It’s easy to get lost in the medieval beauty of Siena. Stroll through the 17th-century Piazza del Campo, admire the view from the Torre del Mangia, and explore Tuscan vineyards while visiting this beautiful medieval city in central Italy.
You can’t visit Tuscany without stopping by Siena, which features as part of Culture Trip’s specially curated 10-day Northern Italy trip, led by our local insider. Beyond its brick buildings, winding streets and wondrous wine, this ancient city offers activities for all. From the highest-rated gelato in Italy and vineyard tours to the iconic black-and-white cathedral, here are the top things to do in Siena.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Tuscany without wine tasting. This traditional vineyard, owned by the extremely knowledgeable Cencioni family, has been in operation since 1957. They provide insightful tours and tasting sessions on world-renowned wines such as Brunello di Montalcino. Not only do tours give you the opportunity to sample the Cencioni family’s vino, they also provide unrivalled views across the rolling Tuscan hills.
For a real taste of Sienese culture, head to the most popular market in Siena: La Lizza. Spread around the city’s 16th century fortress, it sees local traders assemble each Wednesday to flaunt their wares – and at very reasonable prices too. La Lizza Market is one of the best places in the city to purchase authentic Italian clothing, while the fresh fruit and vegetable stalls are some of the cheapest around.
This library is housed inside Siena Cathedral, built by Pope Pius III for his uncle, the eponymous Piccolomini (better known as Pope Pius II). It was created to preserve the rich heritage of the tomes, but now all that remains are choral books. However, despite the fact the books are mostly gone, the library itself is a work of art. The walls are decorated with frescoes by Pinturicchio, depicting the life and death of Piccolomini. Likewise, there is a sculpture in the centre of the space, a copy of an earlier Hellenistic work depicting the Three Graces.
Torre del Mangia is one of the tallest secular towers in Italy. It was built to be the exact height of the Siena Cathedral, as a sign that Church and State possessed equal power in Siena. Torre del Mangia literally means Tower of the Eater, and it’s named after Mangiaguadagni, the “profit-eater”, so called because he was very liberal in the amount of money he would spend in the inns and taverns of Siena. Mangiaguadagni himself would be proud of the views that the tower provides.
Out of all the Siena fountains, we’ve chosen this one for our list. Fonte Gaia is either named after the emotion of joy or the Virgin Mary. These together provide a nice secular-religious split, much like the rest of Siena. Underground pipes bring water to the font from 25km (16mi) away, which is a pretty stellar feat of engineering for the time. The decorative frame was constructed in 1419, but was replaced with marble copies in the 19th century. Nonetheless, even the copies are a sight to behold, and this is much more than just a fountain.