It’s a stunning place in Italy, and a great choice for your Italy trip. The medieval city of Siena is located in the heart Tuscany, close to the Chianti wine region. It’s the ideal day trip destination from Florence, or the ideal place to call home while exploring Tuscany.
It’s more than beautiful. From the stunning Duomo to Piazza del Campo with its shell-shaped Piazza del Campo – Siena has a lot of things to do and see! These are seven of our favourite things to do in Siena, as illustrated!
1. Piazza del Campo
This unique, shell-shaped piazza is Siena’s main square, and the heartbeat of the medieval city. It is divided into nine sections, similar to pie slices. This symbolises the rule Council of the Nine that commissioned it during their reign in Siena (1292-1355).
The Palazzo Pubblico, Torre del Mangia’s bell tower, and Palazzo Pubblico are sure to amaze you. But don’t forget about the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy) in the northeast corner of the piazza. This replica is of the Jacopo della Quincia’s 1419 marble fountain. The museum complex Santa Maria della Scala houses the original fountain, which is now severely weathered.
2. Palazzo Pubblico/Museo Civico
Palazzo Pubblico was built in the 13th Century to be Siena’s seat of government. It dominates Piazza del Campo and serves as Siena’s town hall.
To explore the Museo Civico’s exquisite rooms and artwork, enter the Palazzo. The Sala della Pace houses Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s “Allegory of Good and Bad Government”, a world-famous fresco. The frescoes were commissioned by the Council in 14th century and depict a peaceful city on one wall and a ruin city on the other. They are a symbol for the early Renaissance approach of government.
3. Torre del Mangia
Although it may seem daunting to climb over 400 steps, you will be rewarded. The tower at Piazza di Campo offers a magnificent view of Piazza, Duomo and Siena.
It is funny that the tower was named after Giovanni di Duccio, its first guardian. His nickname, “mangiaguadagni”, was a better description of him. This refers to someone who spends money. In fact, he was known for spending all his earnings in Siena’s taverns.
Visit Siena’s website for information about the opening hours, ticket prices and ticket prices of the Museo Civico or Torre del Mangia.
4. Duomo in Siena
The striking Duomo in Siena, made of white and black marble, is an example of Italian Gothic style. The interior is just as impressive, with works by Bernini and Michelangelo among others.
The Duomo’s mosaic floor panels are our favorite feature. They were created in intricate detail and date back to 1369-1547. They are usually covered to keep them safe from foot traffic and are only visible for a few months each year. The mosaics will be displayed from August 18 through October 27th 2013. One of the oldest mosaics is that of a Remus-suckling she-wolf and Romulus, which are both symbols of Rome and Siena.
Piccolomini Library is another must-see in the Duomo. Its vibrant frescoes depict various stages of the life and times of Pope Pius II. Don’t forget the Museo dell’Opera and the Baptistery. For more spectacular views of Siena take the “Duomo nuovo” combined ticket.
5. Basilica of San Domenico
The huge and impressive basilica was built in Gothic style by Dominicans in 13th-century. It rises high above the Valley of Fontebranda which is home to St. Catherine, one of Italy’s patron saints. The Chapel of the Vaults, featuring a fresco of St. Catherine created by Andrea Vanni is a must-see. It is the only known portrait of the Saint that was painted while she was alive.
The Chapel of St. Catherine is where most people come to see. Here, the remains of the head and thumb of St. Catherine can be seen on a magnificent marble altar.
6. Fonte di Fontebranda
Fonte di Fontebranda is one of the most famous fountains in Siena. It’s located right below the Basilica of San Domenico and looks nothing like a fortress. Four stone lions decorate the facade with its three arches. Each basin had a specific purpose in the past. One was used for drinking water, the other for animal consumption, and the third was used for washing. Dante even mentioned the fountain in the 30th Canto of his Inferno.
7. Traditional Sienese Cuisine
Most visitors to Siena are drawn by the architecture and gems of art. The food is also delicious!
Pici is a pasta made from water, flour and garlic. It’s often served with a tomato and garlic sauce, pici all’aglione. For those with sweet tooth, there are panforte, which is a richly spiced, dense cake made from honey, nuts, dried fruits, spices and honey. There is also ricciarelli which is a round-shaped, light and fluffy cookie made with ground almonds, egg white and honey. Pasticceria Nannini, Via Banchi di Sopra 2, is where you can try these delicious sweet treats. It has been in existence since 1906. Here’s more information on what you can eat in Tuscany.