What to do in Siena

Located in the beating heart of Tuscany and surrounded by the spectacular Chianti wine region, the gothic city of Siena makes a great day trip from Florence or an equally great place to make your base while travelling around Tuscany. From its marvellous Duomo to the remarkable shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, the city boasts a lot to see! The following is a list of our favourite things to do in Siena.

Top things to do in Siena

  • Piazza Del Campo

    Piazza Del Campo

    One of the most spectacular shell-shaped squares in all of Europe, Piazza Del Campo has been Siena’s social centre since the 13th century. Standing in the middle of the Piazza, you can almost feel wrapped up in the city’s warm embrace. It contains herringbone paving divided into nine different sections in a sunbeam, signifying the ruling council of The Nine who governed Siena in the mid-12th century. At the top of the square is the Fonte Gaia, the largest fountain in the city. The rectangular pool is enclosed by three walls, each with beautiful figures carved into it, looking over the water.

    Twice a year on the 2nd July and 16th August, the square plays host to Italy’s most famous horse race, the Palio di Siena. Siena is divided into seventeen neighbourhoods, each with their own mascots and flags and all fiercely competitive. Twice a year the competing neighbourhoods come together for a grand communal dinner before the race. This meal can last long into the night and will see the rivals revelling in the excitement and anticipation of the race. On race day, the jockeys ride their horses bareback in a frantic 3-lap sprint around the track, and when the race is over, the winner is paraded through the town to the cheers of the crowd.

  • Siena Cathedral

    Siena Cathedral

    Looming large over the surrounding buildings, this majestic cathedral combines the elements of Romanesque, French Gothic, and Classical architecture. Construction of the cathedral began in 1229, was completed in 1264 and was expanded to include the upper layer in the 14th century. The exterior of the cathedral is immensely impressive with its front covered in elaborately carved stonework featuring plants, animals, holy figures, and philosophers. At the front of the church are three large doors, with a bronze sun topping the central entranceway. What is so striking about the cathedral is not simply the decorative front but also its brickwork. White and greenish-black marble create a candy-like striped effect that makes it stand out from the surrounding architecture. But if you think the external brickwork is impressive then a walk inside the cathedral will take your breath away. The striped motif continues onto the interior walls and columns and creates a dramatic backdrop for the religious relics contained within the building.

    Inside the cathedral are numerous works of art created by some of the finest artists of the day including Giovani Pisano, Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Bernini. Take a walk around the pulpit that was sculpted by Nicola Pisano and admire the intricate carved depictions of the life of Christ that surround it. Whilst admiring the various artworks and features of the cathedral, cast your eyes down and marvel at the works of art beneath your feet – the marble mosaics. This incredible expanse of marble was laid between the 14th and 16th centuries and was designed and made by around forty different artists. How every inch of wall, ceiling, and floor in the cathedral has been decorated is a testament to the skills of those that made it and of the incredible dedication of the people to their deities.

    Whilst exploring the cathedral, be sure to watch out for the Piccolomini Library. Though this library now contains only a few books, it is the frescoes that you will want to see. They follow the life of Pope Pius II and cover almost every inch of wall and ceiling in the room. Examine each image, looking for the familiar character of the Pope as he grows from child to adult, to Cardinal of Siena, and finally to Pope.

  • The Complex of Santa Maria della Scala

    This attraction in Siena is one of Europe’s oldest civic hospitals, having cared for abandoned children, the sick, and pilgrims from the 12th to the 18th century. Now a museum, the hospital faces the beautiful Siena Duomo. The museum displays many statues and artefacts that tell the tale of old Siena and of ancient Rome but the main draw for tourists are the wonderful frescoes which decorate the walls. Around the year 1330, Santa Maria della Scala commissioned frescoes to be painted to honour the parents of the Virgin Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne. These adorned the exterior walls of the hospital but were sadly lost. Inside the museum however, you can see a series of frescoes that were painted during later centuries by artists such as Agostine di Marsiglio, Lorenzo di Pietro, and Domenico di Bartolo.

  • Torre Del Mangia

    Torre Del Mangia

    Here stands one of Italy’s tallest secular towers, built to match the height of the Siena Cathedral, as a sign that both State and Church possessed equal power in Siena. Completed in 1348, this red-brick-and-travertine bell tower stands at a whopping height of 87-meters and commands magnificent views of Siena from its highest levels. Look out for the statues on the terrace atop the tower.

  • The Opera Del Duomo Museum

    The Opera del Duomo is one of the earliest private museums in Italy that is located right next to the Cathedral, in an undeveloped area where the “New Cathedral” should have been constructed. While the former was never completed, the space was rather used as museum to house the original statues from the facade of the Cathedral, including the ‘altarpiece of the Majesty’ and ‘the window of the apse’ by Duccio da Buoninsegna in addition to some of the greatest masterpieces of the early 14th century by Giovanni Pisano.

Language »