One Day in Siena: What to See and Do in this Stunning Tuscan Town

If you’re looking for a stunning Tuscan town to explore in just one day, look no further than Siena. Not so crammed with art and architecture that it’s overwhelming, not so small that after a couple of hours you’re wondering what else there is to do, Siena is that Goldilocks-sized town that will forever cement your love for Tuscany. Read on to discover how to make the most of one day in Siena!

The historic center of Siena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The major sights are clustered close together. So if you have one day to spend in Siena, you can see all the highlights without feeling rushed, soak in the medieval charm as you wander, and sample the local cuisine. Perfect!

HOW TO SPEND ONE DAY IN SIENA

Arrive early in the morning, so you have the full day for your explorations, and plan to spend the night here after a late dinner and a post-dinner passeggiata through the lit streets.

Take a stroll in the Piazza del Campo
Start your one day in Siena with a walk around the historic Piazza del Campo. This gigantic shell-shaped piazza is Siena’s pride and joy, and one of the most magnificent town squares in all of Europe. In size, it is reminiscent of Seville’s Plaza de España.

From the Piazza del Campo, streets fan out in all directions into the town. As with most other Italian squares, you’ll find lots of restaurants, cafes and shops on the perimeter. In the early morning, the piazza is not as crowded, and you can appreciate the palazzos in pleasing shades of rust, beige, and brown that line the vast medieval square.

Restaurants and cafes line the Piazza del Campo in Siena Italy

Restaurants and cafes line the Piazza del Campo in Siena Italy

Palazzos line the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy

Beautiful palazzos in shades of brown line the Piazza del Campo

Gaze up at the Torre del Mangia (Bell Tower) as it rises up gracefully into the sky. At the time it was built, it was the tallest structure in Italy. Then admire the grand facade of the Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall) right next to the Torre del Mangia. If you’re feeling energetic, you can climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views, but be warned, it’s a tight fit in parts.

The Torre del Mangia, the bell tower at the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy.

A view of the Torre del Mangia from behind the complex

Gaze up at the Torre del Mangia as it rises up into the sky. This tower is in the Piazza del Campo in Siena Italy

The Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Pubblico

Pause at the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy), originally built by Jacopo della Quercia. The sculptures currently at the fountain are replicas: the originals can be seen in the Santa Maria della Scala Musuem. The story goes that the citizens of Siena were overjoyed when water from a spring several miles away was brought to this site, hence the name!

Fonte Gaia (Fountain of the World) at the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy

Twice each year, once in July and then again in August, the Piazza del Campo hosts the Palio di Siena, a famous horse race where jockeys race around a track created along the edges of the piazza. Before the race, a ceremonial pageant that celebrates the different contradas (districts) of Siena is held.

From the Piazza del Campo, a five-minute walk will bring you to the Duomo complex. Here there are a number of sights you will want to explore, including Siena’s spectacular Duomo.

Climb the Facciatone for views

At the Duomo complex, buy a combination pass that will allow you entrance to all the buildings in the complex. Then head to the Panorama dal Facciatone, to climb the spiral staircase to the top of the facade for gorgeous views of the Duomo, the rooftops of Siena and the surrounding countryside. Access to this viewpoint is via the Museo dell’Opera. You have limited time at the top, so be prepared to make good use of it, both for gawking at the views and taking photos.

The dome and bell tower of the Duomo di Siena, seen from the Panorama dal Facciatone in Siena, Italy. The Duomo is a must-visit on your one day in Siena.
Peeking into the Piazza del Campo from the Panorama dal Facciatone in Siena Italy
The rooftops of Siena, seen from the Panorama dal Facciatone in Siena, Italy

This site is actually the facade of a new, bigger cathedral extension that Siena had planned. Construction came to a stop when the Black Death destroyed the population of the town in the middle of the fourteenth century, and was never resumed.

Feast on art at the Museo dell’Opera

Spanning three floors, this museum houses many of the original works from the Duomo, including the stained glass rose window by di Buoninsegna, made to fill the oculus of the cathedral, and his altarpiece, Madonna and Child Enthroned. The colors in his works are bright and gorgeous. You will also see works by Pisano and Donatello as well as sculptures created by Jacopo della Quercia. The museum actually occupies the partially-completed New Cathedral. Don’t miss the Tapestry Room, with its gigantic hangings and beautiful fabrics.

Stained Glass Window in the Statue Gallery at the Museo dell'Opera in Siena Italy

Donatello's Madonna and Child at the Museo dell'Opera in Siena, Italy

Take a quick walk around the Crypt

The Crypt has only come to light in the last twenty years. You can walk through the Crypt and view the frescoes, which are of astonishing quality, with well-preserved colors. You can also see the structural elements on the walls that are painted in rich colors.

Painted walls and structural elements in the Crypt at the Duomo di Siena in Siena, Italy

Enjoy a Tuscan lunch

Emerging back into daylight once more, you can take a well-deserved break for a Tuscan lunch. Try ribollita, the famous Tuscan soup made with vegetables and beans in a rich broth and thickened with bread…yum! Or pasta with tartufo. After lunch, head back to the Duomo complex, where you’ll spend the afternoon at the Duomo itself.

Gawk at the facade of the Duomo di Siena

In a country filled with spectacular Duomos, the Duomo di Siena still managed to make me go weak in the knees when I first laid eyes on its stunning facade. A combination of Gothic, Romanesque, and Classical architecture, the facade has three portals. Mosaics adorn the three gables, and there is a large rose window below the center gable. The sculptures and architectural detail on the facade are stunning.

The Duomo di Siena in Siena Italy

The rest of the exterior is striped in striking dark green and white. The dome and the bell tower make for a perfect picture.

The spectacular Duomo di Siena, with its striped exterior, bluish metal dome and bell tower.

The dome and bell tower of the Duomo di Siena

Explore the interior of the Duomo

The interior of the Duomo is equally impressive with dark green and white stripes on the walls and columns. The dome is done in a beautiful blue and gold pattern, with gold stars. The pulpit is made of Carrara marble and brilliantly painted with scenes from the life of Christ and the Last Judgment.

The interior of the Duomo di Siena

The Duomo houses works by Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo. The richly decorated Chapel of St. John the Baptist holds a bronze statue of St. John by Donatello and eight beautiful frescoes by Pinturicchio.

The pièce de résistance in the interior of the Duomo is the marble mosaic floor, which is covered end to end with art work. Dozens of artists contributed to the floor art. The entire floor is uncovered only for a few weeks each year in the fall. The rest of the year, a few panels are still on display but the rest are covered to protect them.

Art on the floor of the Duomo di Siena in Siena Italy

Don’t forget the Piccolomini Library!

There is a door to the left of the Duomo as you enter. If you go through that door, you will be well rewarded. The ornate Piccolomini Library does not have any part of its walls or ceiling that is not covered in beautiful art. Also on display are beautiful illuminated choir books. The frescoes on the walls were painted by Pinturicchio and relate the story of Enea Piccolomini, who later became Pope Pius II. The frescoes, and the panels in the ceiling, are gorgeous. The detail is masterful, and the colors vivid.

The Piccolomini Library in the Duomo di Siena in Siena Italy

One of the frescoes in the Piccolomini Library in Siena Italy

You will not want to leave the Library, so allow yourself at least an hour to appreciate its beauty and take a million photos.

Wander the streets and alleyways

One of the most enjoyable things you can do in Siena is just walk its streets and narrow alleyways. The historic center is not open to traffic. The warm brown buildings are stunning, and each district (contrada) is decorated with its flag. Little shops and cafes and gelaterias beckon invitingly. You’ll come across little piazzas where you can stop for a bit and enjoy a glass of wine, and churches that you can admire as you walk by.

The beautiful buildings in Siena Italy

A little shop on a street in Siena Italy

Shop for olive oil, pasta, cheeses!

Enjoy a Tuscan dinner!

For a special meal to end the perfect day in Siena, opt for an establishment that offers quality local favorites. Antica Osteria da Divo is highly rated and located not too far from the Duomo. You dine in ancient Etruscan rooms carved into the volcanic rock on which the hill town of Siena is built. La Taverna di San Giuseppe is another fine dining option. At either place, you should reserve your table in advance.

When to visit Siena

The shoulder season months, April-May and September-October, are ideal, because the temperatures are relatively pleasant. In September, you will have the additional joy of seeing the entire floor of the Duomo uncovered. We spent a day in Siena in late September and the weather was perfect. It was not excessively crowded either.

Where we stayed

We stayed at the Villa del Sole, a bed-and-breakfast/boutique hotel just a five-minute walk from the Piazza del Campo. Our room was large and very comfortable, and we had views of the town as well as the Tuscan countryside.

View of the town from Villa del Sole in Siena Italy

The morning rays of the sun light up the town

Getting to Siena by Public Transportation

Most people visit Siena from Florence. We did, too. We took a direct bus, which is the most convenient option. It takes a little over an hour to get from Florence to Siena.

From Rome, you can take either a train or a bus. The fast train takes a little less than three hours and you have one train change at Chiusi. The bus takes a little under four hours.

So that’s my guide to Siena in one day! Have you visited this spectacular hill town in Tuscany yet? What did you like best about it?  I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below! If you haven’t yet visited, I do hope you will add it to your itinerary for your next trip to Italy.

Did you like this article? Pin it!

Siena in one day...discover what to see and do in this stunning hill town of Tuscany, Italy, in one active day!

30 comments on “One Day in Siena: What to See and Do in this Stunning Tuscan Town

  1. Lovely tour of Siena~~ I have always wanted to visit one of the Tuscan towns and your post has certainly made me want to head there immediately!! Your photos are stunning, especially the art displays at Piccolomini Library – gorgeous!! Thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  2. I never know that the historic center of Sienna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Tuscany is just so wonderful !! Thank you for reminding me that I need to head to Rome soon 🙂

  3. Never been to sienna. But looks like an amazing place to visit.
    You have captured some beautiful photos and the guide will be helpful to plan out our itinerary
    Thanks for sharing

  4. I love Siena! The Duomo is probably my favourite in the world, it’s just a beautiful work of art. The streets are amazing to walk around in too. A wonderful Italian city.

  5. I missed Tuscany towns during my Italy visit due to lack of time. I could only see Florence but always I wanted to for these kind of quaint towns with narrow streets and colorful houses. Siena has wonderful architectural buildings.

  6. I always wanted to go to the Tuscany! I live in Munich and it’s actually not very far from here, but I hope I can make it in the near future. Your post and your beautiful pictures really wants me to go and Siena seems like the perfect place 🙂

    • I do hope you get to go, Verena! Siena is an amazing Tuscan town. Its charming streets, gorgeous architecture and medieval atmosphere will capture your heart!

  7. Such beautiful architecture with the backdrops of Tuscany! Last time when I happen to visit Italy, I could go to Florence but not to Siena. Now I so badly want to visit here. hopefully i will be able to make it here on the next trip

  8. Siena looks absolutely amazing here, and what a great guide that you have put together to explore this Tuscany town. I’d love to visit the historic centre which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, because it looks like it has lots of culture brimming in the region.

    • Siena should definitely be on your list if you are planning to visit Tuscany, Nathan! The historic center is beautiful for wandering and the Duomo is so gorgeous!

  9. Sienna is one of my favorite towns in Italy. Living in the city does give one a feeling of being transported to medieval times. We were lucky enough to visit just before the Palio, and while we were unable to see the race, were treated to colorful parades almost every evening. The food in town was also spectacular. I still remember an amazing picci pasta dish we had from one of the small trattorias in town.

    • The parades are supposed to be wonderful…you were fortunate to visit at a time when you could see them! Totally agree…Siena is a lovely town to visit. I would go back in a heartbeat!

  10. Italy and especially the region of Tuscany is so enchanting. Siena looks straight out of a fairy tale. We hope to explore more of Tuscany when we are there next. Till now our Italian exploration has been only restricted to places like Pisa, Florence, Venice, and Rome. Want to explore places like Sienna, Cinque Terre, etc.

  11. It looks gorgeous there, and I love all of your beautiful photos! I’m a big fan of visiting old European churches and cathedrals. The architecture always takes my breath away. Looks like I’ll have to add Siena to my list of places I need to visit!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.