UNESCO heritage listed Siena, Tuscany is one of the best preserved historic cities in Italy. I find it to be one of the most beautiful cities in this awesome country. Medieval Siena boasts many well-preserved Gothic buildings, some of them dating back to the eleventh century. Siena is located in 1,5 hours from Florence so it can be done as a day trip from there or may be included in your Tuscany road trip as the place not to miss when you visit Tuscany. As the old town is closed to traffic, leave your vehicle in the parking lot and go.
1) Gates of Siena
The old city of Siena is surrounded by seven kilometer long fortified wall built in the 11th century so you will enter it through one of the gates. The wall still has 12 gates that you can admire when entering the historic centre or walking around. Porta Camollia is one of the main gates into Siena, once used by everyone coming to the city from Florence. The inscription above the gate says: “Cor magistibi Sena pandit” – Siena opens its heart to you. So welcome to discover the heart of Siena.
2) Streets of medieval Siena
To me, the streets of medieval Siena felt a bit like a maze, being quite narrow and surrounded by high buildings that don’t let you see what is behind them or around the corner. But keep walking and be patient, soon you will see it all.
3) Piazza Salimbeni
It is where the headquarters of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena is located. It is the world's oldest bank, founded in 1472. Currently, the bank is the fourth largest commercial and retail bank in Italy. The palaces of the Tantucci, Salimbeni and Spannocchi close the piazza on three sides. In the center of the square the statue of Sallustio Bandini (1677 –1760), an advocate of free trade, is located.
4) Piazza Tolomei
is one of the many places in Siena where the statue of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus is located. According to a medieval legend, Siena was established by Senius, son of Remus and nephew of Romulus; therefore, the symbol of Siena is a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus. Notice also the San Cristoforo church located on the square. If you could turn around, you would see the Palazzo Tolomei opposite the church, one of the oldest buildings in the city.
5) The building of the Circle of Uniti
the oldest and one of the most unachievable members club in Europe. In the middle of the 17th century, 21 noblemen from Siena decided to establish a circle aimed to entertain themselves and their guests with parties and events. This is how the Circle was born. These days the only requirement for admittance to the group that only consists of 100 members is to prove a strong link with the city of Siena. Address: Via di Città, 2
6) Piazza del Campo
It is truly unique with its shell shape, its bricks pavement and the buildings facing it. Piazza del Campo hosts famous Palio di Siena horse racing competitions twice a year—on July 2 to honor Madonna of Provenzano and on August 16 for the Virgin Mary's Assumption.
7) Siena Cathedral
Piazza del Duomo is where so much beauty of Siena is located with the Duomo, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, being the most outstanding part of that. Imposing because of the white marble, the Duomo fascinates already from the outside. The large monumental complex comprises the Cathedral, the Piccolomini Library, the Gate of Heaven, the Baptistry, the Crypt, the Museo dell'Opera, the Panorama from the Unfinished Façade, the Oratory of St. Bernardino and the Costone Gardens.
8) The interior of Duomo
like the exterior, is decorated with white and dark green, almost black marble, a choice made to reflect the colors of the city of Siena. It looks magnificent indeed.
9) The Piccolomini Library
is a true gem that you really can’t miss. The library is located inside the Duomo. Look for a small door on the left side of the church! Inside the Library, you can admire truly extraordinary frescoes with scenes of the life of Pope Pius II shining for the abundant use of gold.
10) The Baptistery
behind the Duomo is dedicated to San Giovanni (St. John) and was built in 1300 when the decision to enlarge the Duomo was made. The interior of the Baptistery is beautifully decorated with frescoes by artists of the Renaissance. The most precious masterpiece there is a beautiful baptismal font.
11) The view of the Duomo
From the Facciatone of Museum of the Opera del Duomo you can enjoy the view of the city and Duomo. This museum is one of the oldest private museums in Italy.
12) Pilgrims' Hall
The complex of Santa Maria della Scala, also located on Piazza del Duomo, is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe where pilgrims and abandoned children were welcomed. The complex is located right in front of the Duomo, so it is very easy to reach and visit. Still, it’s lesser known and harder to understand for a first time visitor. It’s a large venue, so allocate at least 1,5 hours for your visit. The complex is arranged on four levels. Level four made the strongest impression on me, first of all, because of the grand Pilgrims' Hall with its 15th century frescoes by famous painters of Renaissance.
13) The church of the Santissima Annunziata
on the same level, is also worth visiting. Its construction began in the middle of the 13th century. It houses excellent works of art and church furnishings; its high altar has a splendid bronze sculpture of the Risen Christ cast by Lorenzo di Pietro, known as Vecchietta.
14) Via del Comune
Siena is hilly in some parts so you can enjoy its beauty from different points of view. So take via del Comune when leaving the beautiful Siena.
15) Porta Ovile
We leave the stunning Siena through Porta Ovile pictured here. The original Porta Ovile dates back to 1230, but the gate has been rebuilt and enlarged several times over the years. It is built entirely of brick, with a massive rampart for protection.Like it? Pin it!
What did you think? Have you been to Siena? Or perhaps you’re thinking of visiting there in the near future? Either way, I’d love to hear from you so please add your comments below.
Author: Anita Sāne
About the author
Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Bloglovin.