Siena in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Siena is a city of low, ancient buildings, narrow streets and a rich culture and history. During your 2-day stay in Siena you will get to know many places full of symbolism and deep dialogue with the past.

Lorena Morales

Lorena Morales

10 min read

Siena in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Architecture of Siena | ©Samueles

The small city of Siena, located in the Tuscany region of Italy, has one of the oldest historic centres in the country. Full of ancient buildings, squares, museums and churches, its narrow streets invite you to explore it on foot to see how the past is interwoven with its culture.

In this article I propose a two-day tour of Siena, organised around its two main squares: Piazza del Campo and Piazza del Duomo, where you will find the best things to see and do in Siena, so that you can get to know the most representative of this city.

Day 1: Piazza del Campo, Palazzo Piccolomini, Piazza del Mercato and Fortalezza Medicea

Palazzo Piccolomini| ©marie-paule
Palazzo Piccolomini| ©marie-paule

On your first day in Siena you can take the opportunity to explore the historic centre, in particular Piazza del Campo, which is the central square of the city and is surrounded by buildings of great historical and architectural value. Afterwards you can go to the Piazza del Mercato, where there is a nice view of the countryside, and have lunch in the surrounding area.

This whole area is of great tourist interest and is always very lively, which is why it is included among the best tours of Siena. It's a good idea to walk through the narrow streets lined with shops, old buildings, bars and restaurants. And everything is within walking distance, which makes it an ideal place to explore on foot, although be prepared for the ups and downs.

In the afternoon, I suggest you visit the Medicean Fortress, which has a park and an amphitheatre inside. And if you still have some time left, you can go and see the best panoramic view of the city very close to the Fortress. You can also take a guided tour so you won't miss anything of this city full of history.

1. Piazza del Campo

The tour starts in Piazza del Campo, which is striking for its fan-shaped or shell shape with some unevenness, as it is located at the confluence of the three hills on which the city sits.

From the square you can take the 3 main streets, which you can take to fill yourself with the spirit of Siena. The square is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it is home to buildings dating back to medieval times, which look as if time has stood still.

One of the most interesting buildings around the square is the Gothic Palazzo Pubblico, the former seat of government, which today houses the Civic Museum on its first floor. The tower of the palace is the Torre de Mangia, which you can climb. Another building is the Cortile de Mangia, which is located next to the Tower, and from which you can access the Museum and the Tower.

In front of the Palazzo Pubblico is the 15th century Gaia Fountain, a fountain full of symbolism, where you will see reliefs by Jacopo della Quercia, that of the Madonna and Child and the Theological and Cardinal Virtues.

Torre del Mangia

In Piazza del Campo is the Torre del Mangia, which was built between 1338 and 1348. This 88-metre high bell tower is the tower of the Palazzo Pubblico, the former seat of government, and the highest tower in Siena.

From the top of the tower, you will have a beautiful view of the square and the city, but you can only go up by stairs and there are 400 steps, so you need to have a certain level of fitness. Also, you should go early because entry is on a first come first served basis and there can be queues, especially in summer.

Next to the tower is a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary which was promoted by the survivors of the Black Death at the end of the 15th century.

  • Opening hours: 10am to 4pm in winter, 10am to 7pm in summer.
  • Entry fee: around €10 for adults and free for children under 11.
  • Duration: you can only stay 15 minutes at the top of the tower. The visit lasts approximately 40 minutes, and up to 50 people can go up at a time.
  • Recommendations: The climb requires some fitness.

2. Piazza del Mercato

From your last stop you can go to the Piazza del Mercato, which is about 200 metres behind the Piazza del Campo. It is notable for its tortoise-shell-shaped gallery. On Sundays there is a market where you can find cold meats and other foodstuffs.

It has a beautiful view of the Tuscan countryside, and is perfect for picnicking and taking pictures of the scenery. There are also restaurants and bars nearby where you can have lunch. Its construction dates back to the 19th century, although Siena's market began to function in the 13th century.

3. Fortalezza Medicea and Amphitheatre

Medicean Fortress| ©Elias Rovielo
Medicean Fortress| ©Elias Rovielo

From the Piazza del Mercato, return to Piazza del Campo and from there walk about 1 km to the Fortalezza Medicea, one of the Medici fortresses built between the 16th-17th centuries in Italy, commissioned by Duke Cosimo de Medici. You can also go by bus, but if you walk you can pass Fontebranda, Piazza San Domenico Square and Basilica, the Artemio Franchi stadium, the statue of Santa Caterina Benincasa and the Lizza Garden.

The Fortress is in Piazza della Libertà, and its perimeter is 1500 metres. Inside there is an interesting amphitheatre and a public park. Concerts and other performances are held here, and there is an open-air cinema.

4. Panoramic view of Siena from Via Bruno Bonci

From Piazza della Libertà, back along Via Bruno Bonci and past the Stadio, in front of one of the corners of the Piazza and behind the Basilica San Domenico, you can see one of the best panoramic views of Siena. It is ideal to go at sunset, after having walked through the Market Square and the Fortress of Siena, to enjoy the clear skyline and the low houses of the city.

Optional: Fontebranda

It is possible, if you have not lingered too long in Piazza del Campo, to pass through Fontebranda before continuing on to the Medicean Fortress, as it is on the way. It is about 650 metres from Piazza del Mercato, on the street of the same name. Although it is close, it can be tiring to get to, as there are ups and downs.

This 13th century fountain, the oldest in Siena, is fed by one of the most important ancient aqueducts in the city, which at the time was part of the network that distributed water to the region. It is characterised by Gothic arches and is associated with Saint Catherine, who lived nearby.

Near Fontebranda is the Basilica San Domenico, also built in the 13th century and enlarged in the 15th century. It is Gothic in style, and is notable for its large windows. If you walk around Siena at night, you will be amazed at how it looks illuminated.

Take a guided walking tour of the best of Siena

Day 2: Piazza del Duomo, Siena Cathedral & Museums

Siena Cathedral| ©Discovering the Globe
Siena Cathedral| ©Discovering the Globe

On your second day in Siena, I suggest you start in Piazza del Duomo, which is 400 metres from Piazza del Campo. Piazza del Duomo is an L-shaped square at the top of Santa Maria hill. This square is home to the famous Siena Cathedral, the most important cathedral in the city.

It will take you some time to walk around the Cathedral, as well as the other sites of interest that are part of the Duomo Complex, such as the Baptistery and the Museo dell'Opera. Afterwards you can visit two of the city's most important museums, the Museo Antropologico and the Pinacoteca Nazionale, to continue learning about the art, history and culture of Siena.

1. Piazza del Duomo

The origins of this square coincide with those of the Cathedral, which began to be built in the 13th century on top of an older structure. This square is also home to the Santa Maria Della Scala Museum. You can walk around the square and the Cathedral on your own, or you can hire a guided tour to learn the most important facts about this unique building.

2. Duomo Santa Maria Assunta of Siena

The Duomo Santa Maria Assunta of Siena is the main building in the square, and a must-see of the city. It is one of the most important Romanesque-Gothic cathedrals in Italy, with its imposing façade of white and green Prato and red Siena marble. Although it was planned to be larger, it could not be completed due to the Black Death of 1348.

The first thing that strikes the eye inside is the black and white marble motif with horizontal lines, which is related to the legend of the city's founding horses that were of these colours. The Cathedral also houses works of art by Michelanchelo (the sculptures on the altar), Donatello and Domenico Beccafumi, among others.

Of particular note are the mosaics depicting scenes from the Bible and legends of antiquity, known as the Pavimento. They are not always visible to the public, as they are covered to protect them from footprints. If you go between late June and mid-October, you will have the privilege of seeing them.

What is included in the entrance ticket to the Duomo

The cathedral is part of the Duomo Complex, and its Porta del Cielo entrance includes a tour of:

  • The Piccolomini Library, where there are frescoes by Pinturicchio.
  • The Museo dell'Opera, which houses the statues on the façade of the New Cathedral.
  • The Panorama del Facciatore, which offers one of the best views of the city.
  • The Porta del Cielo, where you can see the roof of the Cathedral up close, as well as the floor.
  • The Crypt, which was only discovered in 1999.
  • The Battistero, located in another building, where baptisms used to take place.

Everything in this complex is loaded with symbolism and a rich history, so I recommend that you take your time to visit it, and that before you go you find out about the different tickets to the Siena Cathedral that you can buy, their prices and discounts.

More information about the cathedral

  • Opening hours: from 10.30 am to 5 pm in winter, and from 10 am to 7 pm in summer.
  • Ticket price: The Opa Si Pass ticket costs around €17 for adults, €5 for children between 7 and 11, and free for children under 6. The ticket that includes the Porta del Cielo tour costs around €20 for adults.
  • Recommendations: check holiday and mass schedules on the Cathedral's website.

Baptistery of San Giovanni

Baptistery of San Giovanni| ©Dan
Baptistery of San Giovanni| ©Dan

The Baptistery of San Giovan ni is one of the oldest churches in Florence, built on a primitive structure dating back to the 4th-5th century, but whose construction was completed in the 13th century. It is located opposite Siena Cathedral and was formerly the site of baptisms.

The building is clad in white and green marble like the Duomo. It is an octagonal construction with a dome that is well worth seeing, both inside and out. Not to be missed are the three bronze doors, one by Andrea Pisano and two by Lorenzo Ghiberti, which were built at a later date.

3. Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana

Opposite the Cathedral is the Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana, one of the best museums in Siena and one of the oldest in Italy, founded in 1869. It houses the original statues that adorned part of the façade of the New Cathedral, which could not be completed due to the Black Death.

In the Museo dell'Opera you will see sculptures by Arnolfo di Cambio from the 14th century, and sculptures by Donatello, Lamberti, Ciuffagni, Bigello (attributed), the Madonna and Child with Saints by Bernardo Dadi and Michelangelo's Bandini Pietà in the basement, among others, as well as sketches and tools used during the construction of the Cathedral.

  • Entry fee: The Opa Si Pass (which includes entry to the entire complex, except for the Gate of Heaven tour) costs around €17 for adults, €5 for children between 7 and 11, and free for children under 6.
  • Opening hours: from April to October inclusive from 9.30 am to 7.30 pm, and from November to March inclusive from 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. From 26/12 to 6/01 from 10.30am to 6.30pm.
  • Recommendations: please consult the Cathedral's website for public holiday and mass schedules.

4. National Etruscan Archaeological Museum

The National Etruscan Archaeological Museum is also located in front of the Cathedral, where the ancient hospital of Santa Maria della Scala used to be. This museum houses archaeological remains found in the region. There are statues, bronzes, mosaics, ceramics, urns, among others. The oldest date back to the Bronze Age

It is ideal if you are particularly interested in history, but can also be an opportunity to learn more about the antiquity of the region.

  • Location: Piazza Duomo, Complesso di S. Maria della Scala 2 - Siena.
  • Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 10am to 7pm, except Tuesdays when it is closed and Thursdays open until 10pm. Reduced opening hours in winter.
  • Admission fee: around €9 for adults. You can also buy the ticket together with the entrance to the Cathedral complex, which is about 17€ for adults and 4€ for children between 7 and 11 years old.

5. Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena

Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena| ©Andrea Carloni
Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena| ©Andrea Carloni

The Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena houses medieval and older paintings belonging to the Sienese school, especially paintings on wood with gilded backgrounds from the 14th and 15th centuries. It is housed in two adjacent palaces, the Buonsignori and the Brigidi. The works are arranged in chronological order by period on the different levels of the Museum.

In this Museum you will see works by Ambrogio Lorenzetti such as La Piccola Maestà, and by Duccio, such as the Madonna, and by artists such as Simone Martini, Pietro, Giovanni di Paolo, Sassetta, Matteo di Giovanni and Francesco di Giorgio Martini.

  • Admission fee: about €6 for adults. Guided tours (in Italian) can be booked in advance on the Pinacoteca website.

  • Opening hours: Monday to Saturday from 9am to 7pm, Sundays and public holidays from 9am to 1pm. Reduced opening hours in winter. Free on the first Sunday of the month.

  • Location: Via San Pietro 29 - 53100 Siena.

Take a guided walking tour of Siena and the Cathedral

This is the end of my tour of Siena, organised in two days, so that you can see the most representative sites. In the evening it is a good idea to join a gastronomic tour in Siena, to get to know the best culinary proposals of the region and a bit more about its culture.

And if you have already visited Siena before, or the museums are not of your interest, or you simply prefer an outdoor activity, you can join one of the best wine tours in Siena and get to know the delights of the region with expert guides.