I have always been intrigued by Siena since knowing about it! A fan shaped central square? Game on! In fact there are many worthy sights in Italy, one of the most cultural place on earth. Simply being on the UNESCO World Heritage list proves that Siena is worthy of a visit. I was thankful to have pretty good weather during the time that I was in Siena, at least for the first day! Located in central Italy, Siena is well connected to the rest of the country via Florence! Siena is famous for a couple of things, the fan shaped piazza, red roofs and much walking!
It may be a small town but prepared to walk a fair bit. You will realise that although the distance is not very far, the steep incline of slopes will sure leave you panting. Be prepared to see incline up to 30 plus degree. Sometimes finding an alternative route might be a good choice. This is probably something good as well since I have definitely been way overeating in Europe! First up, Piazza del Campo and Palazzo Pubblico! Palazzo Pubblico is the city hall and it overlooks the fan shaped city square, besides that, it also towers over the whole city. Something like a protector for it. Being the city hall for more than 800 years, it have been an important place for the city. The city hall also contains the Torre del Mangia which is one of the two tower in Siena that you can get a bird eye of the whole city!
This place is also home to the Palio, which is an annual horse race that happens around the Piazza del Campo! If you are ever here in Siena on 2 july and 16 august you can come here to experience the horse race. I could only imagine how exciting it would be!
Being in Siena, you have to definitely accent to one of the two tower in town to get the iconic view of the red roof. However I will not recommend the Torre del Mangia but instead the Facciatone located in the Duomo Museum. For the Torre del Mangia, it is more expensive since you have to pay 8 Euros just for that. But for the Facciatone, it is part of the Duomo ticket which is more worth it.
The Duomo is one of the must visit in Siena, so since you are already coming here, why not save the money that you will be spending on the tower as well. Siena Duomo is iconic, be it in the exterior facade or its history. Duomo di Siena, was complete around 1215 in the past, so it is extremely fortunate that we are still able to see the white and black marble catedral till this day. It is super iconic and perfect for that picture on your instagram! If you are ever here, spend some time in admiring the facade, they are extremely detailed. And if you are interested in the story behind them, each part tells a different one.
While I shall not go way too deep in the history and story, the Duomo is extremely worth it. You will need to purchase a ticket to head into the duomo and there are various ticket options. The one that I got was the OPA SI Pass which includes entrance to all the various point in the Duomo except the “Gate of Heaven”. Ticket prices varies depending on the season, it ranges from 15 Euros to 8 Euros. While I was there in nov, it is only 8 Euros. Despite paying 15 or 8, I think that it is much more worth it that paying for the Torre del Mangia.
I would say that there are 7 main sites, and 4 main entrance. The first that I went to was the main Duomo itself. Inside the Duomo you can find the Piccolomini Library, Gate of Heaven. The interior of the duomo is super impressive as well. Just check out the ceiling of the cathedral. I feel that the Siena Duomo is one of the most in depth creation of all the worship places that I have visited. It seems that all the details are not left out. From the ceiling, to the exterior facade, to even the flooring here.
In fact the place that really impressive me the most was the Piccolomini Library. It is stupendous. It is grand and details. With amazing bright colors and gold. Be it the frescoes or the ancient text found in the library. It is surely an eye opener. For what I understand, the ancient text tells the ten episode from the life of Pope Plus II. What is even more impressive was the text, it have been pass down since 1503! If you think that the other frescoes you have seen were impressive, you should check this out!
I shall not touch on the Baptistry and Crypt since I really do not know on the history. Although the Crypt tells the history of the past, it is very impressive to see how archaeologist have found a wall painting from the 13th century. You can also see the foundations of the cathedral and how people in the past build it!
Then comes the highlight of the tour, the Panorama! I am more of a view person rather than history. The view is definitely much more sweeter when you made the climb, you may be tired but it is always so delightful and so sweet after making it way up to the top. To say that this is the best view in town is definitely not wrong!
What I really love on the Panorama was the ability to see the whole of the duomo, then there is of course the red roofs. From the top you can really get to see the shape of the Piazza del Campo.
Another sight was also the countryside of the lush Tuscany Region. This region is really so peaceful and nice. What a lovely place for retirement! In fact when I was up on the Panorama, I was the only one on the top. It surely felt like a private viewing platform. Of course, I waited for someone to come up and as per the norm “Hi, is it possible to help me take a picture” And surely, I don’t stop at 1!
Previously I have shared one of my favourite restaurant in Siena, the Trattoria I Barberi. Of course, after much walking and here is a perfect cafe that I really love. It is the best place for coffee in Siena. This espresso bar, Nannini is bae to me. I really love their brew. Everyone knows how serious the Italians treat their coffee, it is no difference here. You can just see people drop in for a shot of espresso at any time of the day. I had coffee almost everyday here. A cup of espresso cost a euro, or a cappuccino or latte for 1.20 Euro. What a treat. STARBUCKS ARE A SCAM! In fact, it is harder to find starbucks than any other thing! Their pastry are lovely as well. While the bulk of it is a standing bar like any Italy espresso bar, there are a couple of tables as well!
Then I would like to introduce you to Consorzio Agrario Siena, it is like a boutique supermarkets that sells produce by the locals in the area. Expect everything to be super fresh and super nice. You can find anything here, from cheese to ham to wine. If you want a snack or a bite, check out the bakery here. The pizza are lovely, although a tat expensive. Trust that everything here are organic and fresh!
Next up, I would like to share on the visit that I made to the weekly market at Fortezza Mediceana. On every wednesday of the week, there would be a market held from morning till early afternoon. The market is huge and in fact very very huge. They sell all sorts of things, to daily necessities to clothes and fresh goods.
On the lower level, you are able to find the area where the fresh goods stalls are. In fact the market in Siena and the one in Brussels are the largest that I have been to. P.S Check out the barbeque food truck, they do a mean one. Those ribs are finger licking good!
Finally I will share on the best spots for pictures in Siena! Go to the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico. Then walk down the slope and you will see this area. It is sort of a road with a grass patch and then some restaurant on the other side. Just check out how lovely this place is. I love that you get a the whole view of the duomo, then below it you have the iconic red roof houses of Siena. What a lovely sight! I met an American Chinese from San Francisco here who turns out to be my photographer ahhah!
I pretty enjoy Siena, it is a peaceful and relaxing place. It is not too small and quiet, yet, the place is small enough for a good town life. Hope you all enjoyed Siena as well!