Siena

Siena is a medieval city in the region of Tuscany, located in the north of Italy some 70 km (43 mi) south of Florence. It is probably best known for a colourful horse race, Il Palio, conducted twice each year in the summer.

Understand

Siena was a proud, wealthy, and warlike independent city-state during the Middle Ages, until its final defeat by Florence. Medieval Sienese art (painting, sculpture, architecture, etc.) is unique and of great historical importance. Some of the famous artists who lived and worked in Siena are Duccio, Simone Martini, and Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti. Sienese people are fiercely proud of their city and their neighborhood (contrada). The Palio, described below, is all about neighborhood pride and rivalry, and also constitutes the unbroken continuation of a Medieval tradition associated with religion, pageantry, trash-talking, bragging, and occasional violence. It is taken very seriously and is in no way a put-on for tourists; in fact, you are likely to be less welcomed during the Palio than at any other time, and there isn't the slightest doubt that Siena would run the Palio with great enthusiasm regardless of whether any visitors ever showed up. That said, this is a city which depends and flourishes on tourism. Siena was a very poor little city for a few hundred years after its defeat, which is the main reason why its lovely Medieval buildings were never torn down and replaced with modern structures. In the 19th century tourists started coming. Nowadays, it is a requirement that new buildings within the city walls be built to maintain the city's character and beauty - many are strikingly modern, yet fit in well.

Get in

Siena is a walled city, so one must enter one of the city gates — in this case, the Porta Camollia — for access

By plane

Siena's Ampugnano airport is 9 km from the city. However, there are no scheduled flights to Siena airport. For additional information tel 0577-392226. A shuttle service connection is currently available between the airport and Piazza Gramsci TRA-IN (tel. 0577-204224).

Most travellers arriving by plane will land at airports in Florence or Pisa. Buses of the Sena line connect Siena with the Bologna Marconi airport (twice daily, 2.5 hours), a favorite with the discount carriers. There is also a bus link to Pisa airport.

By car

From the north, take the Chiantigiana from Florence (SS 222 – 72 km) that elegantly crosses the hills of Chianti or the highway (SS 2 superstrada Siena/Firenze - 68 km). From the south, Siena can be reached by taking the Autoway from Rome (A1 Roma-Firenze, exit Valdichiana), turning right on state highway #326 (Bettolle-Siena - 240 km). Relatively cheap parking can be found near Fortezza Medicea, northwest of the city stadium - and around it.

By train

From the north, trains go about hourly directly from Florence to Siena, and otherwise it is possible to take any train that stops in Empoli and find train connections from Empoli to Siena every 30–60 minutes. It costs €7.40 single (Feb 2012). From the south, direct connections to Siena depart from Chiusi or from Grosseto. The train station in Siena is located approximately 2 km from Siena's historical centre, a five minute bus ride - buses leave regularly from Piazza del Sale. Buses numbers 3, 8, 10, 17, 77 leave from the station to Piazza del Sale and bus #17 departs from Piazza del Sale for the train station. If you don't mind walking uphill, you can also walk to the centre in about 20–30 minutes: Exit the train station, turn left, walk past the bus park and then uphill, bearing right at the traffic circle, staying on the road called Viale Giuseppe Manzini. Go through the city gates, and follow the road as it bends sharply to the right. The road becomes Via Garibaldi, which will take you into the city.

By bus

By far the easiest way to get to Siena from Florence (though the train journey is much more picturesque). Take the SITA bus (located in a small underground bus depot across the street, to the west of Santa Maria Novella train station). After 1hr 20 minutes it will eventually drop you off at Piazza Garibaldi which is located well within the walls of the city, allowing for an easy walk to any of the city's attractions. For the return journey, buses depart from Piazza Gramsci. The cost was €7.10 in 2012.

Connections are also available from Rome (3 hours) and various other cities.

Get around

View of the oval-shaped Piazza del Campo, city and countryside beyond

By car

The centre of Siena is accessible only on foot. Cars (other than taxis, police, etc.) are strictly prohibited; motorcycles and scooters are OK, though. Patrons of the central hotels are allowed to drive up and unload the luggage (and then get out), but only by obtaining one-time permission slips from the hotel front desk beforehand (also have them draw the route for you on a map and follow it to the letter; if you miss a turn, it may be wiser to head out the nearest gate, get on the circumferential road just outside the walls, return to the starting point and try again); have this pass handy if stopped by police while driving within the walls - or, in a pinch, at least a confirmation of your reservation. Don't rush your turns, and swing wide like a truck, as you would be sometimes required to fit between two stone walls into an opening just slightly wider than your vehicle. For more information, contact "Siena Parcheggi" tel. 0577-228711. To call or reserve a taxi, telephone the Central Reservation Office at 0577-49222.

Siena may be the only city in Mediterranean Europe where parking is not a massive headache, though charges have increased dramatically in the past few years and you can expect to pay €40,00 or more per day for the more convenient spots. The huge parking lots around the Fortezza and the adjacent football stadium are no longer free, but on the other hand, you can now count on finding a space there almost anytime; there is free parking further out, with minibus service, from Due Ponti and Coroncina (beyond Porta Romana).

By bus

Google maps shows the location of all bus stops within the city. If you zoom in and click the bus symbol on the map, you will get a list of bus routes serving that stop. There are several small buses (Pollicino) run by the TRA-IN company that cover some streets located in the centre and several bus lines to and from the outskirts of town. Bus tickets cost 1,10 € per fare (as of June 2012) when bought at kiosks/tabacchi but are more expensive when bought from the driver.

The website for Siena Mobilità (http://sienamobilita.it/orari.html) has bus schedules (orari) for routes within Siena. Click the tab Servizio urbano Siena.

On foot

Siena is a city (a small city, yes, but it isn't like one of the hill towns) and the attractions away from the Piazza/Duomo area are spread out on three steep hills, so walking is a necessity. You will understand why Italians can eat so much and not get fat, when you see old women carrying groceries up a long street with a 30-degree incline. If you are tired, check to see if you can get to your destination by walking along a ridge, rather than going in a straight line down a hill and back up.

See

The Palazzo Pubblico, with its tower, the Torre del Mangia, majestically dominating the Piazza del Campo
Piazza del Campo from above

Siena's historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Duomo

Do

Events

Pageantry and processions precede the Palio

Walk

Climb the "Torre del Mangia", the tall bell tower overlooking the Piazza del Campo. There is an entrance fee (8 Euro), and only 25 people are let in at a time, so there may be a wait. Not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic, it's about a 300-step hike and you are obliged to leave bags and purses in a locker at the ticket desk inside the tower itself. The panoramic view is exhilarating and well worth the climb. (Note that excellent though different views of the city are also available from the 'Panoramio' by the cathedral, entry to which is purchased as part of the cathedral museum ticket. If you will be in Siena for a while, the two views are different enough to warrant seeing both.)

Local life in the evening typically revolves around the passeggio, the nightly walk through town, which often includes some gelato, macedonia di frutta con gelato, or/and drinks at one end or the other. So do as the locals do and enjoy a walk through this beautiful city.

Tourist information is located in the Piazza del Campo.

Tours

Buy

Part of the gorgeous interior of the Baptistery

Siena is large enough still to have items made in the local area, stemming from its history of craftmanship, so you will find some items not readily available anywhere else. Fine paper, neckties, fabrics, embroidery/tapestry, glazed terracotta, gold jewelry, and of course local food and wine, are some of the distinctive items produced locally. There is a great shop on Via di Citta (the main street) with leather luggage, purses, bags etc.

A huge Market is held every Wednesday around the Fortezza Mediceana from about 7am to about 2pm.

Siena has popular stores such as Furla, United Colors of Benetton, Upim, Intimissimi and more.

Due to the city's status as a major tourist attraction there are plenty of newsagents selling international papers and magazines. A good example is the shop opposite the church on Via San Marco in the Snail Contrada, which has a friendly and helpful multilingual owner, who also runs an internet access point.

Learn

The Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, one of the beautiful historic buildings you will see if you walk on Via di Città, above the Piazza del Campo

The wonderful Siena Jazz Music School is housed in the old fortress.

Siena is also well known for its Italian language schools and several prestigious universities.

Eat

Sienese specialties include:

Drink

Also in the fortress is the excellent Enoteca Italiana, a wine bar and shop located in the fortress' vaults. The Enoteca Italiana stocks an extensive selection of wines produced all through Italy.

Sleep

Piazza Salimbeni

Camping

Budget

Mid-Range

Splurge

Palazzo Sansedoni

Go next

There are many bus and train connections from Siena to other interesting places in Tuscany. Consider the following for day trips: the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore in Chiusure, and the towns of San Gimignano, Pienza, Arezzo, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Lucignano, Monteriggioni, and Pisa. Florence is another obvious place to visit. And of course, there is the Chianti country that virtually surrounds Siena and is known worldwide for its wine.

Further afield, there are bus and train connections to Rome and various locations in Umbria.

In addition, there are hot springs in Tuscany, which are popular with Italians and indeed have been enjoyed for thousands of years:

Spas

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Sunday, November 15, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.