A day in Siena: what to see and where to eat
Our itinerary among the city's must-see monuments and restaurants
It only takes a few hours, spent together with those who live in Siena and know its every secret, to understand its significance. The city, still surrounded by walls, has been a Unesco heritage site since 1995 and is known throughout the world for the Palio, the competition between the seventeen contrade, an equestrian joust of medieval origin. In the 13th century it was a proud republic, rich in trade, sumptuous for its palaces and churches, and capable of expressing great schools of painting and art.
Discover our itinerary from morning to night, and if you are looking for the best restaurants to eat at, click here!
Leave your car in one of the car parks around the town: the 'slabs' (as the pietra serena of the streets is called) have been walked on for fifty years. We arrived at the Fontebranda car park.
Beyond the walls, the splendid Church of San Domenico towers over us and a high slope (pettata, in Sienese) leads us straight to Piazza del Campo, unique in its nine-segment shell shape, the centre of the city since the 14th century and an obligatory point of passage for experiencing its daily life. Here you can admire the Palazzo Civico, the Torre del Mangia - and enjoy one of the most impressive views from its 88 metres - and the Fonte Gaia, the most beautiful of the Sienese water fountains, a copy of the one sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia between 1409 and 1419.
From here take Via di Città: you will find Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, a splendid example of medieval architecture which houses the prestigious Accademia Musicale Chigiana.
Stop at the Antica Drogheria Manganelli to buy some coffee, pepper or chocolate, and at the Antica Pizzicheria de Piccoli for panforte.
Continue on to Piazza del Duomo. From 27 June to 31 July and 18 August to 18 October, the floor of the Duomo of Siena will be visible again with its suggestive mosaics: a unique masterpiece made with the technique of commesso marmoreo. The floor is "the most beautiful, largest and most magnificent that has ever been made", as Giorgio Vasari described this work, which began in the 14th century and continued until the 19th century, designed by many artists such as Domenico di Bartolo, Matteo di Giovanni, Domenico Beccafumi and Pinturicchio. There are 56 inlays whose message constantly recalls Wisdom.
The Museo dell'Opera del Duomo houses the works of the major Sienese artists. If you want to admire the most exciting view of the city, you can climb to the top of the facade of the unfinished Duomo: during its construction, a plague wiped out the city; and when it recovered a century later, it was decided to abandon it and build a new one, turning it ninety degrees, the present one.
For a quick lunch dedicated to good Sienese tradition, you can opt for the Osteria Il Grattacielo or the enoteca I Terzi. If you're looking for something more exclusive and refined, head for Le Logge, the Antica Osteria Da Divo, or Ristorante Casato.
An afternoon dedicated to shopping: there is no shortage of designer boutiques. Take a stroll along Corso Cortecci, with its two clothing and accessories shops in Banchi di Sopra and Piazza del Campo, a landmark since 1935 where you can find top fashion houses (www.corteccisiena.it). Franchi, another historic name, has just restyled its shop in Via del Corso (www.franchifashion.com).
Mag, in Via dei Termini, is a concept store with an international flavour: founded on the tracks of an old knitwear factory, it now offers the best selection of cult brands (www.magboutique.it/shop/).
If you're into research brands, you can't miss Dolci Trame (also on sale online at www.dolcitrameshop.com). If you're a vintage lover, stop at Aloe&Wolf (www.aloewolf.it) in Via del Porrione and a few steps further on at Brocchi (www.laurabrocchi.it), a craft shop that carries on the tradition of chiselling.
Step snack. Here are the best pastry shops: the historic Nannini, La Favorita pastry shop, just outside another historic name, that of Buti pastry shop.
For an aperitif, choose the beauty of Piazza del Campo and sip a glass of wine or a spritz at Liberamente Osteria or Il Palio bar.
The culture of good living is especially evident at dinner. There are numerous local specialities, including Cinta Senese, an indigenous breed whose origins date back to Etruscan times and which has been included in the European PDO register (together with olive oil and panforte). We recommend the Tuscan cuisine, revisited in a contemporary key, of Osteria Le Logge, opened by Gianni Brunelli in 1977 and now run by his wife Laura with the help of their lifelong friend and collaborator Mirko. Other musts: Taverna di San Giuseppe, Mugolone Ristorante and the Compagnia dei Vinattieri.
If you are looking for a nice hotel to stay in, you can opt for the Grand Hotel Continental Siena - Starhotels Collezione, a 5-star hotel in the heart of the city.