Overview of Siena
Siena finds its origins as early as the third century B.C., when the Etruscans founded what the Romans called Saena, a small castle at the top of the highest hill in town. This part is nowadays called "Castelvecchio", and is the oldest part of Siena.
The legend emulating that of the birth of Rome, narrates that two twins, Senio and Ascanio fed by a she-wolf would have founded the city in honour of Senio, the brother favourite by the gods.
Castelvecchio is surrounded by the most important sites of Siena. The Duomo of Siena, rich with important artistic pieces by Sienese artists such as Simone Martini, Duccio di Buoninsegna, and others such as Niccoló Pisano. The museum of the Opera del Duomo is right in Piazza del Duomo. The Santa Maria della Scala faces the Duomo, while Piazza del Campo rests just a short walk away towards the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia.
Siena has lived its zenith during the Low Middle Age period, when the black plague decimated many parts of Italy. Siena alone lost two thirds of its population. As a result, the city experienced a quick economic decline, and after many years of war against Florence, it had to declare itself defeated and allow the Florentine powers to rule over its territories.
The signs of the glorious past of Siena are very well visible throughout the city. Dante in the Divine Commedy describes Siena as it was in the Fourteenth century. The walls of the city narrate infinite stories of past glory, with important palaces by the Piccolomini and the Tolomei families. The Medici family of Florence brought a new economic and cultural wave. The Renaissance saw the consolidation of Florence to the expenses of Siena, whose development was curbed by the new Tuscan superpower.
Nowadays Siena counts 75 thousand people, and its province extends over regions such as the Chianti, the Crete, part of Val di Chiana and Val di Orcia.
What to See
The Cathedrals : Duomo di Siena
Main Monuments : Piazza del Campo , Palazzo Piccolomini
Main Museums : Museo dell' Opera di Siena , Museo dei Fisiocritici
How to Get There
BY CAR: From all directions, take the main Italian highway called A-1 and exit at Firenze Certosa. Right off the exit take a right towards Siena on the Firenze-Siena freeway. Exit at Siena Nord.
BY TRAIN: From Florence change train in Empoli and take the train to Siena. From Rome, change train in Chiusi and take the train to Siena.
BY BUS: Available from Florence, Rome, Milan, Bologna. Please visit the SENA official website for official schedules and routes.
More about Siena
Siena is a small city, but very dense with museums, galleries, and palaces and monuments to visit. In addition, the city and the surrounding towns burst with many lively events, especially during summertime. For this reason it is important for a first-time visitor to select what is of most interest to see.
Our suggestion is to start from the Piazza del Duomo. Just in this spot you may be able to spend the whole day. The Santa Maria della Scala museum is a recently restored gallery of Medieval and Renaissance frescoes, and also an important space for contemporary art expositions. To the left of the Santa Maria is the Institute of Contemporary Art, an important center for expositions of modern artists and an eclectic art center. On the opposite side is the Duomo of Siena and the Opera del Duomo Museum. The Duomo itself is rich with pieces of art form the Middle ages and early Renaissance. In addition many of the art pieces that used to be in the Duomo are now in the Opera del Duomo Museum, to the right of the Duomo.
Continuing towards Piazza del Campo one could visit the Civic Museum and take a visit to the top of the tower, from where one can enjoy a magnificent view of Siena.
This itinerary should last 5 to 6 hours, including a one hour lunch. This will give you enough time to enjoy Siena casually in the afternoon before returning to your accommodation in Tuscany.
For more information regarding Siena's museums and exhibits, please visit the official Siena Museums website at Musei Provincia di Siena. For more touristic information please also visit the APT website.
Where to Eat
For a tasty Tuscan eating, at a reasonable price (20 Euros per person), you can have lunch at Guidoriccio, in Via Dupré, right besides the Public Palace in Piazza del Campo. Another option of the same kind is Il Bandierino, right in Piazza del Campo, where you will also be able to eat a good pizza. A very typical trattoria is Trattoria la Torre in Via di Salicotto, right besides the Mangia Tower, at one step from Piazza del Campo.
If you are in for fancier restaurants, but also higher prices and average quality, you will also find plenty of other options in Piazza del Campo. A very fancy place where to eat Tuscan delicacies is Ristorante da Guido, in Via Beato Pier Pettinaio, also an excellent dinner restaurant. Here a reservation is necessary. For reservations call +39 0577 280.042.
- Nannini (Via Banchi di Sopra, 22). Due of its mouth-watering pastries, excellent coffee and liqueurs within an enchanting ambience, this coffee-shop is an emblematic institution in Siena.
- Osteria Le Logge (Via del Porrione, 33). Is a formal gorgeous restaurant with dark wood and marble indoors ornamented with beautiful plants. It offers a refined creative Tuscan cuisine made with extra virgin olive oil, coming from the owners properties. The restaurant has also a beautiful and large open terrace.
Among other select Tuscan wines, the wine list is principally composed of exclusive home- produced Montalcino wines.
Price range: around 40/50 euros.
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