24 Hours in Siena

24 Hours in Siena

If you’re holidaying in Tuscany or on a short break in Florence, the city of Siena is a delightful destination for a day trip. While Florence flourished in the Renaissance, Siena had its heyday in the 12th and 13th centuries, making it a medieval marvel. The city’s history is on full view while sitting in its famous square (the Piazza del Campo) or winding your way through the narrow streets, but how do you make the most of 24 hours in Siena? Join us for our ideal day in one of Tuscany’s loveliest locations.


  1. Breakfast
  2. Mid to Late Morning
  3. Lunch to Late Afternoon
  4. Early Evening
  5. Dinner



The historic centre of Siena is car-free, so you can arrive by public transport or park your vehicle outside the city walls. Once inside the walls, walking is the best way to explore the narrow medieval streets, so start with an espresso and a pastry to fuel your feet. As seasoned Italian city-breakers know, a busy coffee bar at breakfast time is the perfect place to immerse yourself in la dolce vita (the sweet life). Stand at the bar to rub shoulders with the locals; sample something tasty like cornetti (Italian croissants); and get caffeinated ahead of a day of sightseeing.


Mid to Late Morning

Once you’re fully fuelled, make your way to the Piazza del Campo (often simply called Il Campo); the shell-shaped square at the heart of the city. Twice a year in July and August, Il Campo is the venue for the Palio di Siena; a traditional bareback horse race which thunders around the medieval centre, with a sweaty swarm of spectators clamouring to get the best view. If that all sounds a little too hot and hectic, don’t worry; the square is more sedate when it's not race day, with a softly sloping pavement where you can sit and take in the atmosphere (gelato in hand... you’re on holiday after all). Rising above Il Campo is the Torre del Mangia; constructed between 1325 and 1348, the tower is a great vantage point for admiring Siena’s historic centre (which is a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the Tuscan hills beyond. Climb the 400 steps up a narrow and winding staircase to the top of the tower, where the views should provide a distraction from aching legs. Once back on solid ground, visit the Museo Civico in the Palazzo Pubblico where masterpieces of Sienese art are on display, including 13th-century frescoes. A combined ticket for the tower and museum is available if you want to see both.


Lunch to Late Afternoon

There are lunch options aplenty in Siena, from grab-and-go sandwich spots to more sophisticated, sit-down affairs. Whichever you prefer, skip the cafes and restaurants in the Piazza del Campo, as the tourist-targeting menus can be overpriced. Instead, explore the streets that wind away from the square to eat off the beaten path. After lunch, it’s time to visit another of Siena’s must-see sights; the Duomo di Siena (or Siena Cathedral). The exterior of the Duomo is striped with white and greenish-black marble which glimmers in the sunlight; still as impressive as it must have been when the cathedral was completed in 1263. Inside, the magnificent marble continues, with soaring arches, towering pillars and mosaic floors all sharing the same distinctive white and green colour scheme. To get closer to the hidden details of the cathedral, take the Gate of Heaven tour, where your guide will lead you along the walkways beneath the roof for a breathtaking perspective of the Duomo interior from above. You can also enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the city and surrounding countryside (or should that be an angel’s-eye view?). Back down in the Duomo, don’t miss the Piccolomini Library, which is decorated with exquisitely detailed frescoes.


Early Evening

The compact size of Siena’s car-free centre makes strolling a pleasant way to wind down and work up an appetite. As you wander through the warren of medieval streets, try to spot the flags of each of the city’s 17 contrada (districts) which adorn the lanes. Each contrada also has its own symbol, so look out for the dragon, unicorn or the humble snail, to name just a few of the mascots on display in the neighbourhood fountains. If you want to squeeze another cathedral into your 24 hours in Siena, the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico (an eight-minute walk from the Duomo) is free to enter and open until 6.30pm. Outside, you can a enjoy panoramic vista of the city, including the Duomo and Torre del Mangia, making this a lovely spot to stop and admire the places you’ve visited. If you’ve already done enough steps for the day, you could embrace the Italian art of aperitivo instead; a pre-dinner drink to usher in the evening. Since 1925, the Gastronomia Morbidi deli has been an icon of the city; today, it’s deli-meets-bar where delicious appetisers are served alongside cocktails and craft beer. It’s our top pick for a pick-me-up at the end of a long day.



Dishes like pici pasta (a kind of fat spaghetti) and wild boar ragu are staples of Sienese cuisine which, like most Italian food, is simple yet spectacular. To taste these dishes in an equally spectacular location, we recommend Antica Osteria da Divo for dinner. Specialising in sophisticated regional fare and fine wines, the restaurant is set over three elegant and atmospheric levels, the lowest being the intimate, cave-like cellar. For a more hands-on approach, Siena has some fabulous cooking classes, including evening sessions which conveniently coincide with dinnertime. Learn to prepare a Tuscan five-course meal before sitting down for the taste test; a fun way to end your 24 hours in Siena and head home with some delicious new recipes in your repertoire.