Palazzo Pubblico, also Known as Palazzo Comunale
Did you know that Siena is generally seen as one of the most beautiful cities in Tuscany and Italy. There is no shortage of interesting things to do in Siena!
Siena has always competed with Florence in political, economical and artistic matters. While Florence is the quintessential Renaissance town, Siena is universally known for its well-preserved medieval Gothic heritage and it is a World Heritage Site since 1995.
Twice a year —on July 2 and August 16— Siena holds a very important event: The Siena, Italy Palio. The Palio di Siena a thrilling horse race of medieval origins that locals call simply Il Palio. The race, which takes place in Piazza del Campo, is preceded by a spectacular parade.
Siena has seventeen contrade or districts and each year ten of them compete against each other in this difficult race along the edges of the Piazza del Campo. Il Palio is one of the most exciting things to do in Siena. Do not hesitate to visit the city if you are in the Toscana, Italy on those dates.
Here are a few tips about what you can see or do in this beautiful Tuscan city.
Don’t Miss the Unique Piazza del Campo
This medieval, shell-shaped square in the historic center of Siena is the main meeting point of Sienese, who call it Il Campo. All important events in Siena, such as the Palio, happen in this square paved with red bricks.
On the Piazza del Campo you’ll see another impressive medieval building with Gothic influences, the Palazzo Pubblico or Palazzo Comunale with its high Torre del Mangia. The tower rises 289 feet or 88 m and was built to be taller than the tower in rival Florence. When it was built it was one of the tallest secular towers in Italy.
Another popular attraction in Piazza del Campo is the Fonte Gaia, a monumental fountain that is the biggest in Siena.
Admire the 13th century Siena Cathedral
The Duomo di Siena is a masterwork of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architecture. It is made of white and black marble —the colors of the coat of arms of Siena— with some decorations in red marble. The white and black two-tone that dominate the internal structure of the cathedral create a chiaroscuro effect that strikes the eye.
One of the jewels of the Duomo is the octagonal Siena Cathedral Pulpit sculpted by Nicola Pisano, which is seen as one of the greatest masterpieces of the thirteenth century in Italy.
Further, the cathedral of Siena boasts works of art by great artists like Donatello, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and a young Michelangelo among others.
Great View from Basilica di San Domenico
The basilica stands on a hill from where you can enjoy an excellent view of the Siena Cathedral and the Torre del Mangia.
Today, the Holy Mass and the majority of religious services are held in the Gothic crypt, particularly in the winter months, because it’s not so cold as the above basilica.
The Basilica of San Domenico keeps several relics of St. Catherine of Siena, one of the two patron saints of Italy, together with St. Francis of Assisi. You can easily combine this visit with the Birth House of St. Catherine of Siena, which is nearby.
Wine, Food and Day Trips
Since Siena is in central Tuscany, in the Chianti region, you’ll be able to taste excellent Chianti wine. Siena is virtually surrounded by charming Chianti vineyards.
Don’t miss the traditional Sienese panforte, a delicious fruitcake that might date back to the 13th century. Or the hand-rolled pici pasta that seems to have originated in nearby Montalcino, where you can also taste the superb Brunello di Montalcino wine.
Apart from the obvious visit to Florence and perhaps Pisa, you have other choices for day trips from Siena: the smaller towns of San Gimignano, Pienza, Arezzo or Montepulciano are all worth a visit. There are many buses and train connections that will take you to those places.
Siena Photo Gallery
Whether you are planning a day trip to Siena or you want to spend your entire vacation in the city, you will surely be charmed by one of Tuscany’s most beautiful cities. Click the button below to see the photo gallery of Siena attractions and the pleasant atmosphere that awaits you.