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One Day in Siena (Perfect Itinerary to explore the history of Siena in One day)

One Day in Siena. The Panoramic view of Siena

Siena is the lesser-known gem of Italy located in the heart of Tuscany and surrounded by stunning Tuscan landscapes. Siena is a walled fortress city located on the hills and popular among Italians for the exciting Horse racing called Palio di Siena which happens twice a year.

Siena is one of the oldest Cities in Italy and is said to have been formed by the second generation of Romans. Everyone knows the story of 1st Roman brothers, Remus and Romulus. While building the new city, they quarrelled over their territories and boundaries.  As a result of the quarrel, Remus was killed by his brother, Romulus. Romulus then founded a city as per his wish and the city of Rome was born. However, very few knew that Remus had two sons Senius and Aschius. After the death of their father, they faired for their life from their Uncle Romulus and fled the city of Rome on the Horses. The historical records show that two brothers Senius and Aschius founded the City of Siena when they fled Rome.  This story makes Siena the second oldest city ever founded by the Romans.

Siena has a very long history of Prosperity and is also home to the oldest bank in the World that is running in the present day, the Banca Monte Dei Paschi di Siena. Also, due to its vast trades in wool and Money Lending businesses, Siena’s wealth grew to the pinnacle and became one of the most prosperous cities of the Middle Ages in the 13th Century. However, the black death wiped out the majority of the city’s population and the wealth of the city also started to detour. The 13th Century was the golden era for Siena. Although many rulers ruled the city of Siena after the 13th century, it never recovered its stability and prosperity wiped out by the Black Death of 1348.  

I guess these are enough reasons to visit Siena. If not, then don’t forget that Siena is surrounded by classic wine-making regions like Chianti, Montalcino and Montepulciano which produce some of the legendary red wines in the world like Brunello di Montalcino, Rosso di Montepulciano, and Chianti. If you still want more, the most beautiful and picturesque Tuscan landscapes like Val di Orcia are located very close to the Siena.

If you are visiting Siena or even passing by, you should spare at least one day to spend in Siena. One day is enough for exploring the gems of this ancient city.  

This article explains everything you need to know on how to spend a perfect one day in Siena and dive deeper into its history.

If you have more than one day in Siena, we recommend trying the different Countryside Day trips from Siena. The guided day trips from Siena are also an option if you don’t prefer the hustle of driving and public transports. Book any of the following Guided day trips from Siena to the Tuscan Countryside: -

If you are ready to explore Siena on your own, then let’s get started on spending Perfect One Day in Siena!

Arriving in Siena:

One Day in Siena. Siena Train Station

The network of trains and roads well connects Siena with Florence and Rome. The closest airport and the big city to Siena is Florence. From Florence, you can easily reach Siena by Train. The train to Siena from Florence takes 1 hour and 30 minutes.

You can also drive from Florence Airport to Siena in around 1 hour.

Siena Old City is around 1 KM away from the train station. You can walk toward the old centre or take a bus or taxi. Siena City is situated on the hill and the train station is located at the base of the hill.  However, the series of escalators to reach the top from Siena train station will surely make your life easy if you prefer to walk towards the city centre.   

For having one day in Siena, we recommend arriving in Siena as early as possible (Preferably before 9 AM) to have a comfortable time to visit all the attractions of the City).

The Walls of the City:

The magnificent walls of the city give a real fortress look to the Siena and are one of the best attractions of Siena. As you enter those walls, it feels like travelling back in time.  The wall of the town was built for the defensive and military functions. It was used to control the people and goods entering and leaving the Town. The walls of Siena were built in the Middle Ages and are still intact. It is around 7 km long and guards the entire old city of Siena.

The walls of the Siena are visible from the distance. Since you are having only one day in Siena, you can explore the old walls of Siena while entering the old city. As soon as you enter the old town, head toward Piazza del Compo.

Piazza del Compo (Pallazzo Publico and Torre del Mangia):

One Day in Siena. View of Piazza del Compo

The 1st thing to visit in Siena is Piazza del Compo, the old city centre and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Piazza del Compo is one of the most beautiful medieval squares that still preserved its charm of Medieval embodiment. It is a picturesque square where medieval buildings standing tall for centuries and overlooking the square. This is where you will spend most of your time from the itinerary of one day in Siena.   

The most important building of the Piazza del Compo is Pallazzo Publico. It was home to the Government headquarters in the 13th century when the 9 nobles of the city ruled the city of Siena and transformed it into one of the most prosperous cities in the Middle Ages. In the present day, the Pallazzo is home to the Civic Museum with a collection of great art and traces of the history of Siena. The Museum is open daily to the public, typically between 10 AM to 7 PM and tickets per adult cost 10 Euros. The tickets can be purchased directly at the ticket office of the Pallazzo Publico.

One Day in Siena. View of Torre del Mangia

Also, the Torre del Mangia, the tallest tower adjacent to the Palazzo Publico is a must-visit place in Siena since it offers breathtaking views of the ancient city. The tower is 87 meters high and to reach the top, you need to climb around 400 steps. However, the reward you get after the climb is worth the effort. Entrance Tickets to Torre del Mangia can be purchased at the ticket office near the tower itself and cost 10 Euros per adult. The tower is typically open to the public from 10 AM to 7 PM. However, it closed at 4 PM during the winter months from mid-October till the end of February. Torre del Mangia is certainly one of the best destinations to visit in Siena and not to miss even if you have one day in Siena. 

 TIP: Having only 1 day in Siena, as soon as you arrive in Siena, we recommend you buy the entry ticket for Torre del Mangia to reserve your entry slot since the entrance is limited and slots get full quickly.

One Day in Siena. View of Fonte Gaia

In front of the square, you will see a unique white marble fountain called “Fonte Gaia" originally built in the 13th century to bring water into the square of Siena. It is said that the water came from the 27 KM long tunnel. It was an impressive work of engineering in the Middle Ages. When the water first arrived in the square, it was one of the happiest events for the Sienese people. The “Gaia” means the “joy” which became the identity of the fountain. The Fote Gaia was renovated recently, however, the Traces of the original fountain including the original Sculptures are stored in the Santa Maria Della Scala.

The most popular event of the Siena, “The Palio di Siena” also takes place in the Piazza del Compo. Palio is nothing but Horse racing where the city's different Contrade (meaning the Districts) race to win the title. The Palio takes place twice a year, on the 2nd of July and the 16th of August. The event of Palio lasts 4 days when the city turns into the centre of a magical carnival. The whole 4 days are packed with traditional events including the declaration of horses of each Comrade, the Rehearsal race and finally the conclusive race on the 4th day of the event.

As a tourist or a visitor, attending Palio is an Overwhelming experience, however, the locals are given priority for the events, especially for the final race of the event. The entrance to the Piazza del Compo is blocked during the final race of the Palio. If you are a tourist, the entry may be denied if it is overcrowded.

Having only one day in Siena, you must manage your time productively. Piazza del Compo will take around 3 hours of your day including visits to Torre del Mangia and Palazzo Publico.

After exploring Piazza del Compo, head to the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta which is just 5 Minute’s walk away from Piazza del Compo. 

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta (Must visit for One day in Siena):

One day in Siena. View of Duomo di Siena.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is the most valuable treasure of Italy and a reminiscence of Renaissance art. It is one of the well-preserved oldest works of master art that can be admired today. It is the second-best place in Siena and must be on the itinerary for one day in Siena.

This Gothic and Roman-style church is said to have been built in the 12th century. To confront its Rival Florence, the cathedral of Siena was further planned to be expanded to the largest cathedral ever built to compete with the Duomo of Florence. With a vision to be better than the neighbours, the construction for the expansion of the cathedral was started with excitement, however, it was never completed mainly due to the unfortunate black death of the 13th century which wiped out 50% of its population and construction works were halted. When Siena recovered after the black death, the construction works for expansion never resumed where it was assumed to be difficult to build such a large architecture on the hilly landscapes of Siena. The traces of incomplete Architecture can be seen beside the Cathedral.  

The building of Duomo di Siena is a true marvel of Architecture. The outer wall of the Duomo is ornamented with unique Facades full of carved religious statues. Inside, on the other hand, it seems like a huge Art Museum full of artworks by renowned Renaissance Artists. As soon as you enter the cathedral, you will be welcomed by a magnificent Mosaic floor, said to be the largest Mosaic floor from the Renaissance era. The floor is typically covered and only a few important paintings are displayed for visitors including the most admired one the She-wolf of Siena and the emblems of the confederated regions. However, for a limited period every year, the floors are uncovered and open for visitors. Typically, the floors are uncovered twice a year from the End of June to the End of July and mid-August to mid-October. The exact dates of the uncovering of floors can be found on the official website of Duomo di Siena.

If you look around the Duomo, you will see the unique frescos and sculptures everywhere including the works of legends like Michelangelo, Donatello and Lorenzo Bernini.

One Day in Siena. View of Piccolimini Library

Even though the whole Duomo is full of legendary Art, the main tressure of the Cathedral lies in the little room inside the Duomo called “Piccolomini Library”. It is the Gem of Duomo di Siena where the unique Frescos painted by Pinturicchio in the early 15th Century on the life of Pope Pius II have been displayed. The unique thing about these Frescos is that they are painted in 3D and you can see the whole scene through the paintings. Also, the frescos were painted in the 15th century, but still look as fresh as it was painted yesterday. In the Piccolomini Library, the books and Manuscripts prepared by Pope Pius II while he was Pope in Rome are also displayed.

To enter the cathedral, you must purchase the tickets from a ticket booth beside the Dumo. Make sure you buy the ticket with the entrance to Piccolomini Library also Included. You will get a free Audio guide with your tickets that you can download on your mobile phone.

Alternatively, to know the history of Duomo from experts, you can also book a 2-hour Guided walking tour of Duomo.

Exploring the Duomo di Siena including Piccolomini Library will take 1 to 2 hours (don’t spend more than 2 hours in the cathedral if you have only one day in Siena). As soon as you explore it, head to the Santa Maria Della Scala at the same square in front of Duomo di Siena.

Santa Maria Della Scala

One Day in Siena. View of Santa Maria Della Scala

Santa Maria Della Scala was a hospital until 1995 and later transformed into the Museum. It was one of the oldest Hospitals and an important one for the City of Siena. It is said to have been founded in the 12th Century and has served sick people until 1995. It also played a very significant role during the black death of the 13th century to cure the people. Originally, the hospital was built for the sick pilgrims passing by the city of Siena through the Pilgrimage route. However, it was also open to all sick living in and around Siena.  

Note: The pilgrimage route, the so-called Via Francigena, was the route used by European pilgrims to reach the sacred St. Peters Basilica in Rome. It connects Rome to the Canterbury in England. The pilgrimage route was passing through the City of Siena.

Now many people have a question why do we need to visit abandoned hospitals? Well, there are pretty good reasons to visit this Hospital, even if you have only one day to explore Siena. This Hospital is not just a normal hospital. The roof and walls of this Hospital are painted with huge frescoes on the life of the Virgin by renowned Renaissance artists. It is transformed into a large museum and home to prominent collections of art and depicts the history of Siena during the Middle Ages. The most precious collection of Santa Maria Della Scala is the original sculpture and marbles of Fonte Gaia by Jacopo of Quercia that are displayed on the 3rd floor. Also, the museum houses the chapels used by Pilgrims and sicks from the Hospital.    

Also, you may get confused as to why the Hospital is called Scala (Means stairs). Well, Siena is a hilly city. Dumo di Siena and Santa Maria Della Scala were built on the highest plane of the hill and to reach the square, huge stairs were built beside Duomo di Siena. The Hospital was built near the stairs, which gave it the name “Santa Maria Della Scala” meaning Santa Maria from the Stairs (Italian is a Funny Language)!   

You will need around 2 hours of your day to admire the treasure of Santa Maria Della Scala. After admiring the gems of Santa Maria della Scala, head to the Basilica Catherina di San Domenico.  It will be your last abode from your itinerary for One day in Siena.

Basilica Catherina di San Domenico

One Day in Siena. View of Basilica Catherina di San Domenico

Basilica Catherina di San Domenico is the 2nd important cathedral in Siena after Duomo di Siena. It is also an important religious Centre in Siena since it houses the relics of the Sienese saint Catherina. St. Catherine was a native Patron Saint known for her spiritual and religious writing. You can also admire the portrait of her painted by Renaissance artist Andrea Vanni which is displayed in the Basilica.

Even If you do not have religious reasons to visit Basilica Catherina di San Domenico, we still recommend you visit the Cathedral to admire the magnificent views of the City of Siena and Duomo di Siena, especially in the golden hours when the golden rays add up the special effects for your souvenir photo. That’s the reason we kept this place at the end of the Itinerary of One Day in Siena to enjoy the golden hours with views. Cathedral is one of the best panoramic viewpoints to get the best views of the Old City of Siena.

By the time you explore Basilica Catherina di San Domenico, the day will be near the end. If you are tired, you can end your day here. If you still have some spare time and energy left, we recommend exploring the picturesque alleyways of the city.  

Where to eat in the Siena

One day in Siena. Where to eat in Siena

Siena has many options to try traditional Tuscan food. Also, you will see many restaurants in the Piazza dell Compo and around. However, it’s better to avoid the restaurants near the main attractions. We recommend eating in any of the following restaurants in Siena (with their address and Google map location). These restaurants serve the best traditional Tuscan food and are walkable from the main attractions of the city.

Osteria Il Carroccio (Google Map Location): Casato di Sotto, 32

Antica Trattoria Papei (Google Map Location): Piazza Mercato, 6

Grotta Santa Caterina da Bagoga (Google Map Location): Via della Galluzza, 26

Osteria Permalico (Google Map Location): Costa Larga, 4.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is Siena Worth Visiting?

DEFINITELY YES, Siena is a great city to admire the Medieval Architecture and gems of Renaissance arts.

Is Siena worth visiting during Palio?

Well, it depends, if you want to see the Palio and experience its festive atmosphere, then yes, it's worth visiting Siena during the Palio period. However, if you want to visit Siena to admire its art, history and architecture, then Palio may not be the perfect time for you. During Palio, the city is Overcrowded and most importantly, the main square of the city “Piazza del Compo” is blocked for the events. You may or may not be allowed to enter in the square during the race.

Is one day in Siena enough?

1 Day is enough to visit the best of Siena. However, if you want to dive deeper into the city’s art and history, we recommend having 2 days to explore the Siena.

What is the best time to Visit Siena?

Siena can be visited throughout out year. However, to explore the countryside, we prefer the late Spring season to admire the greenery of the Tuscan Landscapes.

When is the Palio in Siena (Horse race)?

The main Horse race of Siena takes place twice every year on the 2nd of July and the 16th of August. However, the festive season starts 4 to 5 days before the day of the main Horse race.

Can you explore the Countryside of Tuscany from Siena?

Yes, you can, typical Tuscan towns like Montepulciano, Montalcino, Pienza, etc. are located close to Siena and can be explored as a Day Trip from Siena.

What food to try in Siena?

Siena is located in the heart of Tuscany, therefore, typical Tuscan dishes like Cacciucco, Bristecca Alla Fiorentino, Pappa al Pomodoro, Wild Boar Stew, Panforte di Siena, etc. If you love exploring the local cuisine, then we recommend you try Guided food tours for the best experience.

Alternatively, if you love cooking and want to learn more about Tuscan style Cooking, then we recommend you to join the Tuscan cooking class in the city center of Siena.

We hope that you liked this article and it will help you to plan an unforgettable one day in Siena. Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section. If you have any questions about exploring Tuscany or any other places in Italy, then do not hesitate to Contact us. We will be very happy to help you.

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