We love to spend time in Siena, a city of great history, art and proud people. All too often a visit to Siena is reduced to a day trip. While we must acknowledge the majesty and significance of Florence, we urge everyone to explore Siena and spend more time walking its perfectly preserved and walled centro storico or historic center.
When you experience Siena, here are our top five sites and events for you!
Il Duomo di Siena. The cathedral of Siena is a wonderful work of medieval art, dating to the 13th century and topped with a dome designed by Bernini. You will marvel at the striped marble, inlaid mosaics of the floor, the statuary of emperors, the altar and baptismal altar as a start. This is one of the great works and without the hours-long wait of its counterpart in Florence.
Via di Citta’ to the Campo. Stroll the Via di Citta’ with its shops and homes. Wander in and out of the shops and cafés of Siena main commercial district. You will see everything from gelato to high-end antiques.
Il Campo/Palazzo Communale/Torre del Mangia. Down to the Campo, or main piazza, which includes one of Italy’s most beautiful public buildings, the Palazzo Communale and Torre del Mangia (the tower next door). Italians love to gather in public places. You can have a small picnic in the piazza or sit at one of the cafés lining the Campo just for a coffee and some people watching.
Restaurants. Siena has some of the best restaurants that I’ve tried in all of Italy. If you want to have some cucina tipica, I suggest Il Gallo Nero, Osteria di Nonna Gina or La Taverna di San Giuseppe for great examples of well-done traditional favorites. You can try the secret stuffed gnocchi recipe of Nonna Gina prepared by her granddaughter, or the wonderful preparations of maialino (a small white pig special to this region) at Il Gallo Nero or, you might just ask them to bring you three courses and see what comes. Or walk around and ask a shopkeeper and see where you end up. Try not to eat in the Campo as they tend to be the most touristy locations.
Il Palio. If you are there in July or August, see the Palio, a medieval horserace that has been reenacted for the last 600 years. It is raced in right the Campo, which is filled with sand for the event. The horses each represent a district in Siena and the fun of the Palio is the pageantry and festivals all over Siena on the days preceding the two races. Be warned, if you want to go into the Campo for the race, get there early and make sure that you love crowds.