Many people choose to extend their walking tour in Italy by visiting Siena. This could be easily done if you have booked Hedonistic Hiking's A Tuscan Harvest, Parma Tuscany & the Ligurian Sea, Lucca, Volterra and Elba, or The Palio of Siena.
The complex twists and turns of Siena's fortunes explain how it became and remained an Italian Gothic masterpiece. This enchanting Tuscan town, surrounded by ancient walls and its eight original city gates, is almost perfectly preserved. It is home to perhaps the most beautiful piazza in the whole of Italy, where one of the country's greatest spectacles takes place twice a year - the crazy bareback horserace known as "Il Palio". It has a small population but a wealth of art, history and tradition.
Piazza del Campo
This lovely shell-like sloping square is the very heart of Siena in every sense; all major roads lead into it and it's the centre of the city's social and political life. This is where the race is run. The immense Palazzo Pubblico, which dominates the southern side, is the Town Hall and seat of the "Council of Nine" who so successfully guided Siena through its golden age of the 13th and 14th centuries. Today the Museo Civico is housed in the lower section, displaying a rich collection of Sienese masterpieces. The soaring bell tower known as Torre del Mangia has 503 steps up to the top but the view is well worth the climb. Open 10.00 am to 7.00 pm.
The cathedral's construction was started in 1196 and spanned the Middle Ages. In 1339 plans were drawn up to enlarge the cathedral with an enormous new nave but the plague of 1348 destroyed two thirds of the city's population and put a stop to the building. The beginnings of this work however can still be seen on Piazza Jacopo della Quercia. The astonishing marble inlaid floor of the Duomo is partly protected, and only opened fully for viewing from August to October each year. Accessed from inside the Duomo is the Libreria Piccolomini, a Renaissance masterpiece built to house the books of Pope Pius II. The Crypt and the Baptistry are also well worth a visit. Open 10.30 am - 7.30 pm Monday to Saturday and Sunday afternoons only until 6.30 pm.
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Situated in what would have been the new nave of the cathedral is this collection of sculpture and works of art which formerly adorned the Duomo itself. Open 9.30 am to 7.00 pm.
Santa Maria della Scala
This extraordinary building opposite the Duomo was for some 800 years Siena's main hospital but is now home to many exhibits, including the Museum of Archaeology and the Pilgrim's Hall which was beautifully frescoed by Domenico di Bartolo. Open 10.30 am to 6.30 pm.
Where to stay
Some of these hotels are known to Hedonistic Hiking and some are recommendations from people who have extended their walking tour in Italy in Siena.
Grand Hotel Continental
Without doubt the most upmarket hotel in the centre, but with a price tag to match.
A charming historic hotel in the heart of the city with fabulous views across the Sienese countryside. This hotel is where we stay on our Palio tour.
Il Chiostro del Carmine
Converted from a 14th century Carmelite convent, this hotel is very comfortable with lovely views of the Tuscan countryside.
Campo Regio Relais
Only 6 rooms but a very comfortable hotel in a former palace in the historical centre.
Antica Residenza Cicogna
A charming B&B right in the centre, with 5 differently furnished rooms - most with high frescoed ceilings.
Alle Due Porte
With just three rooms this B&B is very central and reasonably priced.
Where to eat
€€€ Cane e Gatto
Cosy restaurant with a set 5 or 6 course menu. Closed Thursday. Open for dinner only. Via Pagliaresi, 6. Tel +39 0577 287545
€€ Grotta di Santa Caterina da Bagoga
Interesting vaulted restaurant serving excellent food. Via della Galluzza 26 Tel +39 0577 271179
€€ Osteria Il Ghibellino
Typical Sienese specialties and an excellent location near the Bapistery of the Duomo. Via dei Pellegrini, 26 Tel + 39 0577 288079. We eat here on our Palio tour.
€€ Tre Cristi Enoteca Ristorante
Tuscan Classics but an emphasis on fish too - in a 15th century palazzo. Another Hedonistic Hiking favourite. Vicolo Provenzano 1-7. Tel +39 0577 280608
€€ Trattoria La Torre
An old favourite, simple family-run Trattoria which has changed hands in 2018. Watch this space! Via Salicotto (just off the Campo by the tower) Tel +39 0577 287548
A small restaurant close to the Pinacoteca. Delicious and authentic food. Via Castelvecchio 65 Tel +39 0577 49586
€€ Hostaria il Carroccio
Great Florentine steaks and excellent pasta. Good wine list. Closed Tuesday evening/Wednesday. Via Casato di Sotto, 32. Tel +39 0577 41165
€€ La Taverna di San Giuseppe
A 10-minute walk from the Campo, towards the Church of San Agostino. Beautiful vaulted brick ceiling. Interesting menu with a strong emphasis on seasonal produce. Via Giovanni Dupre, 132 Tel +39 0577 42286
€€ Antica Osteria Da Divo
Close to the Duomo this eatery is literally carved out of the tufa rock underneath the city.
Via Franciosa 25/29. Tel +39 0577 286054
€€ Osteria il Tamburino
Family run establishment serving genuine Sienese food at fair prices. Via di Stalloreggi 11 Tel +39 0577 280306
What to order
Sienese specialities are plentiful. Try thick handmade local spaghetti known as pici, or pappardelle (ribbon pasta) served with hare - "con la lepre". An interesting local salami flavoured with fennel seeds is called finocchiona. From the hills south of Siena come the best sheep cheeses - known as Pecorino - which can be fresh, matured or flavoured with anything from chillies to truffle. If you have a sweet tooth Siena is famous for its Panforte - a dense fruit and nut cake, and ricciarelli which are soft almond paste oval biscuits. After dinner try dunking crunchy almond cantucci biscuits into the sweet wine known as Vin Santo.
Chianti Colli Senesi is the most local red wine, or white Vernaccia from San Gimignano. However, if you are feeling flush and indulging in a rich meat dish, now is the time to try a Brunello from Montalcino, or a Vino Nobile from Montepulciano. Our tour A Tuscan Harvest gives you the chance to walk through classic Chianti country and enjoy a private wine tasting, as well as giving you the chance to try your hand at pasta making.
Siena is not on a major train line so it is often easier to use the buses - there is a fast bus link with Florence which runs almost once an hour. Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence is a main hub giving access to most major cities across Italy. If you do use the train, and Siena's station is a little way outside the historic centre, change at Empoli for Pisa or Florence, and change at Chiusi for Rome.
For all train information visit www.trenitalia.com which has an English version.
Train travel in Italy is inexpensive and comfortable. Major cities are served by non-stop fast trains known as the Eurostar.
NTV (Nuovo Trasporto Viaggiatori) is a new private company which started operating it's Italo high-speed trains on the Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples route in April 2012, in competition with State-owned operator Trenitalia. NTV have added new routes subsequently and are Europe's first private high-speed train operator, with a real emphasis on customer service. Travellers should be aware that the city stations used are not always the same as those used by Trenitalia.
From Siena, it is easy to make day trips to many Tuscan hill towns including San Gimignano, Montalcino and Montepulciano. The ticket office at the bus station underneath Piazza Gramsci has full information and sells tickets for both buses and trains.
For help with car hire, or a chauffeur driven car or minibus in the Tuscany area, or airport transfers and taxi services contact Marco at ABC Rental Tel +39 0577 924542 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Another useful car transfer website which has been recommended by HH guests is mydaytrip which can arrange private cars to and from most European cities.