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8 Best things to see & do in Siena

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Last updated: 04 July, 2023
Expert travel writer: Nicky Swallow
  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Close up of horses going around a bend in the Il Palio di Siena horserace

Bucket List Experience

Palio di Siena

The most famous bareback horserace in the world, Il Palio sees horses and riders galloping three times round Siena’s glorious, medieval Piazza del Campo.

Palio is a centuries-old settling of neighbourhood scores for the Sienese, and it defines the social, cultural and political fabric of the city each year. Each of the 17 contrade (neighbourhoods) enters a horse and jockey (although only 10 compete in each race) with the single objective to win by fair means or – occasionally – foul.

The race itself is over in a flash (an average of 75 seconds), but it’s preceded by several hours of processions and three days of pre-race trials and festivities. Each contrada holds its own festivities (al fresco dinners, the blessing of the horses in the contrada churches) in the three days leading up to the races.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: 3 hours

When: 2 July & August 16

Freq: annually

Siena Market

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Siena Market

Experience

Siena’s principal market, held each Wednesday morning, is one of the best in Tuscany. Stalls are set up at La Lizza, filling the streets around the Fortezza. Apart from excellent produce (cheeses, charcuterie, olive oil and wines, fruit and vegetables), you’ll find clothing, shoes, bags and household items.

Good for age: 13+

National Pinacoteca Siena

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Pinacoteca Nazionale exterior entrance door

Experience

A 15th-century palazzo housing more than 1,500 artworks, one of Italy’s foremost collections includes an array of dazzling Sienese fondi d’oro paintings (with gilded backgrounds). Expect works by Guido da Siena, Lorenzetti, Sodoma and Beccafumi.

Adult price: £7

Good for age: 18+

Siena Cathedral

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

The facade of the Siena Cathedral in the sunlight and the circular window

Experience

The magnificent Gothic, zebra-striped Duomo houses a celebrated polychrome floor, often covered for protection but normally visible in August and September. Look out for Nicola Pisano’s superb marble pulpit and the young Michelangelo’s Piccolomini altar.

Good for age: 18+

Pasticceria Nannini

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Pasticceria Nannini

Experience

A historic cafe and pastry shop that’s been around for almost a century. It’s a great place to sample and buy panforte (the dense, flat cake made with nuts, dried fruit, spices and honey) and light, almond-y Ricciarelli biscuits.

Good for age: 4+

Duration: -

Civic Museum of Siena

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

exterior of the The Pubblico Palace in Siena

Experience

A must-see for its collection of paintings by Lorenzetti, Simone Martini and other Sienese masters. One of the highlights is Simone Martini’s Maesta fresco (1315); another is Lorenzetti’s fresco cycle The Allegory of Good and The Effects of Bad Government (1338-40).

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

Santa Maria della Scala

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Santa Maria della Scala

Experience

This ex-hospital building was founded in the 9th century (making it one of Europe’s oldest), and only closed relatively recently; the author Italo Calvino died here in 1985. It houses an excellent archaeological museum and the wonderful ‘Pilgrim’s Hall’ decorated with 15th-century frescoes depicting the history of the hospital.

Adult price: £8

Good for age: 18+

Osteria Le Logge

  • Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Osteria Le Logge

Experience

Located a minute’s walk from Piazza del Campo and occupying a former grocer’s shop with a retro vibe, Le Logge is a classic osteria. They offer a creative take on regional dishes such as tagliatelle with Tuscan ragu, stuffed rabbit with blueberries, black garlic and fermented carrot and braised beef cheek.

Adult price: £30

Good for age: 18+

Duration: -