Perhaps not as famous as Florence, its neighbor to the north and capital of Tuscany, Siena is nevertheless a Tuscan jewel. Its duomo (cathedral) is a medieval masterpiece to which we've dedicated a separate post. Sitting at its center, in the Piazza del Campo, you can almost picture the bustling market that took place in the 13th century. Beyond the city itself are the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany.
The Palazzo Pubblico was built in the 13th century. It served as the seat of government then and serves as the City Hall of Siena today. It also houses a number of beautiful frescoes which we were unfortunately not able to see - next time!
The bell tower, Torre del Mangia, was added during the early 1300's.
You can climb the 400 steps of the bell tower to enjoy the stunning Tuscan countryside...and get up close and personal with the bell!
In this photo you see the Fonte Gaia, Fountain of the World, added to the Campo in the early 15th century to bring water to the center of the city. You can also see the pie-shaped red brick sections that divide the square. The Palio, or horse race, takes place here twice each summer. Imagine the front row seats for the residents of the apartments that line the Piazza!
Such a perfect place to enjoy a Tuscan wine and absorb the incredible atmosphere!
Pizzicheria De Miccoli
Don't miss it! It's a family-run deli just behind the Piazza del Campo. Had a friend not recommended it, we could have easily passed it. It's a hole-in-the wall with just about the best deli food you'll find. The owners are charming and the sandwiches are huge and delicious as is the Chianti Classico! I have no clue why they don't want people taking pictures inside, but I snuck one past the velvet curtain.
This osteria, La Sosta di Violantie, is about three quarters up Via Pantaneto, the street that leads from the Porta Romana (see below) to the Piazza del Campo. It's cozy, inexpensive, and has a good menu. We've eaten there twice.
The Santa Caterina
I do a lot of research online before I settle on a hotel. I start with Expedia, my go-to hotel booking site. Normally we like to stay in the old section of the cities we visit in Europe, but I just wasn't seeing anything that caught my eye near the Piazza del Campo, and reviews for the Santa Caterina kept appearing.
Siena has "gates" which were essentially doors to the city in the medieval period. The Santa Caterina is just outside one of them, the Porta Romana at the southern edge of the city. It's an easy 10-minute walk to the Piazza del Campo on a street filled with shops and restaurants. A bus also goes to the Piazza.
Have you ever stayed in a hotel that could be your second home? For us, that's the Santa Caterina. It's charming, it has a lovely courtyard with a spectacular view of the rolling hills, and the staff is amazing. For our first visit, we were fortunate enough to be booked in a room that overlooks the hills, and we requested the same room on our second visit. From the street, the hotel is nondescript; you wouldn't look at it twice, but open the door and you're in a different world.
The lovely sitting area/bar and the breakfast room which overlooks the patio.
It's a perfect place to enjoy your cappuccino in the morning or a glass of wine after exploring Tuscany...or just to sit and enjoy the view. One night we walked to a little pizzeria down the street and brought the pizza back to enjoy it with a nice Chianti in the courtyard.
I could sit here all day!
The view from our room. Ask for room 21 at the end of the hall or any room overlooking the hills!
➜ Top Tips
There isn't much that can live up to the Tuscan countryside, but if you have time during your visit, spend at least a couple of days in Siena.
We can't recommend the Santa Caterina Hotel enough. The terrace is the perfect place to have a glass of wine while soaking up the view of the beautiful rolling Tuscan hills.
Be sure to take one or more wine tasting tours to sample the famous Tuscan wines!
If climbing 400 steps doesn't phase you, climb to the top of the Torre del Mangia for a sweeping view.
Enjoy a cappuccino, a meal and/or a glass of wine at the Piazza del Campo.