Ask anyone who has travelled through Tuscany, and they’ll likely tell you Siena is their favourite city in the region. There are many reasons for this: Siena is romantic, small, full of beautiful medieval buildings and less crowded than Florence – to name a few. Here are our top 10 reasons to visit Siena.
Siena has a very long history, dating back to the Etruscan era. The main development of the city happened in the Middle Ages. During that time, the city grew, and many of its most important buildings were built. Today, its unique urban skyline is visible from the hills that surround Siena; rich in monuments, palaces and churches, it is one of Italy’s most beautiful cities.
Piazza del Campo is the heart of Siena, where you must spend some of your time once in town. It’s a huge shell-shaped square and is also considered one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. You can enjoy it while sipping a coffee in one of the several bars located there.
Italy is home to many spectacular churches; indeed, there are so many that to name all of them is impossible, but the Duomo of Siena is one of the most beautiful and impossible to miss when in town. It is a Gothic building filled with many treasures. The church exterior is magnificent, but be sure not to miss the interior and a floor decorated with mosaics.
It may not be as famous as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but the Torre del Mangia inside the Public Palace in Piazza del Campo is the most recognisable landmark in town. To reach the top of the tower, you have to climb 400 steps, but the views of the town and surrounding countryside are quite spectacular.
Generally speaking, Tuscans love to be outdoors. No town is more than a few minutes from the countryside, so if someone is tired of the chaos and crowds of the city, it’s very easy to spend some time in nature. In Siena, people love to stroll around the city centre’s streets and then go trekking in the nearby countryside.
Venice has the Carnival, and Siena has the Palio. It is the main annual event that takes place in this Tuscan city. The Palio is a horse race between the city’s contrade (districts) that occurs two times a year (2 July and 16 August) and is run in the beautiful Piazza del Campo, which is transformed for the occasion into a sand track.
Once you taste the traditional dishes of Siena, you will fall in love with them. One of the best courses you can eat in town is pici, a kind of pasta similar to spaghetti but fatter and served with pepper and cheese or with tomato sauce. Siena is also famous for its desserts; try ricciarelli, a traditional biscuit made with almonds.
Every Wednesday, it’s market day in Siena. The biggest market in Tuscany is held at La Lizza, an area near the old fortress, from 8.30am to 1.30pm. Vendors sell food, clothes and also souvenirs. Come here early in the morning, because the market gets more crowded as the day goes on.
It’s no secret that Tuscany is home to the best wine in Italy. Siena is no exception. The city is located between the Chianti region and Montalcino, so it’s heaven for wine enthusiasts. Wherever you go in the province of Siena, there are different wines to try – just ask for a suggestion at one of the local bars or restaurants.
When you picture Tuscany, you probably imagine rolling green hills with a lone cypress on the horizon. This kind of breathtaking landscape is common in Val d’Orcia, perhaps the most picturesque area in the region. Located just south of Siena, it is filled with medieval castles, hilltop towns, charming rural farmhouses, rows of vineyards and cypress trees.