Siena is a tiny town, often overlooked while others—Rome, Milan, and Florence—are glorified. Yet, there is never a shortage of things to do here. I have been here for two weeks now and still have items on my bucket list to explore. Here are the things I have managed to experience and would highly recommend.
1. Torre del Mangia: Yes, this comes up on every single list when you Google ‘things to do in Siena.’ It seemed a bit costly to me when I saw the price claimed ten euros. I also dreaded climbing around 400 steps. However, I would climb to the top again in a heartbeat. The steps were steep and narrow, but were rich in history. As the tower was built in the mid 1300s, it was wonderful to imagine the number of people that had climbed those same steps. Needless to say, the view at the top was breathtaking. To see the tan-colored roofs and the rolling hills of Siena was unforgettable.
2. Vicolo degli Orefici: This one is a bit more obscure. It is a simple street, tucked away near one of Siena’s outer walls. You pass through a slight tunnel and are met with beautiful, old architecture and plants everywhere. The residents of the street definitely have green thumbs. This street is peaceful, stunning, and most importantly, free.
3. Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico: A beautiful church on a hilltop. Before going, I recommend doing just a few minutes of research on who Saint Catherine of Siena was to make your trip more intriguing. If you are headed to this destination from Piazza del Campo, you can visit Saint Catherine’s house (for free!) along the way. As the church is on a hill, you can also get some amazing views, especially if you visit at sunset. The views of the inside of the basilica are breathtaking as well. The ceilings and the stained glass are works of art, and, yet, the best part of this church is the head. That’s right. Saint Catherine’s head is in this church. Definitely a must see.
4. Orto de' Pecci: Orto de' Pecci is a beautiful garden with cats and peacocks running wild. There are ducks, geese, goats, and a strange, but beautiful, statue of a silver head. This space is unique, but perfect for a short walk outdoors. There is also a little restaurant here, but it’s closed for the winter so I have not tried it yet. Like most of Siena, this place has a history. The plaque by the entrance explains it in more depth, but the path to the garden was one prisoners used to walk once condemned, and many an execution took place along the road.
5. Fortezza Medicea: A little bit outside of the city, and close to Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico, this place is dazzling. Once you reach the top of the walls, there is a little cafe and paths perfect for running, or, as I prefer, walking at a leisurely place. If you want to see a breathtaking view of Siena without having to pay the ten euros for the tower, this is the best option. I went at sunset and it was, like everything else about this city, absolutely stunning.
Siena boasts much more than these five things, but these were some of my favorites. The people here are nice and welcoming, the food is to die for, and every single corner of every single street is full of history. If you study abroad here, or even just come for a day trip, you will fall in love with this quaint town and the delightful Siennese culture.