How to spend a day (or more) in Siena

Located 75km south of Florence, Siena is a town rich in medieval history. The city centres around Piazza del Campo and the nearby Duomo, the city’s two most recognizable landmarks.

Il Campo, shaped like a shell with the red Palazzo Pubblico and its tower, Torre del Mangia at its base, is a very popular meeting and people watching place during the day (and night). The piazza is ringed with cafes and restaurants, so you’re never too far from a cappuccino fix.

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Piazza del Campo with the Duomo’s bell tower in the background
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Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia

Climbing the tower’s 400+ steps provides you with a rewarding view of Siena and the surrounding countryside. stairsThough my preferred climbing spot is from the Facciatone, which is part of the Duomo. The climb is about 200 steps which becomes rather narrow at parts and gets a bit difficult when going down when someone wants to go up! The adjacent photo provides an idea of how tight the climb gets at the top. The benefit of climbing the Facciatone and not the City Tower is that you see the Tower from up high.

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The Facciatone (to the right of the Duomo when looking at it from the front, accessed through the Museo dell’Opera) – This was originally going to be an extension of the Cathedral, but once the plague hit in the 14th century, it no longer became an economic priority and was never finished.

The following pictures show the view that rewards you from the top.

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Bellissimo! The view from the Facciatone that you access via the Duomo‘s Museum
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View from the Facciatone
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View from the Facciatone

Of course what better way to spend your time near the Duomo, than to spend time in and outside the Duomo itself. For those with weary legs, there is seating across from the front of the Duomo, where you can have a break and take in the view.

Construction of the Duomo started in 1215 and ended in 1263. The facade is memorising with all the details impossible to take in. The highlight of the inside are the 56 etched and inlaid marble panels that were designed between 1369 and 1547. While some of the marble sections of the floors are covered for their protection, usually in and around September, the floor is completely uncovered, with the sensitive areas protected but viewable. The Duomo’s striped and highly decorated interior is definitely a site to be seen! If you have time, the Museo dell’Opera is one of my favourite (less popular) museums in Italy.

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Siena’s Duomo
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Bronze doors of the Duomo
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Exposed marble floors of the Duomo. We visited in September when the floors were uncovered.
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Exposed marble floor in the Duomo
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Statue in the Duomo
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If you’re not wearing appropriate attire, the security guards give you these ‘modesty cloaks’
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The Duomo – can you tell I think it’s one of the most gorgeous buildings I’ve ever seen

Once you’ve seen the two ‘biggies’, hopefully you’ve saved some time for one of my favourite things to do in Siena – walking the side streets and getting lost! Siena is divided into contrades, or districts, each with their own flag which you’ll spot as you walk around the city. The contrades compete bi-annually in the Palio, a horse race that takes place in Il Campo in early July and mid-August every year.

Hopefully you’ve decided to spend the night in Siena (highly recommended if at all possible), because like most Italian towns that are swamped with tourists during the day, Siena is an absolute delight in the evening.

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Il Campo at night. We were there on a night where there was a line up of high end, expensive cars on display at the base of the Palazzo.

In choosing a B&B, I came across a picture of the terrace at Albergo Bernini and knew I had to stay there. While the accommodation is not what I would call luxury (there are several shared bathrooms and the rooms are plain), but you can’t beat the view, especially with a bottle of vino!

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The view from the terrace at Albergo Bernini (we brought our own wine)

As an example of the beauty of Siena at night, while wandering back to our B&B after an evening dining at a restaurant lining Il Campo, we came across this lovely (and completely empty) piazza.

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Piazza Salimbeni

While I only touched on the sites you can fit into a day in Siena, there are plenty more sites to see if you have more time. But for a quick trip, you must spend time at both Piazza Il Campo and the very unique (and stripey!) Duomo.

Have you visited Siena? What are you favourite sites to visit?

 

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