Siena in Tuscany is the perfect destination for anyone who wants to experience Italy’s culture and beauty. It has everything you could want from an Italian vacation – delicious food, charming architecture, gorgeous scenery, and friendly people. You can even take cooking classes with local chefs! To get you started here’s our one day in Siena itinerary
Perfect One Day in Siena Itinerary: Explore Siena in a day
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Planning for your trip to Siena Italy
Siena is located in central Tuscany in Italy. To get to Siena, the easiest option is to take the train, bus, or a day tour from Florence.
- Florence to Siena is 1.25 hours by train. Direct regional trains to Siena depart from Santa Maria Novella station in Florence. The train costs approximately 9 euros.
- You can also get to Siena by bus. Buses leave, right outside the Santa Maria Novella station in Florence, and costs around the same as a train ride.
The nearest airports are Florence and Pisa (biggest) International airports in Tuscany. Of course, you can touch down in Rome or Milan, and then connect to Siena by road or train – there is good connectivity, so you can get there comfortably!
READ: How to spend 3 days in Florence
The city of Siena in Tuscany is also the capital of the province of the same name. It has been a hub for banking and business, but it also has an artistic side. Some notable Renaissance painters like Duccio or Ambrogio Lorenzetti lived here; their work influenced the course of not only Italian painting but European art as well!
Siena’s historic center is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also well-known for a horse race, called Palio, held twice a year in Piazza del Campo.
This Tuscan town is small and is completely walkable.
Here is what you can do in one day in Siena,
Admire the Basilica of San Domenico
The Basilica of San Domenico is the first stop on your one day in Siena itinerary. Basilica di san Domenico is a huge church, dating back to the early 12th century. The church and its massive structure are quintessentially Tuscan with the view of the countryside surrounding it.
Dominican church is home to the relics of St. Catherine. She spent a considerable time at the basilica, and her family house is also located nearby. Her influence over Pope Gregory XI actually played a role in his decision to leave Avignon for Rome.
Admire the basilica from the inside (no photography), plastered in frescoes. You will also find the severed head and thumb of St Catherine here.
- General admission is free
- They are open every day from 07:30 am to 06:30 pm
Wander the historic city of Siena
Siena is a beautiful place to wander along, soaking in the views of the city, and historic buildings. To maximize your time in Siena, enjoy the walk from the Basilica to the sanctuary (which we will cover next).
Along the way, you will be climbing and navigating through small alleys, checking out the Tuscan architecture, towers, and churches. As the majority of the sightseeing is based around the central piazza, many visitors just hang out there and skip these areas completely.
You can plan your walk from the Basilica to the sanctuary, and make stops as necessary.
Visit Santuario di Santa Caterina
Casa di Santa Caterina was the original site of the home of Saint Catherine. Known as the Santuario di Santa Caterina, this is a set of buildings that dates back to the 15th century when it was turned into a sanctuary.
The complex consists of four main buildings which were built over the old house and gardens of Saint Caterina’s family home.
The small Church of the Crucifix dates back to the 17th century and it holds the Crucifix from which Saint Caterina received the stigmata in 1375. The crucifix is housed in a gilded frame that sits on the very ornate marble high altar. This church also showcases scenes from the life of Saint Caterina.
Oratorio della Cucina is located right opposite the church, and it was the family’s kitchen and later some other living rooms were added (dates back to the late 16th century). You can check out the blue coffered ceiling with gilded rosettes, and beautiful paintings on all four walls
Right outside the oratory is a huge shop selling souvenirs, and a life-sized statue of Saint Caterina. The second Oratory is also located nearby. The Oratory of Chamber has numerous paintings of the Saint depicting scenes from her life as a child.
At the back of this Oratory is the cell and stone bed where she lived and slept.
Do visit the loggia and portico, the newest addition to the complex (built in the 1940s) to honor Saint Caterina as she was being proclaimed Patron Saint of Italy by Pope Pius XII. You will find busts of Pope Pius XII, Pope Pius II, and Pope John Paul II who proclaimed her patron of Europe in 1999.
The basilica and the sanctuary visit are some of the free things to do in Siena!
- General admission is free
- They are open every day from 09:00 am to 06:00 pm
Visit the Duomo di Siena or Siena Cathedral – Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta
Duomo di Siena or the Siena Cathedral is the landmark structure in the city. It is a must-visit spot for your one day in Siena itinerary, and when you are there you must admire the beautiful marble work. This Duomo has a lot of similarities with the Firenze Cathedral in its outer appearance
Siena Cathedral is a medieval church, which is now dedicated to the Assumption of Mary (it was initially set up as a Roman Catholic Marian church). Its construction began under the direction of Giovanni di Agostino in the 13th century and was supposed to be twice the size of the previous structure (dating back to the 9th to early 13th century).
Due to Black Death in 1348, construction was halted. There were also basic errors in the construction, which left the work as-is. Many of the outer walls are now found on the south of the Duomo.
In the subsequent years, further additions were made to the Duomo.
The exterior of the cathedral is absolutely stunning, with white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with beautiful signs of red marble on the façade.
You will also see black and white stripes, and they are believed to be symbolic colors of Siena, linked to black and white horses of the city.
There is an entry fee to get to the cathedral. Inside the cathedral, you can admire the works of the finest Italian artists who completed the cathedral, from Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Donatello, Pinturicchio, Lorenzo Ghiberti, to Bernini.
There are 13th-century frescoes depicting scenes from the Old Testament and the life of Christ (this belonged to an earlier church). The belltower has six bells, the oldest one was cast in 1149.
Once in, you can also admire the Piccolomini Library, which was frescoed by Pinturicchio and has an exceptional floor with marble inlays and commissaries. Do visit the Duomo Museum – Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, a beautiful art museum, the Baptistery of San Giovanni, and the crypt underneath. Then finish sightseeing by soaking in panoramic views from the Facciatone terrace.
To enter the cathedral, you can also book a Cathedral guided tour that covers Cathedral, Piccolomini Library, Museum, Panorama and “Duomo Nuovo”, Crypt, Baptistry, Beneath the Cathedral, and Gate of Heaven (access to see the very top of the cathedral’s inside and outside view).
- Opa Si Pass: You can opt for an Opa Si Pass to visit the Duomo, its museum, terrace, and more. Prices start at 15 euros for adults, details here
- Porta del Cielo (with Gate of Heaven access): Starts at 20 euros
- Skip the line: You can also book Skip the Line tickets for the Cathedral complex, except for the ‘Gate of Heaven’ access. This ticket is valid for 3 days. Book your ticket here
- You can also combine a guided tour of Siena with an entry ticket to the Duomo
- Combined tickets to Cathedral and Piccolomini Library
We enjoyed our experience with a local guide, learning about the city, and the cathedral itself. Keep in mind that during peak seasons, tickets could be sold out for days, so book in advance. Seasonal hours apply.
- Cathedral and the Baptistery, open at 10:30 am, close at 7:00 pm
- Museum and terrace, open at 10:00 am, close at 7:00 pm. The last entry to the museum closes an hour early
Visit Santa Maria Della Scala
Right across the Duomo is Santa Maria Della Scala, a museum. It was a medieval hospital before and is considered to be one of the oldest in Europe.
Santa Maria Della Scala showcases beautiful fresco-laden hallways, archives of archaeological finds, and exhibits in the hall of relics, including ancient items from Etruscan and Roman times, to the Middles Ages and of the Renaissance.
- Starts at 9 euros for adults. You can book combined tickets to the Duomo and Santa Maria Della Scala here
They are open every day from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (until 7:00 pm on the weekends)
Discover Piazza del Campo, walk around, lunch, and more
Piazza del Campo is the central square of Siena. It is home to the palace, town hall, and a 14th-century tower that oozes charming medieval grandeur and tenacity.
This piazza is recognized as one of the grandest squares in Italy and is well-known for its beauty and architectural integrity, and no wonder this site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Located at the piazza are Palazzo Pubblico (palace) and its Torre del Mangia (tower), as well as various palazzi Signorile. This is also the spot, where the twice-a-year horse race, Palio di Siena, is held around the edges of the piazza.
The main square is called the “il Campo”, and this is where three main roads intersect and lead to and from Siena. Il Campo saw political and civic holidays celebrations. You can take a walk around this square and take in the views of this historic city. My husband and I sat down here in the evening, and it was amazing!
In and around the square, you will find cafes and restaurants where you can have a nice meal, or even break for some snacks and cappuccino! If you are looking for souvenirs or shopping, then you will find a lot of options as you walk from the Duomo to the central square.
Check out the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy)
Located at the central square in the old town of Siena is the Fountain of Joy or Fonte Gaia. This was originally built by Jacopo della Quercia.
Take the time to admire the fountains and the artwork. What you see here are replicas though, and you can compare them to the originals that are kept in the Santa Maria della Scala Museum.
Admire the Palazzo Pubblico, and visit the Civic Museum
While the Duomo will occupy a majority of the itinerary of Siena in a day, you must set aside some time for visiting the Palazzo Pubblico, and the city museum.
The Palazzo Pubblico dates back to the 13th century, and it is a palace, which served as the seat of the Republic of Siena’s government.
The palace was unique at that time, in the sense that nearly every room is full of frescoes, and with secular designs (unlike religious ones). Also, all the work and design was commissioned by administrators, rather than religious in nature.
Palazzo Pubblico is still used for its original function, for the municipal offices of Siena. There are offices, located near the main entrance, and from there, you can enter the courtyard called the Cortile del Podestà.
From here (on the first floor of the city hall) is the Museo Civico – the city museum of Siena. After the museum, you can also head over to Torre del Mangia for city views, and of the piazza. To access the tower, you have to climb over 400 steps, but the views are worth it!
The Tower of Mangia is perfect for sunset views!
- Starts at 10 euros for adults (Civic Museum + Magazzini del Sale). Buy entry tickets here
- They are open every day from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm
Sunset and evening views in Piazza del Campo
Hang out at the Piazza del Campo, when the sun goes down. And stay here until the skies lit up with twinkling stars. There are a ton of restaurants where you can eat, and relax.
Or just sit down at the il Campo itself, like we did, after dinner!
Best restaurants in Siena: Here are some options for dining in Siena Italy,
- Il Bandierino: Eat at the Il Bandierino, under the shadows of Torre del Mangia and night lights. This place is located in the heart of the piazza, but it isn’t pricey or overcrowded! They offer a Tuscan menu with mixed salads and ciaccini (stuffed Tuscan flatbread).
- Bar II Palio: Another Campo favorite, this bar is perfect if you are staying overnight (which we highly recommend). Enjoy cocktails, from Italian Negroni to Aperol Spritz.
- L’Ozio dei Frati: L’Ozio dei Frati is an Italian restautant, located steps away from the Piazza del Campo. This is perfect for families, or groups wanting to enjoy a nice dinner. Do order tiramisu for your dessert here.
Palio Horse Race in Siena
Siena hosts a horse race, called the Palio Palio di Siena. It is held twice a year, namely 2 July and 16 August. In this race, various Sienese riders compete with each other at the Piazza del Campo – the central square.
About ten horses and riders, come out dressed in the appropriate colors, to represent ten of the seventeen city wards or quarters.
Although we didn’t attend the race, our guide enthusiastically showed us around and shared how packed the complex gets during this time. She also shared photos of the event!
Where to stay in Siena Italy?
You must stay in Siena for a day or more. The city is really beautiful, and somehow we felt relaxed and there is definitely a happy vibe about this place. Here are our recommendations for accommodation in Siena,
- Grand Hotel Continental Siena – Starhotels Collezione: This is a stunning 5-star hotel. It is conveniently located in Siena, about a 4 minute walk from the medieval Piazza del Campo, 6 minutes from the elegant Siena Cathedral (by walk), and 2 km from the Siena train station. You can enjoy a free breakfast. Check prices and availability here
- Relais degli Angeli: Relais degli Angeli is a nice 3 star property, offering views of the Duomo. The suites are very elegant inside and beautifully furnished. Free breakfast is also included. Book your stay here
- Hotel Italia Siena: This is one of the affordable finds in Siena. Rooms are pretty straightforward, but clean and they offer a buffet breakfast. Check photos and availability here
- Fonte Gaia Experience: Fonte Gaia Experience a bead and breakfast, is located in the city center. It is surrounded by various Sienese landmarks. Rooms are cozy, and many come with views. Check out this B&B here
Many travelers stop in Siena as part of their Tuscany road trip itinerary, but we recommend staying overnight or longer!
Siena in a day sightseeing map
Extending your one day in Siena itinerary
We enjoyed our time in Tuscany, with stops in Florence, San Gimignano, and of course Siena. Here are some ideas for extending your trip with or without a car,
Additional travel tips: One day in Siena itinerary
In one day in Siena, you can surely check out its primary landmarks such as the Duomo complex, and the attractions at the Piazza del Campo. As you can see from our itinerary above, your day will be jam-packed. We do recommend that you stay overnight to experience this beautiful Tuscan city under the night lights!
For a perfect day in Siena, start early. Once you are in the city, walk to the Basilica of San Domenico, followed by the St Caterina Sanctuary. Then spend a few hours at the Duomo, followed by the Palazzo Pubblico and the Civic Museum. Don’t forget to hang out at the piazza, and dine!
You will need one full day in Siena to explore its highlights. Of course, the more time you have the better!
Yes, you can go on a day trip from Florence to Siena. Trains take about 1.50 hours one way, so it is doable.
We recommend 2 full days in Siena to take in all in. The sightseeing won’t take much time, and for that, a day is enough. But to enjoy the Tuscan culinary, views, walks, and shopping in Siena – consider staying here for at least 2 days.
So there you have it! Siena is the perfect destination for anyone who wants to explore Tuscany in Italy. It’s packed with historic sites, delicious food, and friendly people.
You can easily spend days exploring this beautiful city without running out of things to do or see. Plus it is located so close to Florence, and makes for an easy day trip idea!
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