Siena with its high walls and large Piazza is a favorite of many travelers to Italy. If Rome is associated with the Roman Empire and Florence with the Renaissance with Siena it is the Middle Ages.
Free of all the famous art you find in Florence, Siena is a place where you can relax and not feel guilty about doing nothing but enjoying the atmosphere. Traffic is not allowed inside the walls of Siena so pedestrians rule. You can walk aimlessly through the streets and around the Piazza without having to dodge cars and Vespa’s.
Siena is famous for the Palio an event straight out of the Middle Ages. Every year on July 2 and August 16 Siena hosts a horse race that takes place in the Piazza del Campo.
Dressed in the brightly colored silks of the different neighborhoods, jockeys riding bareback race horses in circles around the Piazza. The Palio is a celebration full of pageantry that takes place over several days. The competition is intense and emotions run high creating an air of excitement throughout the area.
Best Things to Do in Siena
Piazza del Campo: The heart of Siena, this pretty scallop shell shaped Piazza is always a buzz of activity. If you make this your first stop in Siena you can visit the travel information office located in the Piazza and pick up a map to get your bearings. The Piazza del Camp has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Il Dumo: You can’t miss the black and white striped gothic Duomo that dominates Siena. Built in the 12th and 13th century it is one of the most beautiful in Italy.
Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scale: Across from the Duomo is the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scale. This was the hospital for Siena from the 14th century until the 1980’s. When the hospital moved, the city found that it owned art that was hundreds of years old and had only been seen by patients and hospital workers. Today the hospital is a museum with frescoes and Roman and Etruscan artifacts.
Siena is home to the University of Siena, a college founded in 1240. The addition of 20,000 students from the university adds vibrancy and energy to the town.
Many people visit Siena for the day but if you want a true feel for Siena you have to stay into the evening when the locals come out to the cafès and restaurants. Siena in the evening is even more enjoyable than during the day.
Transportation to Siena
You can get to Siena from Florence by bus or train. If you take the train you will have a 30 minute uphill climb from the station to the heart of the town.
If you prefer there is a bus that can take you from the station into Siena. You can also take the bus (about 1 ½ hours) from Florence to Siena. Driving is an option, though parking is not.
Parking in Siena in the summer can be challenging. There are several parking lots outside the walls, but in my experience they are always full forcing you to drive around the walls a few time while trying to avoid being hit by the locals whose patience is worn thin by out-of-town drivers.