Just south of Florence is a charming Tuscan city, Siena. Not only does it have wonderful streets to wander, a beautiful piazza, a famous cathedral, fine food and gelato but it hosts a traditional horse race that has been competed among the neighborhoods of the city since medieval times.
How to Get to Siena
This is an easy day trip from Florence and there are several strategies for reaching it.
- Private tour that will pick you up at your accommodations in Florence to drive through the rolling hills of Tuscany to Siena and also San Gimignano. The advantages are so many, your driver/guide will fill you in on what you are seeing and the deep history of the region, the service can recommend restaurants, you can stop for a wine tasting and have wine with lunch, no seeking parking, no bumbling around the dozen traffic circles around Siena, just relax and enjoy. Contact Tours in Tuscany for their preferred Italy Perfect rate. Budget about €500 for the full day tour with stops in San Gimignano and Siena for up to 6 people.
- Drive yourselves and enjoy wandering around. Sometimes getting lost is an adventure especially in this beautiful land. We suggest picking up the car for the day because parking in Florence is so difficult; you have to park in a garage and it seems almost impossible to avoid the ZTL, limited traffic zones for which you get a ticket in the mail. Experience has taught us that even last minute reservations made online with this service is a better value that walking into the rental car agency and getting their price at the counter.
- Train The direct train from Florence to Siena is hourly, 1 hour 30 minutes trip. There is also a connection that takes 1 hour 45 minutes. The Siena train station is at the bottom of the hill outside the old city, so you can reach the city by city bus, or escalator then a 20 minute walk, or easiest, taxi.
- Bus Great aspect is that the bus stops in the old city in Siena so you don’t have to get up the hill as from the train station. Nice drive through the countryside about an 1 hour 30 minutes. Bus makes some stops. Good value. The SITA bus station is located right by the train station, to the left of station as you face it, on Via Caterina di Siena. Here is their website with schedules.
What to See in Siena
It is a lovely medieval hilltown with a deep history that includes centuries of war with Florence.
This Siena tourism site is a good starting place.
The heart of the spirit of Siena is the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo where, annually since the middle ages, is the location of the most amazing horse race in the world, the Palio. It is held during certain July and August dates. If you want to attend plan up to a year in advance for tickets & logistics. During the Palio timeframe you’ll find the competing neighborhoods decorated with their individual flags and colors. There are many great videos of this amazing race.
The cathedral and baptistry in traditional black and white stripes is filled with glorious art.
The splendid town hall is noted for a painting that was a precursor of the Renaissance, the first known medieval painting to show landscape and a secular subject.