How to Spend One Day in Siena
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 it is!
Visiting Siena Italy is just one of those beautiful cities in Tuscany that’s worth going to, no matter how much time you might have. It’s a city full of medieval buildings and Siena landmarks that will have you exploring for days.
Let this be your guide on what to do in Siena Italy for a day. Your ultimate Siena itinerary will share the unmissable sites, but also include a bit more, just in case you decide to spend a bit more time here.
Are you ready to fall in love with Siena?
Table of Contents
Your Siena Itinerary (At-A-Glance)
Wondering what to do in Siena Italy for a day? This is your quick over, but be sure to read on for all the details and so much more.
One Day in Siena
Grab an Italian Coffee
Start your one day in Siena with a good Italian coffee. The most famous cafe in Siena is 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, caffelatte, mochaccino, latte macchiato, or espresso. And, of course, this is always accompanied by the pastry of the day.
Explore the Piazza del Campo Complex
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 your one day in Siena.
Stay on the piazza and explore these other important sites.
- Time required: 30 minutes
Climb to the top of Torre del Mangia (On Piazza del Campo)
Torre del Mangia is one of Italy’s tallest secular towers at 87 m.
It was built to be the exact height of the Siena Cathedral, as a sign that church and state have equal power in Siena. The tower is adjacent to the Palazzo Pubblico, or public palace. 400 steps bring you to the top with phenomenal views of the city below.
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)
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. Today it houses the Museum Civico. What makes this worth visiting? Two very large frescoes: Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegories of Good and Bad Government (1338–40) and Simone Martini’s celebrated Virgin Mary in Majesty (1315).
- Time required: 2 hours
- Opening hours: open daily 10am–7pm (November to mid-March closes at 6pm)
- Tickets: if you’re visiting during a busy period (April to October), you can purchase skip-the-line tickets here. Otherwise, you can buy from the ticket office onsite. Tickets cost €9 for the civic museum only, or €10 with the Torre del Mangia included.
As the entire city breaks for lunch, don’t miss out on Italy’s favourite pastime – eating! Many are tempted to stay on the lively piazza and enjoy a meal. But, 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.
A recommended restaurant is 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 one day in Siena.
Other recommended restaurants (for lunch or dinner):
- Osteria di Castelvecchio, via di Castelvecchio (nearby to Pinacoteca Nazionale)
- Osteria La Chiacchera, via Costa di Sant’Antonio (nearby to Sanctuary at St Catherine’s birthplace)
- Osteria le Logge, via del Porrione – a Michelin-starred restaurant (nearby to Torre del Mangia)
Time required: 2 hours
What to Eat in Siena
Try the city’s specialty, Pici Pasta, on the menu at any of the best restaurants in Siena. Pici, a thick handmade spaghetti, is claimed to have originated in Siena. It’s considered a very simple dish, a peasant way of cooking, made without eggs and originally served with only a few simple ingredients. Or, try a plate of pici cacio e pepe (pecorino cheese and pepper) or pici all’aglione (garlic and oil).
Another local specialty is the classic Tuscan bread-and-tomato salad, Panzanella. As is Crostini a toast topped with olive paste, chicken-liver paté, and wild-boar paté.
Tour the Duomo di Siena complex
The Duomo complex isn’t just Siena Cathedral. Other important Siena landmarks that make up the complex include the Baptistry, the Crypt, the Piccolomini Library, the Facciatone viewing terrace, and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo Museum.
The Siena Cathedral was built between 1215 and 1263 and is a classic example of gothic architecture. Known as the most beautiful cathedral in Tuscany, its interior is even more impressive than the exterior. It’s filled with intricate details and artwork by Pisano, Donatello, Bernini and Michelangelo.
Inside, you will be awe-struck by the striped black and white marble pillars representing the symbolic colours of Siena. There is a lot to take in, so don’t rush your time here. Be sure to look up to the beautiful frescoed ceilings and down to the incredible mosaic tile floors. The incredible works of art are seen in sculptures, stone, wood carvings, paintings, and stained glass.
Part of the Duomo complex in Siena is the Piccolomini Library. Here you will find ancient frescoes making this place feel more like a palace than a library.
Facciatone Viewpoint is one of the most unusual sites you might find in Siena. It’s the unfinished façade of the Cathedral’s expansion. Climb to the top giving you panoramic views of the city.
Round out your visit to the Duomo complex by seeing the Baptistery of San Giovanni and the Crypt and the artifacts and artwork from the cathedral’s past at the Museo dell’Opera.
- Time required: Total hours = 3 hours (Cathedral + Library – 1 hour | Baptistry, Crypt, Viewing Terrace – 1 hour | Museum – 1 hour)
- Opening hours: March to November 10:30am – 6:00pm and December to February 10:30am to 5:30pm
- Tickets: Purchase an OPA SI pass grants you access to the Duomo complex. Because this is the most popular landmark expect very long lines. If you are trying to see Siena in a day, don’t waste time by waiting in lines. Get your advanced tickets here for the skip-the-line entrance tickets to every site in the Duomo complex.
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.
Eleven streets fan out from the Piazza del Campo and create this wonderful maze. Somehow, getting lost doesn’t feel like being lost at all, but feels like an adventure. It’s as if you have stepped back in time and it is the middle ages again. It’s very atmospheric and mysterious.
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.
- Time required: 2 hours
- Maximize your time and take a 2-hour guided
Other Siena Landmarks
If you’ve decided to spend longer than a day in Siena, here are other key sites you could add to your itinerary.
- Santa Maria della Scala – is a medieval hospital complex is now a full-blown museum. Domenico di Bartolo’s frescoes provide some fascinating insights into the daily routine of a charitable hospital in the mid-15th century.
- 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.
- Church of San Domenico, also known as Basilica Cateriniana, sits atop a hill on the west side of the historic city walls. It’s known for its Gothic architecture which is an unusual style for this 13th-century building.
- 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.
Best Places to Stay in Siena
If you have decided to make Siena your home base while in Tuscany here are some of the best accommodations in Siena.
- Life in Sepia: 2-bedroom private villa located in Casole d’Elsa surrounded by lush gardens, pool and views of the Tuscan countryside
- Or, explore other holiday rentals using Plum Guide
- Apartment in the historic city centre: Domus Nannini SPA Palazzo Domus offers guests a hotel experience with spa amenities with their own individual apartments. Located in the heart of Siena overlooking Palazzo Nannini
- Luxury Hotel in the historic center: Grand Hotel Continental is set in a 17th-century building in the centre of the city. Pamper yourself with 5-star accommodations and fine dining
- B&B in the heart of Siena: B&BII Corso is located in a 16th-century building just steps from Piazza del Campo. Elegant rooms with traditional furnishings are treated to an Italian breakfast
- Or, explore other hotel properties using Booking.com
Best Day Trips from Siena + Experiences
If you did make the decision to stay a little longer, that means you have more time to enjoy Siena and the surrounding area. Siena is central to visiting other Tuscan towns and villages.
- Florence to Siena – 78 km – visit the Renaissance city full of amazing architecture and art
- Pienza to Siena – 68 km – a romantic hilltop village with sweeping views of the Tuscan countryside
- Cortona to Siena – 69 km – a beautiful historic small town made famous by ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’
Top-Rated Experiences and Tours from Siena
- Val D’Orcia Wine Tour. Taste the food and wines of Tuscany on a 10-hour sightseeing tour of Montalcino, Pienza, and Montepulciano.
- Chianti and Castles Tour with Wine Tastings. Explore the scenic wine region of Chianti on a 5-hour of the vineyard and taste Chianti wines paired with Tuscan products.
- Pienza and Montepulciano Small-Group Tour. Drive through a beautiful Tuscan landscape on an 8-hour tour from Siena, and see the characteristic villages of Pienza and Montepulciano.
- San Gimignano, Montalcino & Wine Tasting. Spend a day in the Tuscan countryside and discover the charms of medieval San Gimignano and Montalcino on this 11-hour tour.
- Small Group E-Bike Tour with Winery Lunch. Experience a guided bike ride through picturesque Chianti roads on comfortable, easy-to-use Electric Bikes. Tour a historical monastery and complete the day at a family-run winery for a Chianti Classico tasting accompanied by a full lunch.
- Cooking Class. Prepare traditional dishes during this 4-hour cooking class
Where is Siena?
Siena is located in Tuscany, a region in central Italy. It’s approximately 90 km (56 miles) south of Florence and about 300 km (190 miles) northwest of Rome.
How to get to Siena?
You can get to Siena by bus, train, car or taking a tour from Florence. The train station is outside the city and requires taking a bus or taxi to arrive at the historic centre.
Is there an airport in Siena?
No, there is no airport in Siena. The closest airport is Pisa. The best way to
What’s the history of Siena?
The history of Siena dates back to the Etruscan era in the 8th century. In the 13th to 14th centuries, Siena was at its height of power and when most of the Siena landmarks were built.
What is Siena known for?
Siena is known for its well-preserved historic centre with its architecture and ancient streets which is considered one of the best examples of medieval urban design in Italy.
What is Siena famous for?
Siena is famous for its twice-annual horse race, Il Palio, which takes place in the Piazza del Campo. The race has been held for centuries and the tradition makes this a popular time to visit Siena.
Is Siena worth visiting?
Yes, Siena is worth visiting to see the medieval architecture and its main square, Piazza del Campo, which is considered one of the most beautiful in Italy.
How many days do I need in Siena?
Siena can be experienced in a day if you want only visit the Cathedral, stroll the streets and the Piazza del Campo. Ideally, 36 hours allows you to experience Siena at night.
What is the best time to visit Siena?
The best time to visit Siena is April to June and September to November when the weather is pleasant and there are far fewer crowds. July and August is the busiest time.
When is the market day in Siena?
Wednesday is market day in Siena, one of the largest in Tuscany. The market can be found in the area around the Walls of the Medicean Fortress.
Italy Travel Resources
To help with your Tuscany trip inspiration and planning, check out some of my other articles, as well as other cities and guides in Italy.
- Guide to Florence – top things to do
- Guide to Pienza – top things to do
- Guide to Cortona – top things to do
- Dreamy Places to Stay in Cortona
- Venice vs Florence: which city is better?
- Guide to Rome
- 18 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Italy
- Things to you need to know before you go to Italy
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As a Holidaymaker
Siena is one of those Tuscan cities that just have to find a way onto your list. From its rich history to its significant landmarks – this is a place that will not disappoint and leave long-lasting memories.
Spending one day in Siena is enough time to see the top sites and appreciate its charm. But, it does require a little bit of planning, by pre-booking your entrance tickets.