How To Explore Siena In One Day: The Top Things To Do

Are you looking to get lost in an enchanting city in Tuscany, surrounded by vineyards and steeped in history?

Then you’ll find there are many things to do in Siena in one day, which makes it the perfect Tuscan day trip from Florence.

colorful buildings on a hilly street with trees in the background
Sweet Sienna

The city seamlessly blends history, culture, and breathtaking beauty, whilst also offering a laid-back feel that you can only find in the heart of Tuscany, Italy. 

Siena may be a city, but it’s small enough to walk around and see the highlights in just 24 hours.

We visited for the day from our Tuscan farm stay about 30 minutes away. The owner’s partner is a tour guide for the city of Sienna, and she wrote a list of the top things to do in Sienna for us to follow. 

street winding through sieena

I was surprised at how unique and beautiful Sienna was – it was a hidden gem of our Italy summer trip. 

In this guide, we’ll be sharing how you can spend one day in Siena, by incorporating the unforgettable attractions, unmissable moments, and how to conveniently get there and back from Florence.

Handy Booking Checklist:

Tours of Siena, Tuscany

Where to stay in Siena, Tuscany

Why Visit Siena, Tuscany?

clothes stall on Piazza del Campo
Piazza del Campo

For anyone looking to explore the quaint region of Tuscany, then you’ll want to take a trip to Siena. This charming and culturally rich town is renowned for its stunning medieval architecture and well-preserved historic center, which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After taking just a short drive outside of Florence, you’ll be transported into a fairytale town with winding narrow streets, beautiful squares, and a laid-back atmosphere.

I was stunned at how beautiful this city was – one of the most impressive medieval cities I’ve been to. 

view of basilica in sienna over rooftops

Siena is also a haven for food lovers. You can indulge in traditional Tuscan cuisine, such as hearty ribollita soup, succulenta bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak), and delectable Pecorino cheese. 

Panforte, a dense unleavened fruit cake, originated in Siena and is wonderful with a piece of pecorino cheese and a glass of prosecco.

You can pair your meal with a glass of Chianti wine for a truly authentic culinary experience (after all, this is the Chianti Region!).

Visiting Siena allows you to immerse yourself in its history, admire its architectural wonders, savor delicious food and wine, and witness the unique, quiet atmosphere of the Tuscan countryside. 

It’s a destination that combines beauty, culture, and a genuine taste of Tuscany.

How to Get to Siena?

Church and medieval buildings on a hill in siena
City on a hill

When it comes to getting to Siena, there are several transportation options available, but the best way is to hire a car and drive. 

From Florence it’s a 1-hour drive along one highway. It’s also only 1 hour 45 minutes from Pisa by car. And it only took us 30 minutes from Tenuta Di Mensanello. 

Sienna is a city on top of a hill, so streets are steep and narrow. It’s best not to drive up into the city center to park, but just below the city at the bottom of the hill. It can be challenging to find parking on weekends due to the weekend markets. Try parking at Parking St. Caterina on Via Fontebranda. It’s just a short walk up the hill from there into the city.

kalyra walking up stairs on hill

If you don’t drive, the best way to get there is by train. You can catch a direct train from Florence (Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station) which takes 1.5 hours. Some trains require you to change at Empoli, but most are direct. There are several trains running throughout the day.

The train is a great option as you can sit back and enjoy the scenery. Check Omio for train times and availability and to book your tickets. WE foudn them to be very efficient when booking train travel in Italy.

You can also find buses, particularly FlixBus which is a long-distance bus company that operates across Europe. Buses are convenient and efficient and take just over an hour with one stop on the way.

You can also visit Siena on a day tour from Florence, if you wanted to let someone else take care of all the details, and have an expert guide show you around. We love the following two tour companies (personally vetted and experienced by us)

Things to Do in Siena in One Day

Now you know how to get to Siena, it’s time to share with you how you can spend one day in Siena! You can see any of these attractions in any order you like, since Siena is small and walkable.

Duomo of Siena

Mom and two daughters in front of a cathedral
The Duomo of Siena

As this is the best thing to do in Siena – and one of the best things to do in Tuscany – I recommend doing this first so you have enough time. We did it last and didn’t have enough time to see everything. You can easily fit the other Siena attractions around this one.

Siena is the Duomo of Siena, which is just a short walk from the Piazza del Campos, your next stop.

This magnificent cathedral, officially known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, is an architectural marvel that attracts visitors from around the world.

looking up at dome of cathedral

I was blown away by how beautiful and unique this cathedral was. I have never seen anything like it before. I enjoyed it more than the famous Duomo in Florence.

While the outside of the Florence cathedral is more impressive (although similar in style and color) the inside of the Duomo of Siena is way more impressive and makes the inside of Duomo of Florence seem very dull. 

Construction of the Duomo began in the 12th century and continued for several centuries, resulting in a stunning blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles. 

intricate design of top of sienna catherdral

The exterior of the cathedral is adorned with intricate carvings, sculptures, and vibrant mosaics, showcasing the incredible craftsmanship of the era.

Step inside the Duomo, and you’ll be greeted by a breathtaking interior, filled with striped marble columns, intricately designed floor mosaics, and the famous Piccolomini Library – a gorgeous room filled with beautiful frescoes by Pinturicchio. 

Don’t miss the chance to ascend the Facciatone, a panoramic terrace that offers sweeping views of Siena’s rooftops.

The Siena Duomo complex includes the Crypt, the Baptistery, Piccolomini Library, the Museo dell’Opera, the Oratory, and the Facciatone Viewpoint.

altar with paintings behind it
fescoes on walls and ceiling of the Piccolomini Library,
Piccolomini Library
statues and stained glass window
Museo dell’Opera
person looking at the colorful frescoes on the crypt walls
The Crypt

We missed the Facciatone viewpoint as it’s small so there was about a 30-minute wait, and we didn’t have enough time.

All the different parts of this massive cathedral were extraordinary and worth seeing.

While you may be tempted to look up inside the Duomo, don’t forget to look down at the marble floor, which is an artistic masterpiece in its own right, consisting of over 50 unique panels depicting biblical scenes, allegories, and mythological figures.

Italian Renaissance painter, Giorgio Vasari called it the most beautiful, largest and most magnificent floor that was ever made”.

We decided at the last minute to visit Siena AND chose to see the Duomo last. That meant we were not prepared with pre-booked tickets, or the knowledge I am sharing with you. 

It was easy enough to get tickets inside the duomo and there was no line (although I’ve heard it can be very long especially in the morning.) BUT we did need a timed entry ticket to climb up to the rooftops. Unfortunately, the only time available was later in the afternoon and the tour was 90 minutes. We had to get back to our agritourismo for a cooking class so could not spare the time.

I was so disappointed to miss this experience touring the Porta del Cielo – the cathedral rooftops, which is meant to be spectacular. This really was my favorite church in Europe – easily surpassing the Vatican.

caz and girls outside cathedral of sienna

The Cathedral of Siena, it is a great example of the Italian’s love of extravagant art and interior design and well worth the ticket price.

The Opa Si Pass is the ticket class you want, which gives you access to the Crypt, the Baptistery, Piccolomini Library, the Museo dell’Opera, the Oratory, and the Facciatone Viewpoint.

Tours to the Porta del Cielo are extra and booked separately – make sure you have the time to do it.

Piazza del Campos

person walking across Piazza del Campo
Piazza del Campo

Nestled within the heart of Siena, lies the most popular attraction in the city, bursting with historic charm and a captivating allure – Piazza del Campo. 

This celebrated medieval square is a must-visit for anyone planning to spend a day in Siena.

Built at the convergence of three ancient hilltop towns, Piazza del Campo serves as the central gathering place for locals and tourists alike.

caz and girls walking past restaurants on Piazza del Campo
Piazza del Campo restaurants

History comes alive as you wander through this enchanting square, as it’s surrounded by late Gothic buildings and palaces. Once the residences of powerful families, they now house bustling restaurants, cafes, and shops, adding vibrancy to the area and serving as the ultimate place for people watching.

Piazza del Campo is also renowned for hosting the Palio di Siena, a thrilling horse race held twice a year. Witnessing this ancient tradition unfold amidst the fervor and excitement of the crowds is an experience like no other.

Torre del Mangia

view of Torre del Mangia through hole in courtyard
Torre del Mangia

Standing tall at 87 meters high in the heart of Siena’s Piazza del Campo, the Torre del Mangia is a magnificent 14th century tower that is best known for hosting stunning views of Tuscany.

Built in 1325, the Torre del Mangia, also known as the “Tower of the Eater,” is a marvel of architectural craftsmanship. It’s said its name comes from one of its former bell-ringers, who had a reputation for being an extravagant eater.

Visitors can climb up 400 winding steps to reach the top, where they will be rewarded with  mesmerizing vistas over Siena and the countryside beyond.

From Piazza del Campo you can walk into a ground floor of The Palazzo Pubblico into a small courtyard. Look up through the open roof for a great view of the tower. 

Palazzo Pubblico

view of The Palazzo Pubblico  and tower on campos
The Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia on the Piazza del Campo

Another landmark not to miss in the Piazza del Campos is the Palazzo Pubblico, which stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and artistic legacy. This grand palace, also known as the Town Hall, is a wonderful example of Siena’s gothic architecture and contains some of the most incredible fresco paintings.

It was built between 1297 and 1310, this iconic landmark was once the residence of Signoria and Podesta, as well as the house of the Government of the Nine of the Republic of Siena. 

You can explore the interior of the palace which is filled with interesting rooms and artwork. Be sure to check out the Salone del Mappamondo, a grand hall adorned with the magnificent Maestà fresco by Simone Martini. 

You should also check out the stunning Sala dei Nove, or Hall of the Nine, which served as a meeting place for the city’s governing council.

A visit to the palace allows you to learn about the political and cultural history of Siena as well as soak in the artistic ambiance of the place. 

Basilica Cateriniana of San Domenico

caz taking ohotos of basilica st catherine on the hille

This basilica church, also known as the Basilica of San Domenico, holds immense significance in the city’s religious and cultural fabric.

It was built between 1226–1265, and renovated again in the 14th century. Its outside facade is of a Gothic style, while the inside houses a multitude of important frescoes and relics. 

One of the highlights of a visit to the Basilica Cateriniana is the chance to see the ornate reliquary that houses the dismembered, mummified head of Saint Catherine of Siena, a revered figure in Catholicism.

I was quite surprised at how little St Catherine’s head was. It was the size of a small child. Apparently, her thumb is in here as well, but we couldn’t find that. 

I couldn’t take pictures of her head, but I could of the carved heads on this cool door outside the church!

If this sounds a little morbid to you, then you’ll find the intricate frescoes and spiritual atmosphere more pleasing.

It is forbidden to take photos inside.

As we parked near to this basilica, we visited this first before walking into the main part of the city.

Wander the Streets

caroline walking down narrow street with high walls

Wandering the charming streets of Siena is an experience in itself. The city is brimming with architectural wonders and a captivating atmosphere that draws you in from every street.

Siena’s streets are a treasure trove waiting to be explored. You’ll find narrow, steep alleyways, hidden corners, picturesque squares, and charming boutique shops that exude an enchanting medieval atmosphere. 

The streets of Siena are not just pathways lined with shops and cafes; they are a gateway to the city’s cultural heritage. Keep your eyes open for the graceful marble reliefs adorning the historic buildings and stop by a gelato shop to indulge in the culinary delights that define the cities in Tuscany.

You can walk at the back of Piazza del Campos for a beautiful view out to the countryside. 

Pay attention as you are walking up to the city from the parking lot as well, as the views of the city and Duomo are quite pretty. 

Best Coffee and Gelato in Siena

man holding cup of gelato
The best you can get!

Tuscany is the home of gelato, having originated in Florence. It’s perfectly acceptable to have gelato every day while in Italy, and the artisanal scoops found at La Vecchia Latteria will not let you down.

It was the second best gelato I had in Italy – the best was in Florence. I had hazelnut and chocolate chip! 

Our agriturismo hosts recommended this as the best gelato, so this is a local tip for you! 

She also recommended cafe Fiorella as the best coffee in Siena, seconded by her sommelier!

two cappuccinos on table

Caffè Fiorella siena is a tiny hole in the wall cafe located at the outskirts of Piazza del Campos. There are only a few spaces for seating, this is your typical Italian order and drink at the bar. 

SErvice is swift and efficient to cater to the ever evolving local crowd moving through here. I was quite fascinated watching as I drank my cappuccino and probably offended everyone in the cafe, as the Italian Way is no milk after 11am! 

Across from here is a local chocolate shop if you (or the kids) want to sneak in for a tasty treat. 

Final Thoughts

caz and savannah sitting in doorway eating gelato

Siena is a city with a timeless allure that simply captivates any traveler here. Its small size means it’s easy to explore on foot, and you can easily see the highlights in one exciting day here. 

What I loved about our day in Siena, is that it was quite relaxing in comparison to the attraction packed cities of Florence and Rome.

We could relax more and just enjoy an ambling pace with enough time for us to have a lingering breakfast at our farm stay and an afternoon cooking class. It was a day well lived and the kind of travel days you dream of.

We hope this guide helped you plan your one-day trip to Siena and gave you some inspiration for what to do. If you found it helpful, please share it with your friends and on your social channels!

You may also like these other helpful guides for travel in Tuscany:

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