website

Tower of Gluttony (Torre del Mangia)

The highest tower in Tuscany, 102 meters high, was built in the XIV century. According to legend, the townspeople nicknamed it so because of the irrepressible appetite of the first watchman: everyone knew that he was sure to spend all his money on treats.

On the first floor of the tower is the Cappella di Piazza (Chapel of the Piazza). It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who saved the city from the terrible bubonic plague, when 75% of the population died. The people of Siena believe that it was the Virgin Mary who saved them.

After climbing four hundred steps, you will find yourself on a viewing platform at a height of 88 meters, from where you can see the whole city.

  • Hours of operation: from March 01 to October 15 — from 10:00 to 19:00 (admission until 18:15); from October 16 to February 28 — from 10:00 to 18:00 (admission until 15:15)
  • Admission: adult 10 € family (two adults and a child from 11 to 19) 25 € under 11 years old — free of charge
  • Website
The tower of gluttony and the palace of the public
The tower of gluttony and the palace of the public

Fountain of joy (Fontana di gioia)

There is also a fountain built in 1419 in the square opposite the Tower of Gluttony. It is decorated with statues representing scenes from the Bible: «The Expulsion from Paradise» and «The Creation of Adam». According to legend, the fountain got its name because it delighted the locals. In the 19th century, the figures from the fountain were moved to the museum and replicas were put in their place.

National Gallery (Pinacoteca Nazionale)

The Pinacoteca di Siena houses paintings and sculptures by masters from Italy and other European countries, but it’s not just the rich collection that makes it noteworthy. The gallery is located in the Palazzo Bridgidi e Buonsignori and has preserved the interior of the palace.

  • Opening hours: Tues-Sat from 08:15 to 19:15; Sun-Fri: from 09:00 to 13:00
  • Admission: adult 8 € concession 2 €. Free admission every first Sunday of the month.
  • Website

Siena Duomo (Duomo di Siena)

The Cathedral of Siena, a significant example of Italian Gothic, was built in the XIII century and consecrated in honor of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary. The project was not finished: the plague invaded the city. One of the most beautiful cathedrals in Italy is mesmerizing with its Gothic marble facade. Inside, you can’t take your eyes off the mosaic floor, the magnificent pulpit and the Baptistery of San Giovanni. Be sure to climb to the top tier to see all the splendor from above. It’s hard to imagine that it must have looked even more majestic.

  • Opening hours: daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. — 6:00 p.m. depending on the season
  • OPA SI PASS: adult 8—15 € depending on the season; children 2 € children under 6 free of charge. Online booking is possible.
  • Website
Siena Duomo
Siena Duomo

Church of Santissima Annunziata (Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata)

From the outside, the church looks like an ordinary building, the almost inconspicuous entrance can be easily missed. There is little mention of this place in guidebooks, as if the locals are saving it for themselves. But you now know: the church is opposite the Cathedral. Inside it is deserted, quiet and atmospheric. A large organ adorns the altar of the church and adds to the uniqueness of the place.

  • Opening hours: daily from 10:00 to 19:00
  • Admission is free
  • Website
Church of Santissima Annunziata: ceiling and altar frescoes
Church of Santissima Annunziata: ceiling and altar frescoes

What else is there to see in Siena?

Basilica di San Francesco. Notable for housing the «Eucharistic Miracle of Siena»: a local legend tells the story of how in 1730, 200 sacred prosphoras (church bread) were stolen from the church and then miraculously reappeared. Servants claim that the bread is still fresh.

Santa Maria Hospital Museum (Complesso museale di Santa Maria). It is located in a ninth-century hospital for beggars. Here you can touch the relics of saints, wander through ancient labyrinths, see frescoes by artists, and in the center is the Church of the Most Holy Annunciation (Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata).

Botanical Garden (All’Orto de' Pecci). Here you can relax, watch the peacocks and look out over the historic center. Entrance is free of charge.

What to do in Siena?

In Siena, it is advantageous to buy combo tickets to several sites at once:

  • City Museum + Santa Maria Hospital Museum 14 €
  • City Museum + Tower of Gluttony 15 €
  • City Museum + Santa Maria Hospital Museum + Gluttony Tower 20 €

Siena is Tuscany, and Tuscany is wine, food and photogenic, world-famous landscapes. After seeing Siena and the region’s queen, Florence, explore the surrounding area. Find contacts for wineries, agriturismo and hiking routes on the region’s official tourist websites:

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