In true Tuscan fashion, Siena sits perched atop a hill surrounded by rolling green hills in central Italy. This medieval city is filled with a rich culture and history that will inevitably take you back in time.
Just an hour and a half away from Florence by train, a day trip to Siena is a must-do if you are in the region.
Here are the best things to do in one day in Siena.
The Ultimate day trip to Siena from florence, italy
How to Get There
Siena is located 72 km south of Florence and is accessible by train or car. Whether you take the train or rent a car depends on how you plan to spend your day trip to Siena.
If you plan to spend the entire day in Siena, then I would suggest taking the train. It’s quick and convenient and there is a direct route from Florence to Siena.
If you want to spend half a day in Siena and the other half driving around to a few hilltop villages in the area, then I would recommend renting a car. This will give you the flexibility to choose how much time you want to spend in each place and to visit as many places as you like.
There are two train routes available from Florence to Siena – one direct route and one that has a stopover in Empoli. The direct train takes 1 hour 30 minutes, and the train that stops in Empoli takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes.
I would recommend hopping on an early train and taking the direct route, if possible. It’s quicker and more convenient.
To buy train tickets, purchase them online at the Trenitalia official website or at the train station. Keep in mind, if you are searching for tickets online, the Florence train station is in Italian. You will want to purchase tickets from the “Firenze S. M. Novella” station.
The Siena train station is located at the base of the hill and is 2km from the city center. It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the station to the historic center of the city. If you want to save time, you can hop on a bus outside of the station to Piazza del Sale, which is an 8-minute walk from the center.
I would recommend taking the bus, as it will save you about 20-minutes of walking up a hill. Trust me, I have done this and wish I had taken the bus.
The drive to Siena is around 1 hour from Florence. It’s a stunning drive with the most quintessential Tuscan scenery along the way – vineyards, rolling hills, and hilltop villages.
Visitors are not allowed to park inside of the city walls – only locals and people with permits are allowed to drive inside of the city. Several parking lots are placed around the city and are a quick walk to the center. This site has a list of parking lots available if you want to plan in advance.
Renting a car is easy in Florence – you can pick up a car from the train station, airport, or city center. It will be easiest to rent from somewhere in the city, so you don’t have to get a bus or a taxi to the airport.
What to Do with One Day in Siena
Piazza del Campo
Start off your day trip to Siena at the Piazza del Campo – a grand square located in the heart of the historic center in Siena. The piazza is surrounded by beautiful medieval buildings and is the perfect place to grab a gelato and take it all in.
You’ll notice a fountain on one end of the square – this is the Fonte Gaia or Fountain of Joy. The original fountain was built in the 14th century to supply water to the city and was reconstructed to its current design in the early 15th century by Jacopo della Quercia. The fountain in the square today is a replica of the original – you can find the original panels inside of the Santa Maria della Scala museum.
The Palazzo Pubblico (or public palace) is the main building in the Piazza del Campo. The palace is home to the local municipal offices and the Museo Civico (Civic Museum).
The Civic Museum is located on the first floor of the palace and is filled with beautiful frescos that cover all of the walls. The cost is €9 per person and tickets can be bought upon arrival.
Torre del Mangia
Attached to the Palazzo Pubblico is the iconic Torre del Mangia. This 14th-century tower overlooks the Piazza del Campo and stands at 102 meters tall.
If you are up for it, you can climb all 400 steps to the top of the tower for incredible views of Siena. The price is €10 per person and tickets can be bought upon arrival. Visit the official site for more information on opening hours.
Duomo di Siena
Out of all of the cathedrals in Italy, I personally think that the Duomo di Siena is the most spectacular. Both the interior and exterior of the duomo are decorated with beautiful striped marble.
Inside the cathedral, you’ll find works of art by Michelangelo, Donatello, and Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. Not to mention the floor, which is a masterpiece in itself.
The Duomo di Siena is actually a complex of several important sites, including the baptistry, crypt, Piccolomini Library, and the Gate of Heaven. All of these sites are open to visitors.
The Gate of Heaven recently opened to the public and is a tour of the roof and top floor of the cathedral. On the tour, you will be able to explore the rooms above the nave and experience unique views of the interior and exterior of the building that visitors weren’t previously allowed to see.
If you would like to experience the Gate of Heaven tour, then you can purchase the Gate of Heaven pass, which includes admission to all of the sites of the complex + the Gate of Heaven tour. The price is €20 per adult.
For tickets to only the duomo + the sites, then you can purchase the Opa Si Pass. The price is €13 – €15 per adult. You can find more information about opening hours and ticket prices here.
The Palio of Siena is one of Siena’s – if not Italy’s, most fascinating annual events. Dating back to 1652, the neighborhood horse race takes place twice a year on July 2 and August 16. The main piazza, Piazza del Campo, transforms into a racecourse where the districts of Siena compete with each other in a passionate horse race.
17 districts exist in Siena but only 10 of the districts compete at a time during the Palio. Each district has its own symbolic flag and colors and members of each district dress up in their respective colors. The event takes place over several days starting with the drawing of the districts that will compete and then a few trial runs leading up to the final race.
I was lucky enough to be in Siena on the day of the drawings for the Palio. The entire Piazza del Campo was filled with Sienese people dressed in the colors of their district. When a district was drawn, a flag would then be hung outside of the Palazzo Pubblico and its members would erupt in loud cheers.
After the drawings were finished, everyone took to the streets singing and walking around carrying their flags.
If you have the opportunity to be in Siena for the Palio, I would 100% recommend it. It’s an incredible experience where you get to see all of Siena come together for an important cultural event.
Just beware, the city will be very crowded and you won’t get to spend a quiet moment in Piazza del Campo. But I still think it’s worth it.
Santa Maria della Scalla
This Santa Maria della Scala sits opposite of the Duomo in Siena. This complex of buildings was once a hospital that cared for the sick and poor and is one of the oldest hospitals in Europe.
Inside the complex, you will find rooms with walls covered in frescos that are over 500 years old and many ancient relics and works of art. If you have time, it is worth a visit.
Wander the Streets
No day trip to Siena is complete without wandering through the streets and getting lost in time. The streets of Siena are magical – surrounded by medieval buildings and history at every corner, you could easily spend a couple of hours exploring all of the small streets and shops.
Siena is a gem of a city in Tuscany and I’m sure you will fall in love with it – just as I did!