Piazza del Campo is arguably the living and beating heart of Siena as well as an ideal starting point for your visit. Though initially created to serve as marketplace sporting a unique shell-like shape. Today, it ranks among the most prominent medieval piazzas on earth. Though its times as a bustling marketplace are gone, the square remains instrumental in city’s social life. The Sienese gather here during crucial political events as well as for parties and celebrations of all kinds. The biggest and most known event happening on Piazza del Campo is the Palio Horse race taking place bi-annually. At the top of the piazza stands the magnificent Fonte Gaia, one the most stunning fountains in Siena. However, that is not the only beautiful monument to admire at the piazza. Indeed, Piazza del Campo is one of THE places to see in Siena. Don’t miss out!
When it comes to the best places to see in Siena, visiting the Cathedral should not miss on your to-do list. While the black and white facade is quite imposing, the best part of the church hides in its interior. The cathedral floor is covered in religious stories and esoteric symbols; the Piccolomini Library hides exceptional frescoes by Pinturicchio; the Piccolomini Chapel offers Michelangelo’s carved statues of four niches and, after centuries of restoration, the cathedral’s sky vault lets experience the temple from a whole new perspective. The vault is known as ‘the gate of heaven’ is, at last, open to the public. Daily guided tours enable you to explore the cathedral from a bird’s eye view. A narrow passage winds around the interior as wells the exterior of the building, allowing you to admire both the decor and the Tuscan countryside.
Torre del Mangia is a lovely campanile (bell tower) commanding Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo and the Public Palace. It dates to the 14th century and takes its curious name from its original guardian “Mangiaguadagni” (literally ‘eater of earnings’) since he spent all his salaries eating in local taverns. The tower rises 87 meters tall (102 meters if you count the lightning rod) and, at one point, it was the tallest non-religious structure in medieval Italy. In fact, it was built to appear to be the same height as the Siena cathedral so as to reflect the balance of power between the state and the church. Climbing up will grant you a breathtaking view of Siena and surrounding countryside. However, the tower wasn’t built with tourists in mind, so you will have to climb 400 steps of a narrow staircase to enjoy the view. It’s worth it!
Forget about places to see in Siena, what about the wine! This beautiful medieval town’s ideal location makes it a wine lover’s dream come true. You see, directly to the north is the Chianti region. And, then, sitting south are the areas that produce both Vino di Nobile and Brunello di Montalcino. What does that mean? It means you can kick back in the middle and put your feet up knowing that you’re going to get the best of both worlds. Make for an enoteca and sample your way through an afternoon of fantastic reds and beautiful whites. You can stroll through Siena’s historic center idly moving from wine bar to wine bar and never have to worry about tasting the same wine twice. Or, if you’d rather, grab a tour and be whipped off to one of the many surrounding wineries. Here, you can sit out, drink gorgeous wine over a traditional Italian meal and enjoy the breathtaking Tuscan countryside.
Siena is not just famous for its exquisite medieval sights but also for one of the most spectacular and authentic medieval festivals: the Palio Horse Race. Held two times a year on July 2 and August 16 (in honor of Virgin Mary), it features a thrillingly wild bareback horse race on Piazza del Campo, colorful pageants, street celebrations, as well as plenty of merry eating and drinking. Il Palio is one of the scarce surviving celebrations of its type in Italy; that is mainly thanks to the stubborn determination of Sienese sense for tradition! In fact, to the Sienese, the Palio is not just a simple event. It forms a large part of their lives since birth. So, if you are wondering what to do in Siena, experiencing the Palio or learning more about it in its many museums can’t miss on your itinerary! An experience worth your time.