Last Updated on December 1, 2023 by Laura Teso
What to see in Siena in one day? Siena is not as big as you may think. It is absolutely possible to visit it in one day.
First suggestion, choose convenient parking. We arrived by car and chose the Santa Caterina parking. From there, you have the possibility to go up by a system of escalators, located 5 minutes away. Just walk towards the arch, go past it, and turn right at the white fountain. You will soon spot the entrance of the escalators.
You will end up in the middle of via Vallepiatta. Go left and you will soon reach the Battistero and the amazing Duomo. You will soon realize that Siena is a succession of narrow alleys, made of beige or sienna (obviously) color palazzi, that culminate in the dashing Duomo or in the Piazza del Campo or in a panoramic point.
The first time I visited Siena I was a little disappointed. I don’t know, I expected it to be more green, more refined. On the contrary, Siena is sober. Its colorful heart is all enshrined in the Palio, I guess, an in the ceramics you spot along the streets.
What to see in Siena in one day
1 Dashing Duomo
Anyway, the first thing to see the fully frescoed Battistero and the Duomo. The highlights of the latter are in my opinion
- The view from the Facciatone, the facade.
- The floor. Mi raccomando, when you enter the duomo do not look just up but pay attention to the floor. It’s one of the most beautiful in the world, began in 1300 and ended in 1800. Therefore it presents different styles and techniques.
- Another highlight in the Duomo is the so-called Libreria Piccolomini, an area of the left nave, built on Pope Pio III order to house the collection of books once owned by his uncle, Pope Pio II (the one who rebuilt Pienza).
2 Contrada Museum
The second visit I suggest is the one to the museum of a contrada. We chose the Tartuca contrada, which is quite close to the Cathedral. It was a unique experience, absolutely recommended to better understand the city.
Read more about Tartuca contrada
3 A great view of Siena
We then made a quick detour to the Orti dei Tolomei, also part of the Tartuca contrada, a public garden where you can enjoy a great view of Siena.
4 Onda su Onda
After that, entering in the Onda (wave) contrada territory and the quaint via Dupré, we could admire another spectacular view of the Mangia Tower. By the way, how do you know that you’re in the Onda district? Look at those torches along the street. They have the shape of a dolphin, symbol of the contrada. PS Onda su Onda is the title of an Italian song by Paolo Conte.
5 Not average panini
We reached the piazza del Mercato. There you will surely see a facade with a huge pink bougainvillea. It’s the entrance of Gino Cacino da Angelo, a deli shop where you can also eat some panini. Which are not average panini but taste experiences. I had a panino with roasted porchetta and honey/balsamic vinegar mayonnaise. Matteo had a panino with wild boar sopressata, fried eggplants and spicy sauce. They were soooo good. Probably better in winter cause they’re not exactly something right for a hot summer day. But what a taste!
6 Caffè break
After lunch, we needed a caffè, so we headed towards Torrefazione Fiorella in via di Città 13 (Civetta contrada). good espresso, friendly staff in a tiny spot where there’s only place for a few people standing.
7 Piazza del Campo
The torrefazione is 1 minute from Piazza del Campo. Considered one of the most beautiful piazze in the world, it dates back to 1200. This is where the Palio di Siena takes place. It presents the form of a shell with 9 segments. In the central segment there’s the ancient Gaia Fountain. On the other side, the Palazzo Pubblico with the Mangia Tower (88 meters). Inside the palace, you can visit the Museo Civico. Its highlight is the fresco representing the Allegory of the Good and Bad Government. I wish our politicians could get inspired by it! But it seems rather impossible.
8 Mangia Tower
As for the tower, I honestly preferred not to climb it. The Florence Dome experience was still in my mind. Beautiful, but hard for a non trained person (I had legs ache for 3 days after!). Moreover, Torre del Mangia has a very steep set of stairs.
Did you know that… Mangia in Italian means eat (he eats). The name derives from a funny anecdote. The bell-ringer Giovanni di Balduccio used to squander all his money at the local taverns. He was therefore called earnings-eater, mangiaguadagni, shortened to mangia.
9 Another panoramic view
Even without climbing the tower, you can enjoy a couple of beautiful views of the city without all that effort. One is that I suggested above, from the Orto dei Tolomei. Another one is along via Camporegio, in the Drago contrada. You will see all the rooftops, the Duomo and the Mangia Tower in their beauty.
10 Shame! Shame! Shame!
If you want to take a look at the (now sadly) famous Montepaschi di Siena bank, you have to go to piazza Salimbeni (Bruco contrada).
Where to buy something local
You have some choices. I suggest you the well known Consorzio Agrario in via Pianigiani 9 (Drago contrada), selling everything local, from fruit to bread, from cheese to wine, from pasta to oil. This Consortium is made of about 2.000 citizens.
Drogheria Manganelli is the most ancient grocery store in town, dating back to 1879. You will find it at via di Città, 71 (Aquila contrada). Renowned for local sweets like ricciarelli and panforte.
I liked the ceramics shop called Bianco e Nero (White and Black, colours of Siena), located in via Fusari, 21 (Selva contrada). Photos were not allowed, except for the sign outside, saying Made in
China Siena. Here I bought a simple magnet for my fridge, since I collect them during my trips. I chose one of the Tartuca contrada, since I had visited that very day.
I almost forgot! We had a good gelato at La Vecchia Latteria in via San Pietro 10 (Aquila).
These are my suggestion for what to see in Siena in one day. Of course there are other things to do, other museums or churches to visit, but… better leave them for a next time! 😉
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