Guide to Spending One Day in Siena Italy

How to spend one day in Siena, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it will be tough! But if that’s all you got, a day trip to Siena it is!

As an avid traveller, I’ve been visiting Europe for 35 years, with Italy being one of my favourite destinations. Siena Italy, in particular, is a city that’s captured my heart. It’s a place where history, art, and culture blend seamlessly with urban life.

Nothing beats the city’s narrow streets, and the unique ambiance of Siena’s historic centre, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its historic buildings.

So, let me take you through what to do in Siena Italy for a day, where we’ll discover the city’s hidden gems and explore its rich history. Whether it’s your first trip to Siena or a repeat visit, this guide will help you make the most of your day.

Are you ready to fall in love with Siena like I did?

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Siena Itinerary: A Perfect One Day in Siena

buildings and rooftops in siena

My one-day itinerary begins with a visit to the remarkable Duomo di Siena, also known as the Siena Cathedral.

The cathedral complex includes the Piccolomini Library, the Porta del Cielo (Gate of Heaven), and the fascinating unfinished facade. Exploring these places in Siena is a must for any visitor.

After the cathedral visit, we’ll continue our journey through the historic center of Siena, delving into its narrow streets and unique heritage that proves it’s worthy of its UNESCO Heritage status.

These are the unmissable sites.

But, if your visit to Siena Tuscany is half a day or better yet is longer than a day, I want to include a bit more, just in case you decide to make Siena your next weekend getaway in Italy.

Start Your Day with a Traditional Italian Breakfast

coffee, pastry in one day in siena

One of the best ways to start your day in Siena is with a traditional Italian breakfast. My husband, a big coffee lover, often raves about the espresso and cappuccino in Siena.

You’ll find an abundance of coffee shops lining the city streets, each offering a unique coffee experience.

We went to one of the most famous cafes in Siena, Torrefazione Fiorella on Via de Citta.

Join the morning rush and do as the locals do and that’s standing at the bar top drinking your cappuccino, caffe latte, mochaccino, latte macchiato, or espresso. And, of course, this is always accompanied by the pastry of the day.

Explore the Piazza del Campo Complex

large square with tower in siena

Every starting point when touring a Tuscan town starts with going to the piazza first. No matter what direction you are coming from, all streets will lead you there. So, let’s start with your tour of Siena by heading there first.

The heart of Siena and what this city is known for is its 13th-century Piazza del Campo.

The unique shell-shaped design of Piazza del Campo is considered to be one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. The tiling on the floor is divided into nine different sections. This represents The Nine who governed Siena at the peak of its medieval glory.

The piazza is massive at 333 m which can accommodate 30,000 people. This is where you will find the world-famous Palio di Siena, or the horse race takes place every July 2 and August 16.

Found on the square, is a fountain dating back to 1346. Water was piped in from close to 24 km away. Everyone was so happy and marvelled at seeing the water flowing from the fountain for the first time they decided to call it Fonte Gaia, or Joyous Fountain.

Every day Siena life happens here. Watch as locals and tourists simply hang out in this piazza, at all times of the day and into the night. Sipping a coffee or enjoying gelato and always, people-watching. The beautiful medieval architecture and lively atmosphere of the square make this an unmissable thing to do in Siena.

Climb to the top of Torre del Mangia (On Piazza del Campo)

tower view of siena

The Tower of Mangia, rising tall from the Palazzo Pubblico, offered an unparalleled view of the city. I climbed the many steps (400 to be exact), each one worth the effort for the breathtaking vista at the top. Torre del Mangia is one of Italy’s tallest secular towers at 87 m.

At the foot of the Torre del Mangia sits the Cappella di Piazza. This beautiful marble tabernacle was built in 1352, to thank Madonna following the plague that hit the city in 1348. 

Visit Palazzo Pubblico (On Piazza del Campo)

marble archway with iron gate in siena

Forming almost an entire side of Piazza del Campo is Palazzo Pubblico. This gothic town hall was built in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.

The Palazzo Pubblico is a marvel of architecture, with most of its rooms adorned with intricate frescoes. The Sala del Mappamondo and the Sala dei Nove caught my eye, each boasting works by Ambrogio Lorenzetti.

  • Opening hours: Daily from 10 AM to 7 PM (November to mid-March closes at 6 PM)
  • Pre-book your tickets to avoid the long lines

Savouring Lunch in Siena’s Local Cuisine

After a morning of sightseeing, my stomach led me to one of Siena’s local eateries. As the entire city breaks for lunch, don’t miss out on Italy’s favourite pastime – eating!

Many might be tempted to stay on the lively piazza and enjoy a meal. If you do, expect to pay higher prices, experience less authentic food and be surrounded by tourists. Instead, walk a few streets from the main piazza for something a bit better.

Being vegetarian, I was delighted by the selection of vegetable-based dishes. I savoured a dish of hearty ribollita, a traditional Tuscan bread soup packed with vegetables and beans. The flavours were authentic and comforting, a perfect break during a busy day of exploration.

I recommend Osteria da Divo, via Franciosa (nearby to the Duomo). This restaurant lies in a series of carved-out medieval vaults under the Duomo. This unique dining experience and hidden gem will be a highlight of your day!

Delving into the Wonders of Siena Cathedral & the Siena Duomo Complex

Siena is a medieval walled city in Tuscany Italy. The best places to visit in Siena are Piazza del Campo, Siena Cathedral, historic city centre with its winding alleyways from the middle ages.

My list of Siena Italy things to do wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Duomo di Siena, also known as the Siena Cathedral.

This striking structure, which dates back to the 12th century, is adorned with black and white marble both inside and out, giving it a unique and captivating appearance.

It’s famous for being the most beautiful cathedral in Tuscany and housing artwork by Pisano, Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo. 

The cathedral is part of the larger Monument Complex of the Cathedral, which also includes other significant sites such as the Baptistry, the Crypt, the Piccolomini Library, the Facciatone viewing terrace, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Museum, and Porta del Cielo, or Gate of Heaven.

Unveiling the Panorama from the New Cathedral

IT Siena one day

One of the best things to do in Siena is to visit the unfinished facade of the New Cathedral. Here, I can take in the panoramic views of the cityscape and marvel at the intricate architecture of the cathedral from a unique perspective. Despite being incomplete, the facade is a testament to the grand vision and artistic prowess of the 14th-century builders.

Visiting the Cathedral Museum

The Cathedral Museum is another must-visit spot within the Duomo di Siena complex. The museum showcases a collection of religious art and artifacts that provide insight into the history of the cathedral and the city.

One of the highlights of the museum is the rose window, a stunning example of Gothic architecture that casts an ethereal light within the museum.

Marvelling at the Baptistery and the Crypt

The Baptistery and the Crypt are integral parts of the Siena Duomo Complex. The interior of the baptistery is decorated with a beautiful baptismal font, crafted by renowned artists such as Lorenzo Ghiberti and Giovanni di Turino.

The intricate carvings on the font, created by Jacopo della Quercia, are a sight to behold. The crypt, on the other hand, is a quiet sanctuary that takes me back to the early days of the cathedral.

Experiencing the Siena Cathedral and Piccolomini Museum

fresco on ceiling with stone statue in what to see in one day in siena italy

The Siena Cathedral and Piccolomini Museum are among the most iconic cathedrals in Italy.

Spending at least 30 minutes in the Piccolomini Library is a must, as it houses a collection of ancient manuscripts and vibrant frescoes. This guide to the Siena Cathedral has prepared me to fully appreciate the magnitude of these historical wonders and their significance in the rich tapestry of Italian culture.

A Closer Look at the Gate of Heaven (Porta del Cielo)

I took the opportunity to explore the Opa Si, better known as the Gate of Heaven or Porta del Cielo.

The Gate of Heaven tour is an absolute must, offering breathtaking panoramic views of Siena and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.

Stroll the Medieval Streets of the Historic Centre

Now it’s time to grab a gelato and explore the historic centre of the city which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in Italy.

I have a soft spot for off-the-beaten-path experiences, and the heart of Siena did not disappoint. As I wandered the pedestrian-only streets of Siena, I discovered hidden gems around every corner. The city’s historic center is a joy to explore, offering a slice of Italian life away from the bustling tourist hotspots.

The city holds a special aura, imprinted with the legacy of its patron saint, Saint Catherine of Siena. As I strolled along the cobblestone lanes, I could sense the rich history and vibrant culture of this medieval city. Siena proved to be a city that truly captures the heart of Italy.

For shoppers, you’ll want to seek out these streets – Banchi di Sopra, Montanini and Via di Città to find the highest concentration of boutiques. 

And, if you happen to visit on a Wednesday you’re in luck – it’s market day! One of the largest in Tuscany. The market can be found in the area around the Walls of the Medicean Fortress.

Ending the Day with a Dinner in Siena’s Best Restaurants

After a day of exploring, it’s time to unwind and savour the flavours of Siena.

For a fine dining experience, head to La Taverna di San Giuseppe. Housed in a cavernous tavern with Roman brick walls, this restaurant is recognized for its traditional Tuscan cuisine and extensive wine list. Be sure to make a reservation in advance to secure a table.

For a more laid-back, mid-range option, try Osteria Nonna Gina. This family-run restaurant serves authentic Tuscan dishes in a cozy, welcoming setting. Their homemade pasta and the tiramisu are not to be missed.

Siena in Half a Day: An Alternate Itinerary

domed ceiling in siena attraction - the cathedral

If your time in Siena is limited, whether you’re on a day trip from Rome, or maybe spending a few days in Florence or visiting multiple Tuscan hill towns in a day, I’ve got an itinerary that can help you make the most of your half-day visit.

What do see in Siena in 1 day on this itinerary, there are 3 must-see sites: Piazza del Campo, the Siena Cathedral, and the Torre del Mangia.

Turning a full day itinerary into a half day itinerary is all about prioritizing. To make the most of your time, plan your visit to Siena in the morning.

I suggest starting with the Siena Duomo Complex. Spend some time in the Siena Cathedral and marvel at the Piccolomini Library. Just remember, you have to book this in advance.

After the Duomo Complex, make your way to the Piazza del Campo, the iconic square that is the heart of Siena.

If you have time, don’t miss the chance to climb the Torre del Mangia. The stair climb is a bit of a workout, but the panoramic view from the top is worth every step.

Other Siena Landmarks If You Plan to Stay Longer than a Day in Siena

Siena church
Church of San Domenico

If you are wondering which city is better – Siena vs Florence – to stay a little longer you’ll want to read a bit more about how they differ.

If it’s Siena, I suggest staying in the city centre, preferably at the Grand Hotel Continental Siena.

This luxury hotel is just a few steps from Il Campo and offers a truly regal experience. It’s the perfect base for exploring the city and indulging in some of the other activities Siena has to offer.

What to see in Siena Italy

  • Santa Maria della Scala: this former hospital was established in the 14th century and is now a museum. You can explore its numerous halls and galleries, each filled with impressive works of art and historical artifacts.
  • Basilica of San Domenico: this imposing church dates back to the 13th century and is rich in history and art. The basilica’s impressive architecture and beautiful frescoes make it a must-see for anyone visiting Siena.
  • Palazzo delle Papesse – is a 15th-century palace that is now a vibrant contemporary art centre.
  • Pinacoteca Nazionale Art Museum – houses a collection of famous Sienese artwork spanning the 16th to 17th centuries.
  • Fortress Medicea – a 16th-century fortress built by the Medici family.
  • Museo Civico – the city’s main museum, located in the Palazzo Comunale, which houses important works of art and artifacts from Siena’s rich cultural heritage.

Siena Things to Do: I Recommend these Tours & Experiences

As a Holidaymaker

That’s a wrap of what to do in Siena for a day! I hope that answers the question of is Siena worth visiting, as it is a Tuscan city that needs to find its way onto your list.

Visit Siena Italy, and other similar places by visiting my Italy Travel Guide for all of your information needs.

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