Siena

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: August 2022

Siena is a charming medieval city located in the hilly countryside of central Tuscany. It is surrounded by an ancient wall and features a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and historic squares. It is best known for its stunning architecture, medieval art, delicious cuisine and for hosting the Palio horse race twice a year.

After spending the day in San Gimignano, we drove to Siena since we still had a couple of hours before my friends’ welcome dinner. Except the city was packed. There were lines everywhere and some of the tickets were already sold out for the day. We walked around for a bit and decided to return the next morning before the wedding.

And so we arrived back in Siena just before 9:30 a.m the next day. We planned to park at the Artemio Franchi Stadium, except there was a sign to indicate that it was already full. We pulled over to search for another parking lot when a spot just opened up along the side of the road. Perfect. We paid for parking at the metre and off we went to explore the city.

First things first, we’d need tickets to the Torre del Mangia, which are only available to purchase in person. We had about 15 minutes to wait for the ticket office to open and there was already a line of about 30 people waiting outside. We didn’t mind the wait as the city was getting ready for the Palio horse race, which was supposed to take place in a few days to coincide with the Assumption of Mary. We watched some men put together a stage in the square by the ticket office.

Once we had our tickets in hand, we went to the Siena Cathedral to wait in another line. There are a few different options depending on what you want to see and how much time you have. We purchased the Opa Si Pass, which provided access into the entire Siena Cathedral Complex.

We started off at the Siena Cathedral, a medieval church that is equally beautiful inside and out. The columns and walls are constructed with alternating white and greenish-black marble stripes, the symbolic colours of Siena, with red marble on the facade. The interior of the cathedral also contains colourful frescoes and features the work of some of the best artists of Italy of the time, including Donatello and Pinturicchio.

The cathedral also contains the Piccolomini Library, a small room with more beautiful frescoes. It also showcases a series of illuminated choir books.

Afterwards we went to the Opera del Duomo Museum, which contains some religious artifacts, and sculptures, as well as a lovely stained glass window. The main draw to the museum however, is access to the Facciatone, an unfinished wall of the Siena Cathedral, which was supposed to have been expanded, but ultimately never was. We waited in line for about 30 minutes to climb to the top of the Facciatone as they were only letting in around 15 people at a time. But it was worth the wait as the top of the Facciatone provides a nice view of the city and cathedral.

After climbing down the narrow circular staircase, we headed back to the Torre del Mangia for another panoramic view of the city. The Torre Del Mangia is situated in the Piazza del Campo, the main square in Siena. It stands at 102 metres (or 335 ft) and is the second tallest tower in Italy. There are 400 steps in total to reach the top, which overlooks the neighbouring countryside.

We then returned to the Siena Cathedral Complex to visit the remaining two monuments, starting with the Siena Baptistry of San Giovanni. While the outside of the facade was never fully finished, the interior more than makes up for it with its stunning display of colourful frescoes. The highlight however is reputed to be the baptismal font, which is adorned with intricate sculptures. It was under construction when we visited, so we didn’t see much.

Last but not least was the Crypt underneath the Siena Cathedral. It was constructed in the 13th century but was actually used for storage instead of a crypt. It contains a series of more colourful frescoes, but some of these were faded and in rough shape.

Now that we had completed our tour of the Siena Cathedral Complex, it was time to grab a bite to eat. We ordered pizza and found a spot in the shade to enjoy our food and to take a break.

We headed back to the car, passing the Basilica of San Domenico on the way. Constructed of brick, the Basilica of San Domenico is marvelled for its simple design.

It was then time for us to head back to the countryside and get ready for the wedding.

L

77 thoughts on “Siena

  1. kagould17 says:

    Good on you for fitting this visit in around a wedding. Siena looks amazing. The architecture is amazing, especially the cathedral. Even the simplest pizza tastes better in Italy. Thanks for sharing Linda. Allan

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The wedding didn’t start until much later in the afternoon, so we figured we might as well make the most of our (very expensive) rental car. We tried to squeeze in a visit to Siena the day before, but it was all very rushed. I’m so glad we returned to explore it more fully. And yes, the pizza in Italy is always a fan favourite. Thanks for reading. Have a wonderful weekend. Linda

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  2. Little Miss Traveller says:

    Lovely, brought back memories of our stay in a Tuscan farmhouse when our boys were small. Visited Siena one day but think we only walked round as we had a pushchair. I’d like to return sometime. Looking forward to hearing about the wedding next!

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  3. Christie says:

    Sienna looks amazing! We didn’t stop over there on our road trip through Italy, but it looks the cathedral only worth a trip there. Next time🙂
    It is stunning, in and out, as you said. The view from the tower reminds me the view we’ve had after climbing the dome of the Cathedral of St Mary of the flowers in Florence. It is the unmistakable clay tile rooftops that I love the most!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There will definitely be a next time for us as well as there are still so many towns and regions in Italy that we have yet to explore. We were a bit nervous to rent a car, but the driving went much smoother than expected. The only issue we had was finding parking. We would totally rent a car in Italy again as it’s a great way to explore the countryside. You can probably guess this by now, but I’m such a fan of climbing the towers. It’s a great way to get a different view of the city from up above. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment. Linda

      Liked by 1 person

      • Christie says:

        After living in Canada for so many years, driving and getting around big (or even small) cities look like a little adventure itself, in Europe🙂 I think pretty much anywhere beside or on top of a curb is considered a parking lot – where possible or allowed LOL We have returned recently from Provence, and oh boy, a real adventure on those hairpin turns, and narrow streets. A lot of adrenaline and fun🙂
        Have a nice evening!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        No kidding! The roads in Europe are a lot narrower and the cars themselves are much smaller. They sure do get creative with their parking. How nice to get away and visit Provence. Hope you had a wonderful trip despite the stressful driving!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Ab says:

    What a beautiful day you had in Siena, Linda. I’ve never heard of this place so it was nice to learn about it. I love the charming buildings and the detail of the architecture and how nice to look at it from above and not see jarring tall condo monstrosities in sight. I love the insides of the cathedrals and buildings and those frescos are lovely. Very cool to see Donatello references outside of the ninja turtles!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We tried to squeeze in a visit to Siena the same day we went to San Gimignano, but it felt way too rushed. I’m glad we were able to return and spend the full day here because there’s so much to see and explore. The medieval architecture is so beautiful, it felt like we were transported back in time. I’m glad you brought up the Ninja Turtles, because that’s totally what comes to mind whenever I hear Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello or Raphael!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment and glad to hear that it brought back fond memories of your previous visits to Siena. We tried to squeeze a visit to Siena the same day we went to San Gimignano, but it felt very rushed. I’m glad we were able to return to explore it more fully. It was also neat to see the town get ready for their famous horse race.

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  5. leightontravels says:

    That cathedral is just stunning, all the more so for breaking the monotony of the rest of the buildings in the city with its beautiful and colourful exterior. The interior is fascinating, these must be some of the most beautiful frescoes I’ve ever seen. Siena is one of Sladja’s favourite places in Italy and she is determined to take me there one day. Looking forward to reading about the wedding ceremony.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      With all the colourful marble and painted frescos, the Siena Cathedral was one of the most beautiful churches we visited in Italy. The attention to detail is just incredible. I can’t even begin to imagine how many hours of labour it must have taken to build and decorate the church. Sladja has great taste. Siena is one of my favourites in Italy as well. All the more reason for you to visit!!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. grandmisadventures says:

    I think I would definitely leave with an aching neck from staring up in wonder all around this city- the tower, the cathedral, the library ceilings. But I would never be so happy to have neck pain with so many incredible things to awe at. Wonderful tour of this beautiful city 🙂

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  7. Linda K says:

    Siena has been on my radar ever since I started looking at Italy…oh and seeing it in the opening of a James Bond movie! It’s actually a place that I think I’d like to stay close to and explore there as well as the area around it. The frescoes in that library are absolutely unbelievable with their detail and colours! Sounds like it is also a very busy place with the waiting in line-ups. Oh well…as you said the wait was definitely worth it with those views both inside of places and outside!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Siena is one of my favourite cities in Italy that we visited. I didn’t know that it was used as a filming location in the opening of one of the James Bond movies, but then again, I haven’t seen too many of the James Bond movies, so what would I know. I now want to watch it though! The city was busier than usual since they were getting ready for their famous Palio horse race which was was about to take place in a couple of days. It was definitely worth waiting in line to visit some of the top attractions, like the Siena Cathedral and the Torre del Mangia. I’m just glad we came early in the morning when the lines weren’t nearly as awful as later in the day.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lookoom says:

    If there were not so many other beautiful cities in Italy, Siena would certainly be even more famous. Your photos capture the beautiful architecture and the great homogeneity of the town planning. Thank you for sharing.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. Agreed, there’s so many beautiful medieval cities in the Tuscany region. Siena was one of my favourites. It was neat to see the city get ready for the Palio horse race, even if it meant it was busier than usual.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Bama says:

    Impressive is an understatement to describe the Siena Cathedral. The entire structure truly is a magnificent work of art! That view of the city from above reminds me of the scenes in James Bond’s Quantum of Solace. It’s good that when you were there no one was running on the roofs of those buildings. 😁

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. The Siena Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen in Italy. It’s incredible to think how long this must have taken to construct and then to have to paint all those colourful frescos. I haven’t seen too many of the James Bond movies, but I now want to watch the Quantum of Solace if it features Siena!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Siena is a very charming medieval city. I’m glad we decided to come back to explore it more fully. The trick was to come earlier in the day when it wasn’t too busy. The pizza in Italy was amaaaazing. We pretty much had a slice most days for lunch.

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure, the whole town looked gorgeous with all that medieval architecture. It was also neat to see them get ready for their famous horse race, which was supposed to take place in a couple of days. It’s too bad we missed it, but then again, I’m sure the city would have been crazy busy!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks so much for your kind words. This was our first international trip since the start of the pandemic. I gotta say, even with the heat and crowds, it felt great to get a change of scenery. We had a fabulous time exploring Italy. And I’m such a sucker for pizza, pasta and wine!

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      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Hopefully you’re able to travel abroad soon. We were lucky and booked most of our trips this year before travel picked back up and were able to score some pretty sweet deals. It’s crazy how much the price of plane tickets and accommodations has increased!

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for leaving a comment. We visited a lot of churches in Italy and the Siena Cathedral was one of my favourites. All the colourful marble and frescoes made the church seem very warm and inviting. I’m surprised I didn’t trip from staring up the ceiling so much!

      Liked by 1 person

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks! We’ve gotten so used to travelling with our hiking boots and camping gear over the past couple of years during the pandemic. It was nice to shake things up and do something different … and to go abroad. We had a fabulous time exploring (and eating in) Italy.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. ourcrossings says:

    Don’t you just love Italian cities that are full of churches, museums, and great views over the surrounding countryside? Not to mention the most impressive Duomo I’ve ever seen – the interior of the Duomo is absolutely jaw-dropping. Thanks for sharing and have a good day 🙂 Aiva xx

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. And you can’t forget about the delicious pizza, pasta and wine! The interior of the Siena Cathedral was stunning. We visited a lot of churches during our trip to Italy and this one was one of my favourites. Thanks for reading. Enjoy the rest of your week. Linda

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The colourfully painted frescoes in the Siena Cathedral were gorgeous. I’m surprised I didn’t trip and fall from constantly staring at the ceiling! Siena was definitely one of the highlights from our trip to Italy.

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  11. BrittnyLee says:

    The Siena cathedral would be enough to motivate me to go. These photos are amazing 😍😍. Imagine how long it must’ve taken those frescoes to be created. It blows my mind. The history felt there must’ve been overwhelming, in a beautiful way.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We visited a lot of churches in Italy and the Siena Cathedral was one of my favourites. I’m surprised I didn’t trip or get a kink in my neck from staring up at the ceiling so much. I can’t even begin to imagine how much work it would have been to paint those frescoes!

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      • BrittnyLee says:

        Yeah ! It’s crazy . I always am amazed how they were able to get so high up to paint back then. It really is incredible to think about. Hope you’re having a great weekend, Linda 💗

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  12. usfman says:

    Life moves pretty slowly in Italy, but as experienced travelers, I read here how you excellently survived. I imagine you will be happy to get back to those quieter and wide open spaces of Canada journeying.

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    • WanderingCanadians says:

      For sure. Everyone seemed to be on vacation mode when we were in Europe this summer. While it was nice to get a change of scenery, it was tough to deal with the heat and crowds. We got into a pretty good rhythm though and found that going for an early morning walk was a nice way to explore the city when it was still cooler and quieter outside.

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