We take the chance granted by these beautiful sunny days and spring weather to offer you a guide targeted as much for tourists who haven’t been to Siena, as to who has been several times here.
The only requirement is a good amount of curiosity, a key ingredient to keep in touch with the soul of Siena, a cozy town with a centuries-old history, a place of great disputes and relaxing destination par excellence, home to many food delicacies and at the same time a source of inspiration for many artists.
In other words, Piazza del Campo is the starting point from which to explore a world of surprising wonders.
This itinerary is designed for those who will stay in Siena 3 days, a long weekend that allows you to savor the best of one of the most sought after destinations in Tuscany.
Customize your visit following these tips; we are sure you will find the most suited route to your needs!
Day 1 – From Porta Camollia to Orto de’ Pecci
The first stage is Porta Camollia, which has been for centuries the main gate of the town and that rises where the soldier Camulio camped in the VII century B.C. The inscription on the door in Latin (“Siena shows a heart bigger than this door”) is a warm welcome to those who visit the town, starting from the historic center.
From here you can go towards Via Montanini and Via Banchi di Sopra; explore Siena by walk is a great emotion and it is certainly the best way to let yourself enchanted by the quiet rhythm of the town, by the unchanging charm of the historic palaces and by the beauty of the natural landscape.
One of the most beautiful viewpoints in Siena is definitely the top of Torre del Mangia (Mangia Tower) in Piazza del Campo. Climb the 400 steps that separate you from the summit are an effort that will be fully rewarded by the sight of the whole town. Furthermore, the Torre del Mangia is the third highest tower in Italy.
Fonte Gaia (via commons.wikimedia.org)
After returning in Piazza del Campo we suggest to admire Fonte Gaia, a monumental fountain placed in the square. The fountain was formerly decorated with marble panels sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia, now preserved at the Museum of Santa Maria della Scala and replaced by copies made in the last century.
Fonte Gaia is one of the symbols of Siena both for its artistic value (the architectural style is a transition from Gothic to Renaissance) and for its historical value, since the underground aqueducts of the town were built for water supply.
To end your first day in Siena we recommend a relaxing oasis not very popular among tourists, Orto de’ Pecci, a green area at a few hundred meters from Piazza del Campo.
It’s great to do a few steps and find a medieval urban garden: book a guided tour of the vegetable garden to recognize the plants and herbs that were once used to cure or season foods.
At Orto de’ Pecci you can also do a picnic or taste the local speciies at the restaurant, which is specialized in typical Tuscan cuisine.
Day 2 – From Santa Maria dei Servi to craftsmen workshops
The churches of Siena are so many that you should follow a thematic route to know more about each one, but in three days we suggest you visit some of the most important churches of the town, proof of different architectural styles and interesting historical periods.
The Church of San Clement in Santa Maria dei Servi, for example, dates back to the XIII century and is the result of numerous architectural transformations in the following centuries, so much so that now are visible Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque elements.
Among the works of art housed in this church we chose the Coronation of the Virgin and Saints by Bernardino Fungai, arpiece located in the central chapel.
The church is located on the hill of Valdimontone at Piazza Manzoni.
The second stage of the day is the Basilica of San Francesco, known for the miracle of the Sacred Particles (consecrated hosts were preserved intact since 1730). This church is in Gothic style and on the walls of the imposing nave hang the flags of the 17 districts of the town, as also happens in other churches.
An historical, artistic and religious itinerary should include a tour of the museum complex of Santa Maria della Scala, the most important cultural center in Siena.
It was originally one of the largest hospitals in Europe, today is a multi-purpose center which also houses exhibitions of contemporary art alongside an archaeological museum and breathtaking masterpieces like the Pellegrinaio (Pilgrim’s Hall), a cycle of frescoes of the XV century realized by Domenico di Bartolo, Pietro d’Achille Crogi, Priamo della Quercia, Lorenzo Vecchietta and Giovanni di Raffaele Navesi.
The scenes of daily life represented in these paintings are peerless with other works of the same period.
Pellegrinaio Domenico di Bartolo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The craft tradition of Siena is kept alive by many people who have chosen to make trades almost disappeared elsewhere: on the streets of the center you will find many craft shops where to buy products born from the passion and the experience of Senese craftsmen.
Senarte isn’t a shop but a space that promotes the excellence of local crafts by organizing regular exhibitions, meetings and showrooms. It is located at Viale Federigo Tozzi 2 and is a place where you can ask information about historical workshops and ateliers that host craft exhibitions in Siena.
Day 3 – From Contradas to Duomo
Did you know that each of the 17 districts of Siena has its own museum?
One day isn’t enough to visit all these venues, but entering a contrada museum allows you to learn more about the history of a district, the rivalry, the victories and the anecdotes that occurred over the centuries.
Reservation is required to access these museums where you will find sacred objects and historical documents. Please visit www.ilpalio.org for addresses and contacts of each contrada.
The following picture is taken at the Museum of the Contrada Tartuca.
Museo Tartuca: www.tartuca.it
We left as a last stage the Duomo, one of the main sights of Siena and of the most beautiful churches in Roman-Gothic style in Italy.
On many occasions we wrote about the Cathedral of Siena and we remember you that until 31st October 2015 is open the “Gate of Heaven”, the top of the Duomo, once inaccessible, a guided path that allows a unique view of the church interiors and an amazing panorama outside.
Duomo di Siena Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons
In 3 days your holiday can become a dive into Senese prestige and elegance, a pretext to come back and visit every time a different aspect of so loved town as much by inhabitants as by those who come from abroad.
Siena is like an irresistible spell!