Travelling to Florence is always overwhelming. The city might not be huge, but from the first moments wandering around its cobbled alleys and historical buildings, it’s immediately clear that its moniker of the cradle of the Renaissance wasn’t given by accident. However, if you are treating yourself with a longer stay in Tuscany, you can go beyond the capital and take a charming day trip from Florence to Siena.
Many are the potential day trips from Florence, and Walks of Italy organizes a Tuscany tour that takes you not only to Siena but also to the famous Chianti region for some wine tasting and the lovely village of San Gimignano.
Click here for more information on the tour and the current prices.
Day trip from Florence to Siena, all you need to know
There are many day trips from Florence that you can do, but here we want to tell you about Siena, a medieval jewel that gets less attention than other more important hubs such as Pisa and the walled city of Lucca.
We boarded the train early morning to have a whole day in Siena, and on the way there we passed some gorgeous villages and areas of the legendary Tuscan countryside where we would love to go someday. When you arrive in Siena train station, you are confronted with two options to reach its medieval heart: on foot or by bus?
Taking a bus right at the exit of Siena station will get you to the city center in a matter of minutes while walking it can take you some half an hour, but if you ask me, it’s all worth it. Walk along the countryside and reach the first gate of the medieval walls that once enshrined the palaces of the nobility, the government, and the church.
Once inside the walls, you will quickly realize that Siena is easily one of the most beautiful and authentic medieval towns around the world that maintained its premises almost untouched throughout the centuries.
Start your tour right from the historical Via Camollia, a central road lined with shops and boutiques selling clothes and shoes, cafes and restaurants. Via Camollia goes through the town and connects to the beautiful shell-shaped Piazza del Campo, wide square paved with red bricks with a white marble fountain in the middle. Here twice a year takes place the famous horse race Palio di Siena that sees the people of the 17 neighborhoods of Siena compete against each other. This is the heart of the city and its secular power through history. Cafes and restaurants are aplenty and serve visitors anything food and drink-wise. The city is to be enjoyed without rushing to avoid overlooking semi-hidden treasures like the chapel of the square located below Palazzo Pubblico and built by Siena citizens after the deadly plague killed thousands in the 14th century.
Once in Siena, enjoy the blue sky, drink in the medieval street scene and brace yourself, there’s a lot to climb.
Places to visit on a day trip from Florence to Siena
Palazzo Pubblico, “Civic Palace”
Outstanding example of Gothic secular architecture, Palazzo Pubblico was originally built in the 13th century and hosted the offices in charge of Siena customs and taxes. Later it became the seat of the Government of the Nine who made it big enough for all the Nine ruling city councils compelled to stay within the premises and allowed to leave only during holidays. The works on the different floors of the palace were completed in the 17th century.
Currently, Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico houses the offices of the town’s administration. The first floor houses the Museo Civico, which is open to the public and displays many artworks, among all particularly worth it are the frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti portraying an allegory of the Good and the Bad Governance in the Hall of the Nine.
Torre del Mangia, “Tower of Mangia”
Dominating the view on the Piazza del Campo, 88-meter-tall Torre del Mangia takes its name from the first person who rung the bell in the 14th century, Giovanni di Duccio, nicknamed Mangiaguadagni, “money eater”. Unlike the Giotto Bell Tower in Florence, that is erected independently a few meters from the Cathedral, Torre del Mangia is connected to Palazzo Pubblico.
Walking up its 400+ steps is not easy as the steps get pretty narrow but at the end, the 360% magnificent view of this Medieval town is totally worth it and can’t miss it in your one day trip from Florence to Siena. You need to leave you bags in the cloakroom on the first level.
Santa Maria Della Scala, “Saint Mary of the Staircase”
First public hospital in Europe, Santa Maria della Scala was built in front of Siena’s gorgeous Duomo on the namesake piazza. Santa Maria Della Scala was one of the first hospitals ever to give shelter to pilgrims, poor and orphans. Much of the hospital expenses were paid through the lands donated by the noble Senese families and by the municipality.
Santa Maria Della Scala is now a museum displaying artworks including beautiful frescoes, chapels and former working areas like the hospital reception where men and women were divided. Now, it also hosts temporary modern art exhibitions. In one of the four floors of this large complex, a man’s skull will welcome you to a 13th-century church with the somehow disturbing reminder “COME TU SEI FUI ANCOR IO: COM’IO SONO SARAI ANCOR TU”, that translates roughly like this: How you are I was, how I am you will be.
We might have been expecting to see some of the old beds and equipment used in this hospital and there weren’t any, but the sculptures and decorations are worth your visit.
You can’t miss the complex of Santa Maria Della Scala as it is located right in the heart of Siena city surrounded by many other historical buildings, it should totally be part of the itinerary of your day trip from Florence to Siena.
Siena Duomo, “Siena Cathedral”
One of the highlights of your trip to Siena, the city’s cathedral dates back to the 13th century. Designed after a project by Giovanni Pisano and Giovanni di Cecco to be built on top of another church of this hill town.
Both exterior and interior are no less than spectacular, the stripes of white and black marbles receiving the effects of stained glasses that make it even more beautiful. The round colorful stained glass made in the 13th century by native painter Duccio Di Buoninsegna is an admirable work, so is the marble mosaic floor that creates a unique pavement, some part of which is covered most of the year to preserve it.
On the left side of the church, 15th-century Piccolomini Library houses a precious collection of illuminated manuscripts. Some of the highlights of this stunning library are the bright-colored frescoes by Perugia painter Pinturicchio and a young Raffaello Sanzio (Raphael).
The Gate of Heaven, above the Duomo, offers a panoramic view of inside and outside the cathedral. This can only be visited with a separate ticket.
Cripta del Duomo, “Crypt of Cathedral”
Built in the 13th century alongside the cathedral, unlike many other crypts, this was never used for burials. Some believe it might have simply functioned as a porch leading into the Duomo. The Crypt was closed and remained untouched for nearly 700 years and the people of Siena didn’t have the chance to enjoy this part of the history until it was discovered in 1999 during an excavation in the Siena Duomo itself. Frescoes mainly done by unknown artists are the interesting part in the Crypt. Cripta Del Duomo is included in your joint ticket.
Battistero di San Giovanni, “Baptistery of St. John”
Built in the 14th century, between 1316 and 1625, Siena’s Baptistery of St. John has been serving as baptism church for centuries. Adjacent to the cathedral, the interior of the Baptistery is stunning.
Finely decorated and boasting a collection of masterpieces, one of the most important artwork is the gorgeous Renaissance-style baptismal font designed and realized by Jacopo della Quercia with the contribution of other important names such as Donatello, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Giovanni di Turino and Turino di Sano. Among the other artwork you can see are sculptures from the school of Giovanni Pisano and the frescoes by Vecchietta.
Enter the Battistero from the staircase in Piazza San Giovanni.
Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo, “Museum of Metropolitan Institution”
The Museo dell’Opera, founded in 1869, is located behind the Duomo and inside what is now called the New Cathedral. The ground floor of the museum houses a collection of 14th-century statues of philosophers, prophets, and sibyls done by Giovanni Pisano. Among the other important works by 15th-century artists are the statues of an enthroned Madonna and Child with the Cardinal Casini portraying the Madonna and Child with four cherubs by Jacopo Della Quercia, and Donatello’s tondo of the Madonna with Child.
Another colorful important piece is the round stained glass window, 6 meters in diameter located at end of the hall and created by Duccio di Buoninsegna between 1287 and 1290. The center of the window tells three stories from the life of the Virgin, the Assumption, the Burial and the Coronation. The aptly studied lighting of the ground floor of Museo dell’Opera gives life to the statues and the window.
The first floor of the museum houses some precious altarpieces from the 14th-18th centuries. Some of the artworks by Duccio di Buoninsegna are the painting of Madonna and Child enthroned (Maestà), another one is the painting of Christ on the donkey entering into Jerusalem. The Treasury, also on the first floor, houses hundreds of precious sacred objects and reliquaries, while the top floor house is home to a precious collection of paintings and tapestries.
Museo dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo Opening hours: March – November 10.30 am-7 pm; November – 28th February 10.30 am-5.30 pm.
Il Facciatone, “Viewpoint”
Built in the 14th century, the Facciatone can be accessed from the Museum and is an excellent spot for panoramic views of Siena and its medieval rooftops. You need to climb up some 130 narrow steps but in the end it’s totally worth it and should definitely be part of your day trip from Florence to Siena.
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Practical tips for a day trip from Florence to Siena
Admission fee for the places to visit in Siena
- Admission fee to Palazzo Pubblico, Tower of Mangia and Santa Maria Della Scala: Joint ticket for 20€.
- Admission fee to Duomo di Siena, Cripta Del Duomo, Battistero di San Giovanni, Museo Dell’Opera Metropolitana del Duomo and Facciatone: Joint ticket for 13€.
How to get to Siena from Florence?
The train is your cheapest and best option. Tickets for the Florence to Siena train cost € 9.10 per person and trains leave every hour from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella Station.
How to go to Siena city center from the train station?
The train station in Siena (Stazione Ferroviaria di Siena) is located right in front of a big shopping center. Once you enter, on the left you will find the escalator to reach the top of the hill (7 minutes of escalators). When you are out of the series of escalators, walk to the left side of the exit on Viale Vittorio Emanuele II and after some 10-15 minutes of straight walk, you are outside the medieval walls and gate.
Note: Out of the escalator, on the left side, is a lovely cafe with a beautiful view of the countryside right outside Siena where you can enjoy some orange juice or a full breakfast before visiting the city.
All places mentioned are within walking distance of each other and there is no need for transportation. The main things to see on your day trip from Florence to Siena are on two squares, Piazza del Duomo and Piazza del Campo.
Where to eat in Siena
All along Via Camollia you will find many traditional restaurants, while around Piazza Duomo they are more touristy and very likely the dishes have been adapted to a more international taste.
One of the restaurants in Siena you can try is Osteria Boccon del Prete (17, via San Pietro; phone +39 0577 280388) for great food and affordable prices. Among their popular dishes are the sausage polenta (cornmeal mush) and the picci pasta with sage and almonds.
Right in Via Camollia (n. 49) is the excellent Ristorante Enzo (phone +39 0577 281277) with dishes from Tuscan and Siena tradition, while Osteria Castelvecchio (65, via Castelvecchio; phone +39 0577 47093) promises great food and service in a modern design.
For a great pizza, pasta and street food like dishes try Cavaliere Errante (3, Piazza Provenzano; phone +39 0577 222496).
Best time to visit Siena
Siena is a perfect travel destination all year, but if you are into festivals, traditions, and anthropology, don’t miss the two horse races Palio Della Madonna di Provenzano on July 2nd and Palio dell’Assunta on August 16th.
During summer it might be quite hot, while spring and fall are perfect for their mild temperatures. Winter can be pretty cold and humid but it’s not very long, in March spring already makes all flowers blossom.
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Camera gear for a trip to Siena
The first of our Tuscany tours was in Siena, and our camera gear included our beloved Nikon D7100, four lenses and a GoPro for some panoramic videos. Obviously more than one large SD Cards.
Siena offers many viewpoints, so you might really want to take videos and some pretty wide angle photos.