What to do in Siena, Italy
Note: click all photos for larger views.
My first response was an awe-filled gasp, quickly followed by a short prayer of thanksgiving to God for the wonder of his creation, and then several minutes of pure joy as my eyes drank in the beautiful yellows and greens of the Tuscan valley below.
Awakening me from my trance, Carol reminded me that we needed to get cleaned up, meet our friends downstairs for breakfast, and make our road-trip to Siena for the day.
We are asked all the time about our favorite destinations, and while that is a very difficult question to answer, the Tuscan region is absolutely one of the destinations that comes first to our minds.
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Tuscany is filled with medieval hilltop walled cities, and today we’re headed to one of the most visited of them all: Siena.
When you find yourself in the vicinity of Florence, do yourself a favor and make a day trip to the hilltop Tuscan city of Siena. You’ll be glad you did!
Top 10 Things to see and do in Siena, Italy
- Marvel at the walls – Siena is encircled by 4.5 miles of thick defensive walls built in the 14th-16th centuries. You will reach the city’s center through one of the massive gates and be amazed to know that these massive ramparts follow the contour of the three hills where the city of Siena resides.
- Siena Cathedral - designed and completed between 1215 and 1263, this medieval church is certainly one of the “not to be missed” sites in Siena. As a travel photographer, I was bummed to learn that they would not allow photography inside the church.
- Piazza del Campo – the historic center of Siena is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The shell-shaped city center radiates out into 11 narrow shaded city streets.
- Palazzo Pubblico - located on the Piazza del Campo, this has been the city hall of Siena for nearly 800 years. Inside, you will find the famous frescos on good and bad government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.
Torre del Mangia - towering 367 feet over the Piazza del Campo, and adjacent to the Palazzo Pubblico, it is said that this tower was built exactly the same height as the Siena Cathedral’s dome to demonstrate that the church and state had equal amounts of power. A climb to the top will give you a beautiful panorama of the city and the surrounding countryside.
- Palio di Siena – since the 11th century, the Sienese have competed in a twice-annual horse race and flag throwing contest held between Siena’s 17 contrade (districts) on July 2nd and August 16th. Remarkably, this fierce contest is held in the Piazza del Campo with horse and riders racing around a circular track of sand brought into the city’s center each year. This event is a big deal in Siena and you should expect very large, enthusiastic crowds.
Shopping – on narrow cobblestone streets surrounding the Piazza del Campo, you will find popular boutique shops as well small shops featuring local craftsman offering fine paper, neckties, leather goods, jewelry, and of course local food and wine.
- People Watching – grab a glass of wine or espresso in a sidewalk cafe in the Piazza del Campo and watch interesting people from all over the world enjoying the sites of the city.
- Enjoy a slice of Panforte – this Sienese speciality is a dense cake made from honey, flour, almonds, candied fruits, and of course, secret spices handed down through the ages. Generally sold by weight, you can enjoy this and many other scrumptious pastries sold in various markets around the city center. If this isn’t your cup of tea, then grab yourself some authentic Italian gelato, also abundantly available throughout the city.
Dining – encircling the Piazza del Campo, you will find a variety of restaurants offering exterior seating, authentic Tuscan cuisine, and another fabulous opportunity to sit back and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Siena.
Well, I hope that we’ve convinced you to spend at least a day in Siena when you’re roaming about the Tuscan countryside.
It’s an easy day-trip from Florence, and is certain to create wonderful travel memories as you walk the cobblestone streets, and enjoy the sites, sounds, and flavors of this medieval Tuscan hilltop city.
Siena is a must-see destination, and Carol and I can’t wait to once again roam its ancient streets.
Note: the aerial view of Siena is from our friends at Walks of Italy. All others are Roaming Boomer originals.
If you would like our help planning your Tuscan trip-of-a-lifetime, call us at (480) 550-1235, or to complete our convenient online information form CLICK HERE