Siena is a Medieval city in Tuscany, some 70 km (43 mi) south of Florence. It is probably best known for a colourful horse race, Il Palio, conducted twice each year in the summer.
- I History of Siena
- II Get in
- III Get around
- IV See
- V Events
- VI Buy
- VII Learn
- VIII Eat
- IX Drink
- X Where to stay in Siena
- XI Go next
History of Siena
Siena was an Etruscan city in ancient times, but the era that is most evident in its architecture and remains a constant presence in the city’s character is the Middle Ages. Siena was a proud, wealthy, and warlike independent city-state during the Middle Ages and held off its rival Florence in several battles before finally going down to defeat. Medieval Sienese art (painting, sculpture, architecture, etc.) is unique and of great historical importance. Some of the most famous of the artists who lived and worked in Siena are the painters Duccio, Simone Martini, and Ambrogio and Pietro Lorenzetti and the sculptor Jacopo della Quercia.
Sienese people are fiercely proud of their city and their neighborhood (contrada). Each contrada has its own flag, emblem, contrada parish church and contrada house, which functions as a kind of neighborhood social club. The Palio, described below, is all about neighborhood pride and rivalry, and also constitutes the unbroken continuation of a Medieval tradition associated with religion, pageantry, trash-talking, bragging, and occasional violence. It is taken very seriously and is in no way a put-on for tourists; in fact, you are likely to feel less welcomed during the Palio than at any other time, and there isn’t the slightest doubt that Siena would run the Palio with great enthusiasm regardless of whether any visitors ever showed up.
That said, this is a city which depends and flourishes on tourism. Siena was a very poor little city for a few hundred years after its defeat, which is the main reason why its lovely Medieval buildings were never torn down and replaced with modern structures. In the 19th century tourists started coming. Nowadays, it is a requirement that new buildings within the city walls be built to maintain the city’s character and beauty, with the result that the streets are lined with many neo-Gothic buildings that blend in with the genuinely Gothic ones.
As a walled hill city, Siena’s centro storico is extremely picturesque, and from high towers, you can see the beautiful countryside that still largely surrounds the city. With a few notable exceptions (including the pretty yellow color of the sunflowers that are cultivated for oil for export), the Sienese countryside looks almost the same as it did in Medieval paintings. The Sienese countryside is part of the Chianti region, and therefore, it is easy to find good local wines in Sienese shops and to accompany your meals in ristoranti and trattorie. Sienese cuisine is delicious, and though some eateries are definitely better than others, it is difficult to find truly bad food in this city. In addition to being known internationally as a Medieval city that’s a great draw for tourists, Siena is known nationally as a university town, and there are also places for foreign visitors to stay for a few weeks and study Italian or other subjects.
Siena’s Ampugnano Airport was completely shutdown in 2014.
Most travellers arriving by plane will land at Florence Airport near Florence or Pisa International Airport near Pisa.
Buses of the Sena line connect Siena with the Marconi Airport (twice daily, 2½ hours) near Bologna, a favorite with the discount carriers. There is also a bus link to Pisa International Airport.
From the north, take the Chiantigiana from Florence (SS 222 – 72 km) that elegantly crosses the hills of Chianti or the highway (SS 2 superstrada Siena/Firenze – 68 km). From the south, Siena can be reached by taking the Autostrada from Rome (A1 Roma-Firenze, exit Valdichiana), turning right on state highway #326 (Bettolle-Siena – 240 km). Relatively cheap parking can be found near Fortezza Medicea, northwest of the city stadium – and around it.
From the north, trains go about hourly directly from Florence to Siena, and otherwise it is possible to take any train that stops in Empoli and find train connections from Empoli to Siena every 30–60 minutes. It costs €7.40 single (May 2020). From the south, direct connections to Siena depart from Chiusi or from Grosseto. Siena’s Train Station is located approximately 2 km from the city’s historical centre — a five-minute bus ride — and buses leave regularly from Piazza del Sale. Buses #3, 8, 10, 17 and 77 leave from the station to Piazza del Sale and bus #17 departs from Piazza del Sale for the train station. If you don’t mind walking uphill, you can also walk to the centre in about 20–30 minutes: Exit the train station, turn left, walk past the bus park and then uphill, bearing right at the traffic circle, staying on the road called Viale Giuseppe Manzini. Go through the city gates, and follow the road as it bends sharply to the right. The road becomes Via Garibaldi, which will take you into the city.
By far the easiest way to get to Siena from Florence (though the train journey is much more picturesque). Take the SITA bus (located in a small underground bus depot across the street, to the west of Santa Maria Novella train station). After 1hr 20 min it will eventually drop you off at Piazza Garibaldi which is located well within the walls of the city, allowing for an easy walk to any of the city’s attractions. For the return journey, buses depart from Piazza Gramsci. The cost was €7.10 in 2012.
Connections are also available from Rome (3 hours) and various other cities.
The centre of Siena is accessible only on foot. Cars (other than taxis, police, etc.) are strictly prohibited; motorcycles and scooters are OK, though. Patrons of the central hotels are allowed to drive up and unload the luggage (and then get out), but only by obtaining one-time permission slips from the hotel front desk beforehand (also have them draw the route for you on a map and follow it to the letter; if you miss a turn, it may be wiser to head out the nearest gate, get on the circumferential road just outside the walls, return to the starting point and try again); have this pass handy if stopped by police while driving within the walls – or, in a pinch, at least a confirmation of your reservation. Don’t rush your turns, and swing wide like a truck, as you would be sometimes required to fit between two stone walls into an opening just slightly wider than your vehicle. For more information, contact “Siena Parcheggi” tel. 0577-228711. To call or reserve a taxi, telephone the Central Reservation Office at 0577-49222.
Siena may be the only city in Mediterranean Europe where parking is not a massive headache, though charges have increased dramatically in the past few years and you can expect to pay €40.00 or more per day for the more convenient spots. The huge parking lots around the Fortezza and the adjacent football stadium are no longer free, but on the other hand, you can now count on finding a space there almost anytime; there is free parking further out, with minibus service, from Due Ponti and Coroncina (beyond Porta Romana).
Google maps shows the location of all bus stops within the city. If you zoom in and click the bus symbol on the map, you will get a list of bus routes serving that stop. There are several small buses (Pollicino) run by the TRA-IN company that cover some streets located in the centre and several bus lines to and from the outskirts of town. Bus tickets cost €1.20 per fare (as of January 2018) when bought at kiosks/tabacchi but are more expensive when bought from the driver.
The website for Siena Mobilità has bus schedules (orari) for routes within Siena. Click the tab Servizio urbano Siena.
Siena is a city (a small city, yes, but it isn’t like one of the tiny hill towns) and the attractions away from the Campo/Duomo area are spread out on three steep hills, so walking is a necessity. You will understand why Italians can eat so much and not get fat, when you see old women carrying groceries up a long street with a 30-degree incline. If you are tired, check to see if you can get to your destination by walking along a ridge, rather than going in a straight line down a hill and back up.
Siena’s historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage List.
Piazza del Campo
This unique shell-shaped piazza is the centre of the city, and twice a year functions as the racetrack for the Palio (see “Do” below). It is beautiful and striking in itself and also lined by some of the most famous and beautiful Gothic buildings in town.
- Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall), Piazza del Campo, 1. 10:00-18:00. This striking structure has functioned as Siena’s City Hall for almost 800 years and is probably the building that most recognizably represents Siena. It contains (among many other things) the famous frescoes on good and bad government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, frescoes by Simone Martini and Duccio, and access to the Torre del Mangia, from the top of which you can view a beautiful panorama of the Sienese countryside. The frescoes on good and bad government and their effects on the city and surrounding countryside (painted 1338-1339), probably Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s greatest masterpieces, are in the Sala dei Nove, where the Council of Nine who ruled the city state in the early 14th century could see them and, it was hoped, would keep them close to mind while making important decisions. These frescoes and Duccio’s Maestà in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo are the most important paintings in Siena and for many people represent highlights of a visit to this city, but there are many other beautiful things to see in the Palazzo Pubblico, so allow some time (preferably a couple of hours) to view them all. This building’s exterior is equally beautiful and includes a lovely marble chapel, the Cappella di Piazza, which is at the foot of the Torre di Mangia. Built in 1352, it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, as was the entire city after it avoided annihilation in the devastating black plague of 1348.
- Palazzo Piccolomini (Piccolomini Palace), Banchi di Sotto. One of the most popular sites on the Piazza del Campo, was built in 1459 by the well-known architect Bernardo Rossellino, disciple of Leon Battista Alberti. This Florentine-style palace is home to the official archives of Siena.
- Palazzo Sansedoni (Sansedoni Palace), Il Campo, 58. Opposite the Palazzo Pubblico, it is another beautiful Gothic building on the Campo.
- Fonte Gaia (Gaia Fountain), Il Campo, 21. The fountain sculpted in 1419 by the great Sienese sculptor, Jacopo della Quercia, is a focal point of the piazza. The remains of the original sculptures can be viewed in the loggia of the Palazzo Pubblico (see above), but the appearance of the fountain, composed of copies made in 1858, is not bad and remains a major sight in this city.
Other major sights
- Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral), Piazza del Duomo, 8 , ✉ email@example.com. The open hours of the Cathedral, Library, Museum, Panorama, Crypt and Baptistery are generally the same, except that you may not enter the museum less than 1 hour before closing time. Complete opening hours information here ; “Festive” means Sundays and church holidays. Exclusive of Sundays and holidays (festivi), everything opens at 10:30 and closes at 19:00 between 1 March and 2 November and at 17:30 between 3 November and 28 February, except that the closing hour is 18:00 between 26 December and 6 January. Siena’s magnificent black and white Italian Romanesque cathedral includes the Libreria Piccolomini, with splendid frescoes by Pinturicchio, the lovely Baptistery (separate entrance and charge), and an attached museum (separate entrance and charge, see below). Also marvel at the inlaid floors; even as they are sometimes covered for protection, a section is always left visible. At the height of Siena’s power it was decided to enlarge the cathedral so that the existing Duomo would become merely its transept; the money ran out very soon after one of the new outer walls, which is still standing as a reminder of the grandiose undertaking, was completed. Opa Si Pass: €13.00 from 1 March to 31 October, and from 26 December to 6 January; then €8.00 from 1 November to 24 December, and from 7 January to 28 February. Valid for 3 days, allows admission to the Duomo, including the Libreria Piccolomini and Crypt, the Baptistery, Museo dell’Opera and Facciatone. This is a very good idea if you have enough time; it is possible to see all of this in one day, but expect it to take at least the better part of an afternoon. Otherwise, you can see details of costs for individual tickets here .
- Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (Museum of the Works of the Cathedral), Piazza del Duomo, 9. Monday – Saturday 09:00-19:30pm, Su 09:00am-13:30. This museum includes the famous Maestà by Duccio and many other great works by Sienese masters. After you’ve seen all the art, you can also treat yourself to a beautiful panorama from Il Facciatone, the tower in this building. The view is about as good as the one from the Torre del Mangia in the Palazzo Pubblico but somewhat different, although if you are rushed for time, pick one tower to climb (either one). Admission: €7, or see information on Opa Si Pass above.
- Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena (Siena National Gallery), Via di San Pietro, 29. M 09:00 – 13:00, Tu-Sa 08:15 – 19:15, Su and holidays: 09:00 – 13:00. The Pinacoteca is full of Sienese paintings from the city’s Medieval heyday. Regular admission: €4; reduction for students from the EU aged 18-25 and their docents: €2; free entry to children, and to everyone on the first Sunday of every month.
These “secondary sights” are still quite interesting; it’s just that the major sights in Siena are so outstanding that visitors in a rush may want to concentrate on them. If you have more time, walk all around town and see these sights, too.
Piazze and palazzi
Piazza Salimbeni (Salimbeni Palace).
- This piazza features a 19th-century statue of a locally famous economist and author named Sallustio Bandini, but more so, a set of harmoniously ordered buildings at right angles, forming 3 sides of a rectangle, with the fourth side open.
- The Palazzo Salimbeni, built in 1472, is the world headquarters of Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the major banking corporation which has a hand in much of the economic and cultural life of the city. The building itself is well worth looking at from the outside. Inside, there are interesting documents showing the history of banking, plus a collection of paintings and other artwork, but you would have to request permission in advance if you’d like to have a chance to view them.
- Immediately to your right while facing the Palazzo Salimbeni is the glorious Palazzo Spannocchi (built in 1473), with its row of fantastic carvings of the heads of Roman emperors in stone near the roof.
- The Palazzo Santucci, to your left when facing the Palazzo Salimbeni, was built in the 16th century.
Via di Città
- Palazzo Chigi-Saracini (Accademia Chigiana), Via di Città, 89. This is another Gothic palazzo, or at least its façade remains Gothic, though the interior was modernized in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The building since 1932 has housed housed the Accademia Chigiana, the city’s conservatory of music. Quite a number of beautiful paintings are part of its collection, but the rooms that house the artwork are often used for classes and rehearsals or simply locked up when not in use, so if you would like to view its holdings, you will probably need to get permission in advance and make an appointment.
This piazza, a widening of the Banchi di Sopra, features a statue of the Lupa Senese (Sienese She-Wolf), a symbol adopted from Rome, suspended in the air as if on a stone pole.
- Palazzo Tolomei (Tolomei Palace), Piazza Tolomei 9. This lovely palazzo was built between 1205 and 1212 by the Tolomei family when the area was outside of the city walls. Now, it is well within the walls and on the way from the Campo to Piazza Salimbeni.
- Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico, Piazza San Domenico, 1 , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. From March to October: 07:00-18:30, from November to February: 09:00-18:00. This large, austere Gothic basilica (usually simply called San Domenico) is not only dedicated to St. Catherine of Siena, along with St. Dominic, but was frequented by her and contains a period portrait of her by Andrea Vanni and relics including her head. It also features several other works by Sienese Gothic painters and impressively high vaulted ceilings. It is quite close to the long-distance bus stop, so if you are going to or from Siena by bus and have the time even to briefly enter this house of prayer, do. Free entry.
- Basilica of San Francesco, Piazza San-Francesco 6. This Romanesque church was turned into a Gothic one and contains some notable Gothic art, including a moving fresco of the Crucifixion by Pietro Lorenzetti and one of the Martyrdom of Five Franciscan Brothers by his brother, Ambrogio.
- Birth House of St. Catherine of Siena (Santuario di Santa Caterina). In this house lived the 14th-century mystic who is one of the principal patron saints of Italy. If you are a devotee, it is natural to combine a visit here with a visit to San Domenico, but even if you are not a devotee, if you have the time, you are likely to find your visit interesting.
- Sant’Agostino, Piazza Sant’Agostino. Built as a Gothic church, it was damaged by fire in 1747 and was renovated with some Baroque additions and further added to in the 19th century. However, the main draws for the lover of paintings are from well before the fire and include an Enthroned Madonna with Child and Saints by the 14th-century Ambrogio Lorenzetti and a Crucifixion by the 15th-16th-century Perugino.
- Santa Maria dei Servi, Piazza Manzoni (About 650 m uphill from the Piazza del Campo, in the direction of the Porta Romana). This Romanesque church is much smaller than the huge edifices of the Duomo and San Domenico, but it contains some notable art including a Coronation of the Virgin and Saints by Bernardino Fungai, a Massacre of the Innocents attributed to Pietro Lorenzetti and collaborators and an Adoration of the Shepherds by Taddeo Di Bartolo.
- Fontebranda, Via di Fontebranda (150 m downhill from the Santuario di Santa Caterina). This Medieval fountain is the oldest in Siena, built in its current form in 1246 and remaining in place as itself, not a replica. Not surprisingly, it is somewhat worn and overgrown in places, but still impressive and beautiful, and would be a top sight in most other cities.
- Santa Maria della Scala, Piazza del Duomo 1 (Right across the piazza from the Duomo). M W 10:30-16:30; Th-Su 10:30-18:30. This Medieval hospital, now a museum, is chock-full of Medieval art including altarpieces by Bartolommeo Bulgarini and frescoes by the Lorenzetti brothers and Simone Martini. Also part of the complex (no additional admission charge) is the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, which exhibits some important archeological finds from the area, plus items from public and private collections of antiquities that are mostly from Siena and Chiusi. €9; reduced €8.
- Palio Horse Race. A horse race like nowhere else, between the 17 contrade of Siena, is run in The Campo of Siena on July 2 and August 16. All Sienese are affiliated with one of the contrade, to which a typical Sienese feels loyal with a strength perhaps surpassed only by their loyalty to their family. Since the 11th century, the Sienese have conducted festivals every year where the contrade compete for renown (and in times gone by, actual political power) through contests such as flag throwing, horse racing and even fist fights. The fist fights no longer happen (a heavy police presence in the weeks prior to the contest sees to that), but the spirit of competition between contrade is still fierce. The race itself is in late evening but the whole day of the race is taken up with processions through the streets of the various contrade competing in the particular race (only ten can compete at any time for safety reasons).
- Classical concerts during the summer at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana, and at various locations in the city during the Chigiana International Festival.
- Siena Jazz Festival. During summer.
Climb the “Torre del Mangia”, the tall bell tower overlooking the Piazza del Campo. There is an entrance fee (€8), and only 25 people are let in at a time, so there may be a wait. Not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic, it’s about a 300-step hike and you are obliged to leave bags and purses in a locker at the ticket desk inside the tower itself. The panoramic view is exhilarating and well worth the climb. (Excellent though different views of the city are also available from the ‘Panoramio’ by the cathedral, entry to which is purchased as part of the cathedral museum ticket. If you will be in Siena for a while, the two views are different enough to warrant seeing both.)
By all means, walk on the Banchi di Sopra and Via di Città above the Campo, but also in any other part of the centro storico. There are loads of beautiful buildings, big and small, delightful little piazette, fountains and contrada churches, and many views. Local life in the evening typically revolves around the passeggio, the nightly walk through town, which often includes some gelato, macedonia di frutta con gelato, or/and drinks at one end or the other. So do as the locals do and enjoy a walk through this beautiful city.
Tourist information is located in the Piazza del Campo.
Take a tour of an Etruscan tomb, visit a winery for a wine tasting, sample regional food, and visit a local village. There are many such tours available.
Siena is large enough still to have items made in the local area, stemming from its history of craftmanship, so you will find some items not readily available anywhere else. Fine paper, neckties, fabrics, embroidery/tapestry, glazed terracotta, gold jewelry, and of course local food and wine are some of the distinctive items produced locally.
There is a great shop on Via di Cittả with leather luggage, purses, bags, etc.
A huge market is held every Wednesday around the Fortezza Mediceana from about 07:00 to about 14:00.
Siena has popular stores such as Furla, United Colors of Benetton, Upim and Intimissimi.
Due to the city’s status as a major tourist attraction there are plenty of newsagents selling international papers and magazines. A good example is the shop opposite the church on Via San Marco in the Snail Contrada, which has a friendly and helpful multilingual owner, who also runs an internet access point.
- Olive Oil. If you have a car then you can drive out to the Montestigliano Olive estate 12 km outside the walls, perched high on a hill surrounded by olive trees. You can taste and buy their single estate, extra virgin olive oil (as well as a few other goodies) to take with you or have shipped. There is also a lovely courtyard where you can sit and enjoy a glass of wine and admire the view.
The wonderful Siena Jazz Music School is housed in the old fortress.
Siena is also well known for its Italian language schools and several prestigious universities.
- Saena Iulia, Via Monna Agnese 20. Monday to Friday 09:00-18:00. One of the better private schools in Siena that provide courses to people that want to learn Italian.
- Excellent gelato can be found just off the Campo at gelateria “Il Gelato”. Ask for Romaney.
- For something more substantial, “La Chiacchiera” next to the House of St Catherine is an excellent source of typical Tuscan cuisine; the pici (thick, homemade noodles) are superb.
- Osteria Nonna Gina, Piano dei Mantellini, 2. Tu-Su 12:30-14:30, 19:30-22:30. Outside the Due Porte.
- Osteria del Gatto, Via di San Marco, 8 (San Marco quarter) , ✉ email@example.com. Monday – Saturday 12:15-14:30, 19:45-22:00. Not far from the above Nonna Gina. Menu will be in Italian but the waiters and the cooks will be available for a translation “on the fly”. Fish is served one week a month. If you happen to be there in that week, don’t miss the “Tonno alla Mediterranea” (tuna fish in the Mediterranean way). €18-28.
- Trattoria la Torre, Via Salicotto, 7. F-W 12:00-15:00, 19:00-22:00. This is also an excellent restaurant, in the contrada of the same name.
- Osteria Sotto le Fonti, Via Esterna Fontebranda, 114. Restaurant off the beaten path, with owners who serve you personally; the waitress speaks fluently English (very rare in Italy) and knows how to recommend you wine, as she is also a wine tour guide. Is a pleasant walk downhill shortly outside the gates of the city, allowing you to look up at the top of the Duomo.
- Bar Pasticceria Nannini, Via Banchi di Sopra, 24. Monday to Friday 07:00-22:30, Sa Su 07:00-23:30. A bakery and cafe with an excellent selection of Tuscan pastries: Ricciarelli, Cavalucci, Cantucci, Panforte, etc. The ingredients of same are prominently displayed in most cases, making Nannini a very attractive option for the travelling vegan.
- Antica Osteria da Divo, Via Franciosa, 25. W-M 12:00-14:30, 19:00-22:30. Has a splendid atmosphere in a medieval undercroft environment and excellent Italian cuisine served in a decorative haute style.
Sienese specialties include:
- Panforte – a unique kind of dense cake, made of honey, flour, almonds, candied fruits, a secret blend of spices, etc. Tipo Margherita is the classic, but several other types are made. Panforte is commercially manufactured only in Siena and neighboring Monteriggioni, its loyal ally in Medieval wars with Florence. The most famous brand of panforte is Sapori. You can buy panforte most cheaply in local supermarkets, but don’t miss a trip to Nannini on Banchi di Sopra (see above), a pleasant caffé where you can buy not only their panforte by weight but also many other types of unusual pastries and so forth.
- Ricciarelli – small almond paste cakes.
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- Ristorante Sansedoni in Birreria (La Birreria), Piazza Il Campo, 58. Best priced drinks and food in Il Campo. Sit outside at a table in the central Piazza.
- Barone Rosso, Via Dei Termini N° 9. Great live music, but a bit on the seedy side.
- The Walkabout Pub, Via Pantaneto 90. Cool pub with Australian ambiance doing cool music.
Also, in the fortress is the excellent Enoteca Italiana, a wine bar and shop located in the fortress’ vaults. The Enoteca Italiana stocks an extensive selection of wines produced all through Italy.
Additionally, since Siena is in the Chianti country, you can buy bottles of good Chianti wines at any market that sells food and wine.
Where to stay in Siena
- Siena Colleverde, Strada di Scacciapensieri 47 (The campsite can be reached by taking bus 8 from the city centre and asking to be let off at camping Colleverde (the stop itself is actually quite near the entrance to the site, there’s a good and cheap pasticceria/bar nearby as well). You can walk but it’s quite strenuous to do so.) , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. About 3 km east from the city centre and up the hill from the rail station. It is quite a large campsite and has all the facilities and a swimming pool. As of 2012, you can rent cabins with toilet/shower for 2/3/4/5 persons (€65/80/105/115 per night, maybe cheaper when booked through traveling sites).
- Alternatively, you could camp at Montagnola, Strada della Montagnola 39, Sovicille , ✉ email@example.com. Beyond the small village of Sovicille about 12 km from Siena with regular bus connections. It’s a decent site with basic facilities but quite friendly and helpful staff.
- Agriturismo Monaciano, Tenuta di Monaciano, Ponte a Bozzone. Tuscany self catering accommodations in the Chianti hills 7 km from Siena with swimming pool, ping-pong and a romantic park. Monaciano has many farmhouses that may comfortably accommodate large families or large groups of friends.
- Santuario S. Caterina (Alma Domus), Via Camporegio, 37 , fax: . Run by a nunnery, this modest hotel near the Basilica di S. Domenico provides sanctuary to weary travellers. Curfew is 23:00. €60-90.
- La Villa di STR, Viale Vittorio Veneto, 11 , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 3-star hotel that offers free shuttle service for the Spa San Giovanni Rapolano Terme. €50-90.
- Albergo Bernini , ✉ email@example.com. Via della Sapienza n°15 (just down the street from San Domenico) (use Italian or simple English if you email) – dated but clean rooms in a tiny, centrally-located inn. A truly friendly older couple owns and runs it, and lives on the property (they leave their door open often). The great thing is the view of Siena – spectacular, as you look across the unobstructed valley and almost down at the Piazza del Campo and Duomo. The two rooms at the back have the view. They also have good tips on the best inexpensive dining, which is fabulous. At midnight they lock the doors and go to bed. Double with bath €85, without bath €65.
- Piccolo Hotel Etruria. Via Donzelle 3. You can’t beat the location; it’s just a couple of steps up from the Campo. Clean, renovated, has a nice common room with a small balcony right over Banchi di Sotto – the final leg of the route towards the Campo taken by the constant parades of the contrada which won the latest palio (these last for a few weekends after the event, and can mean a group of thoroughly drunk stragglers accompanied by costumed drummers and banner-wavers at 2 in the morning – this is not frowned upon by the locals); as you go up the stairs to the rooms there is also a display of the riding accessories of the Civetta, the small but very proud contrada where the hotel is located (it finally won the Palio in August of ’09 after waiting for more than 30 years, earning in the process the dubious distinction of being the nonna, or “Grandma”, as the contrada who haven’t won for the longest time). Doubles with bath around €90 in season; curfew at 01:00. Also, a slightly more downmarket cousin Tre Donzelle next door up at #5; a (smaller, more spartan) room will run you €10-15 cheaper. Skip the restaurant in the basement, unless you are after the heavily promoted barrel-vault interior; food is unexceptional and overpriced.
- NH Excelsior. Piazza La Lizza. Situated inside the walls, the NH Excelsior is elegant and pleasant, and has easy access to the city’s main attractions. The hotel, which has been completely refurbished, has 129 rooms all of which offer comfort and a modern design. From €100.
- The Hotel Minerva. Via Garibaldi, 72, inside the walls of Siena. There are 59 bedrooms with bathrooms, phone, color TV, safe deposit box, air conditioning, fridge-bar, laundry service, fast internet facility. The bedrooms have a view of old Siena. A meeting room is available. Garage. Ten minutes’ walk from Piazza del Campo. 500 meters from the Railway Station.
- Le Meridiane, Via Fracassi 3 , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Le Meridiane is across the valley from the city center and provides a lovely view of Siena, which can be reached by bus, by taxi or (during daylight and with good shoes) by foot. Several types of unit are available for a range of prices. A small kitchen is provided, and parking is available.
- Borgo Grondaie , fax: . Strada delle Grondaie, 15. A typical farmhouse hotel with swimming pool. It offers a selection of studio apartments and en-suite rooms in a country and friendly atmosphere.
- Chiostro del Carmine , fax: . Via della Diana 4. 4-star hotel located in historical residence, Siena center. Rooms from €99.
- Montaperti Hotel. About 7 km east of Siena, close to the SS73 highway. Situated in the middle of a rural landscape next to a vineyard and a small village. Perfect if you have access to a car, easy to get in to and out from Siena.
- Villa Agostoli, Strada degli Agostoli, 107 , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. Beautiful holiday house pet friendly with pool and vacation rental apartments near Siena.
- Hotel Italia, Viale Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, 67 , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 3-star hotel. The hotel has a Love Room for romantic moments.
- Hotel Garden, Via Custoza, 2 , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. 4-stars hotel with restaurant, outdoor pool and panoramic terrace. With Hotel Italia and Villa Agostoli, the Hotel Garden is one of the hotels in Siena of the company Siena Inns.
- Borgo Scopeto Relais. Beautiful 4-star hotel and restaurant immersed in vineyards and olive groves of the Tuscan countryside 12 km from Siena. Also does weddings and meetings.
- Il Boschetto – 4 km from Siena, 9-room villa with pool, private garden, large living room with open fireplace, satellite-TV and video, 5 large bedrooms.
- Campo Regio Relais. A bed and breakfast-style hotel, renovated in 2005, in the historical center of Siena, with amazing view onto the old town.
- Residence “Villa Il Borghetto”, Str. dei Tufi, 64 , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Splendid aristocratic residence originating from the early 1600s, in the countryside, ten minutes’ drive from the historical centre of Siena. It incorporates eight spacious apartments, which may host up to seven persons. It is complemented by the Dependence, a holiday home to the same standard. Each of the eight spacious apartments is a synthesis of comfort, elegant style, traditional taste and modern functionality.
There are many bus and train connections from Siena to other interesting places in Tuscany. Consider the following for day trips: the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore in Chiusure, and the towns of San Gimignano, Pienza, Arezzo, Montepulciano, Montalcino, Lucignano, Monteriggioni, and Pisa. Florence is another obvious place to visit. And of course, there is the Chianti country that virtually surrounds Siena and is known worldwide for its wine.
Further afield, there are bus and train connections to Rome and various locations in Umbria.
In addition, there are hot springs in Tuscany, which are popular with Italians and indeed have been enjoyed for thousands of years:
- Chianciano Terme
- Bagni San Filippo
- Rapolano Terme
- Montepulciano Terme
Lombardy Coronavirus Covid-19 Update – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Italy
Lombardy or Lombardia is a northern region of Italy, and with 10 million people is the most populous one. Producing 1/5th of Italy’s GDP, it is also the mightiest economically. Geographically, Lombardy encompasses both Alps and Prealps in the north, and relatively flat plains in the south along the river Po and its tributaries. Between them there are many scenic lakes, and the alpine backdrop makes even the low-lying cities picturesque and the air rather fresh.
- I Cities
- II Other destinations
- III Understand
- IV Get in
- V Get around
- VI What to see in
- VII Do
- VIII Eat
- IX Drink
- X Where to stay in Lombardy
- XI Stay safe in Lombardy
- XII Go next
- XIII Current Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
- XIV Timeline of Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
Lombardy is heavily industrialized, although most of the industry is actually not heavy, but rather mid-sized specialized machinery-building and other assembly and engineering firms, as well as consumer industries such as foodstuffs and apparel. The regional capital, Milan, is Italy’s second-largest city and the foremost centre of commerce and a global fashion capital. Smaller cities also have considerable economic might, and have had so for many centuries, hence Lombardy is the region of Italy with the most UNESCO World Heritage List sites – and simply, a lot of history and scenic views to explore and enjoy.
- Lombardian Alps and Prealps (provinces of Bergamo, Brescia and Sondrio)
- Lake Como (provinces of Como and Lecco)
- Southern Lombardy (provinces of Cremona, Lodi, Mantova and Pavia)
- Grande Milano (provinces of Milan and Monza and Brianza)
- Milan (Milano, the capital of the province) – shares with Paris the title of fashion capital of the world, and is Italy’s second city.
- Bergamo – a fairytale pastel-coloured city perched atop a hillside, and the gate to Bergamo Alps
- Brescia – a major industrial powerhouse since the Ancient Roman times, and a UNESCO World Heritage List
- Como – the city that gave the name to the popular lake
- Cremona – home of Stradivarius violins, but also a wealth of ornate romanesque architecture
- Lecco – a little and charming city situated on Como’s lake.
- Mantua (Italian: Mantova) – the Ducal Palace has a cycle of frescoes by Mantegna that no art lover should miss.
- Sondrio – the northernmost provincial capital situated amidst alpine mountain ranges
- Varese – capital of the namesake province full of lakeside resorts, just 30 minutes from Malpensa airport
- The magnificent lakes of Lake Como – take boat trips in the shadow of the Alps to the picturesque villages of Bellagio, Varenna and Tremezzo – Lake Maggiore, Lake Garda and Lake Lugano.
- The tiny village of Erbusco, home of the award-winning wines of Franciacorta and L’Albereta, the country inn of Gualtiero Marchesi, one of Italy’s premier chefs
- The peninsula of Sirmione, on the south shore of Lake Garda
- The Caves of Catullo, an archaeological site of a former Roman villa situated on the tip of the Sirmione peninsula
- The Sirmione Spa, the largest privately owned thermal treatment centre in Italy
- Val Camonica : UNESCO heritage site, medieval towns, castles, holy art in churches, roman sanctuary and theatre/amphitheatre, ski sports.
- Oltrepò Pavese : Wine region in the utmost southern part of Lombardy, 70km from Milan, part of the Pavia province, medieval towns, castles, stunning views.
The Longobardis occupied the Peninsula in the 6th century, and the territory has been named after them ever since.
Lombardy is a prosperous region with fertile soil and a temperate climate. As in Piedmont, the Po Valley is the site of much heavy industry. High mountains in the north, marking Italy’s frontier with Switzerland, provide excellent skiing and climbing.
Three of Italy’s four busiest airports are in Lombardy:
- Milan Malpensa Airport is an intercontinental airport, and Italy’s second aviation hub after Rome Fiumicino. It has multiple direct connections to Africa, Asia and North America, as well as across Europe, where it is served by both full-service and low-fare carriers.
- Milano Linate is Milan’s city airport, served by business-oriented flights to European major commercial centres, as well as a dense Italian domestic network.
- Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport is served almost exclusively by low-fare carriers, taking advantage of its proximity to both Milan and the Alps.
Despite only Linate being in the city and province of Milan, all three airports are marketed as serving the city. One can easily get to other destinations in the province from them, without necessarily changing in Milan. There is also a small airport in Brescia, which in recent years has seen next to no scheduled traffic.
Travel by train to Lombardy
Road and train links connect the region with Switzerland. As Switzerland is not part of the EU, there is a possibility that you will be delayed by checks at the border, although these are infrequent and usually not rigorous. Remember your passport.
There is a relatively dense railway network connecting cities and towns in Lombardy, although the layout is intricate and getting from one place to another may not be straightforward. You should be able to reach your destination within 1 or 2 hours by train. Otherwise, buses and minibuses link important destinations, especially those popular with tourists. Hubs are usually in regional centres, as well as near major railway stations and airports; you can try to change there if there are no direct connections. Regional train network is entirely managed by Trenord.
Regione Lombardia offers a good travel planner that lets you query the whole public transportation system.
If you plan to travel a lot, it might be worth buying a io viaggio ovunque in Lombardia pass ticket. Those tickets let you travel without limit on the entire public transport system in Lombardy, including regional trains, buses and city public transportation systems, but excluding some ferry boat lines. Although expensive, they can easily be a cheaper option than regular tickets if you travel long distances. Passes are sold at railway stations (at ticket box or automatic vending machines) and at ATM automatic vending machines. You can buy 1, 2, 3 or 7 day passes (16€, 27€, 32.5€, 43€ respectively – February 2020).
The railway company Trenord offers some good travel packages, under the Trenord Free Time name. The package usually includes a ticket to an attraction or a trip proposal and a train ticket to get to the destination. Most of them are really useful only if you depart from Milan. It’s worth to take a look at the offers as they can also suggest you some new or lesser known itinerary that you may like.
As the Autostrada A4 runs across Lombardy, with the road system radiating from its junctions, you can get around by car as well. The A4 frequently gets congested though and traffic jams can be long and excruciating, especially around Milan. Be aware that Italians drive fast and make no allowances for foreigners, so be sure you are OK with keeping up with the traffic and occasional displays of impatience from other drivers.
Milan, Bergamo and Brescia have efficient and extensive public transportation systems.
What to see in
- Milan Fashion Weeks draw crowds of fashionistas to Milan every year.
- La Scala in Milan is a mecca for opera aficionados.
- You can enjoy water sports or more relaxed boating on the lakes.
- The Alps offer opportunities for hiking or skiing.
Lombardy’s most famous culinary inventions are minestrone soup and osso buco (literally “ox knuckles”). To the west of Milan lie miles of rice fields, where the rice for risotto alla milanese is grown. Other typical dishes of the area include salumi (cold cuts) and polenta.
As in many other areas of Northern Italy, the aperitivo (pre-meal drink with appetisers, for which a small supplement might be charged) is very popular.
The wineries in Franciacorta, around Erbusco, produce many excellent wines. The region has been elevated to the status of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita). Other remarkable zones for wine are Oltrepò Pavese (which is the zone around Pavia on the south banks of Po river) and the countrysides around Garda Lake.
Valtellina also produces excellent wines, famous for their strong taste and flavour.
As every big city in the world, Milan has also many high quality restaurants, wine bars and Enoteche (wine store) where you can find high class wines from all over the world.
Where to stay in Lombardy
Large cities, like Milan, Bergamo or Brescia, are important business centres, so they have sizeable bases of business-oriented hotels. They are local hubs with connections to destinations within their provinces, and getting between them is also reasonably quick via a variety of means of transportation (trains, express buses or cars across the A4). Do note that accommodation in Milan is generally expensive, and prices skyrocket during major events or fairs, such as the Milan Fashion Week.
Destinations along the lines of the lakes, as well as those in the Alps, are popular with tourists, so you will find a variety of accommodation options there, from luxurious resort hotels to simple B&Bs.
While Milan features many of the usual tourist traps and con acts, as well as sizeable number of pickpockets due to the number of tourists there, other destinations are generally safe, and you can feel secure and welcome there. Do note, however, that in case you need to contact the police they can have very limited English skills and also may not be able to help foreigners much.
To the east is Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto, to the south is Emilia-Romagna and Piedmont is to the south and west. Switzerland lies to the north.
Current Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
Timeline of Covid-19 Infections in Italy, Lombardy
Lake Garda Coronavirus Covid-19 Update – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Veneto
Lake Garda is a lake in the north of Italy, and the surrounding region. It is a popular holiday location.
- I Understand
- II Cities
- III Talk
- IV Get in
- V Get around
- VI See
- VII Do
- VIII Eat
- IX Where to Drink at Lake Garda
- X Where to stay at Lake Garda
- XI Stay safe at Lake Garda
- XII Lake Garda Photo Gallery
- XIII Go next
The lake is situated at the border of the Po river plain, with the north part stretching into the mountains.
The north of the lake seems to be more suitable for the people who enjoy a quiet, peaceful holiday, but a bell rings from the Northern most town of Riva Del Garda often early in the morning. The south has a theme park and a few man-made beaches so is for the more outgoing, adventurous person.
Lake Garda map
There is a handful of small towns scattered all around Lake Garda. Some of the towns from the north clockwise to north-west are:
- In Trentino-Alto Adige
- Riva del Garda
- In Veneto
- Malcesine – for Monte Baldo – a ski resort in winter, and trekking site in summer
- Brenzone sul Garda
- Torri del Benaco
- Garda – among its attractions: Villa Albertini – one of the most splendid villas on the lake
- Bardolino – a home for homonymous vines
- Lazise – a small picturesque town with a tiny old harbour and a medieval castle
- Peschiera del Garda – see an old Austrian fortress, and the river Mincio – the main outlet of the lake
- In Lombardy
- Sirmione – located on the peninsula to the south is has a 13th-century castle and the ruins of a Roman villa, attributed by some to the famous Roman poet Catullus
- Desenzano del Garda – the largest town on the lake. It has good ferry connections to other destinations on the lake
- Salò – is a nice lake-side town notoriously known for being a capital of the Republic of Salò at the end of WWII
- Gardone Riviera – a small town known for Vittoriale – an eccentric (like its former owner) estate of Gabriele d’Annunzio with a large park. Giardino André Heller is another place worth a visit.
- Limone sul Garda – gets its name from lemons! Lemon trees grow throughout it, and is a lovely view
NB: Bear in mind that the town of Riva del Garda at the north tip of the lake is different from Garda, which is near the other end of the lake.
All people speak Italian as a first language but basic English is known. Many locals also speak fluent German as this area is a popular tourism destination for Germans and Austrians. As with anywhere in the world, it is good manners to learn some basic phrases in Italian.
Fly to Lake Garda
Verona Airport is the nearest airport, located 15km away to the south. Brescia-Montichiari is 30km to the south-west. Bergamo airport is 80km away. Milan Linate Airport, Milan Malpensa Airport and Venice airports are 100km away. Brescia-Montichiari is served by charter flights, while the others have many regular connections.
Cheap Flights to Verona
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Palma de Mallorca
Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda are the closest railway stations on the South of the lake. The closest station on the North is Rovereto.
- Nothern shore is connected by a number of bus services with Trento and other destinations in Trentino including the railway station of Rovereto. But also some buses from the eastern and western shores arrive to Riva del Garda, Arco, Nago-Torbole.
- Eastern shore is mainly served by ATV Verona. In Verona buses towards destinations on the lake leave from the railway station Porta Nuova or from Corso Porta Nuova (the boulevard just south of Piazza Bra). It takes about 2–3 hours, depending on lakeside traffic (which can be heavy), to reach pretty towns of Malcesine or Torbole. Get a timetable (orario) from the tourist office. Tickets can be bought from a tobacco shop down the road or on the bus.
- Western shore is covered by Trasporti Brescia. In Brescia buses towards the lake depart from Autostazione SAIA. For schedules check Arriva site or use a route planner at the Muoversi in Lombardia.
- A few locations at the south could be also reached by bus from Mantua.
Perhaps this is the most convenient kind of transportation for the locations along the lake shores. Gestione Navigazione Laghi provides regular ferry services in the area. A fast ferry takes about 2½ hours to cross the lake from the South to North. For schedules and tariffs check their online search service or get a schedule from the download page.
A car ferry connects Torri del Benaco at the E shore of the lake with Toscolano-Maderno at its W shore. In summer another car ferry connects Malcesine with Limone sul Garda.
Boat taxis are also available. Perhaps it’s a better option than a regular taxi, as the later one will cost you more money and it will take longer to travel.
See Get in section for connections by bus around the lake.
Rental bike service companies, easy biking itineraries at Garda Lake Region. The northern part of Lake Garda offers Europe’s probably most spectacular offroad trips, mostly on rough military roads from the First World War. Riva del Garda is a fine starting point, with trips ranging from easy to the most demanding and rewarding, like Tremalzo.
At the Isola del Garda
There are many historical places and buildings around the lake. The architectural style is mostly traditional Italian vernacular, which is very picturesque. There are also many classical-style churches, grand houses and castles. There is a large church is located at the northernmost end of the lake.
- Isola del Garda (near S. Felice del Benaco, just a short boat trip from Salò and Gardone Riviera). only by guided tours, see tours schedule. It’s a private island with a villa and a beautiful garden. €27 – €35 (including a boat trip).
Peddle boats or peddlos are available to rent throughout the lake although there are boundaries you must stick to as you are given a certain amount of time and that life guards are regular throughout the water.
In Malcesine take a cableway to Monte Baldo. Beautiful views can be seen from the top, and a small shop/restaurant is there. For those who get a re-instated fear of heights going up at the start, fear not, as there is a halfway stop.
In Bardolino you can visit the Zeni Winery and Wine Museum, to see the museum, and then, of course, buy some wine.
In Sirmione try famous sulphur springs or enjoy its beaches.
On the south of the lake in the vicinity of Peschiera del Garda there is big theme park Gardaland. It is a theme park for everybody, whether it be thrill-seekers, kids at heart, or just stressed out parents.
As per usual, fine Italian cuisine is sold. This consists of pasta, pizza and many other traditional Italian dishes. But other options are available such as German, American and British style foods. Italian ice-cream is fresh and homemade- great for those who have a sweethtooth. Ice-cream shops are common, with some sprouting out of shops and restaurants. Some “gelato” (ice-cream-like treat usually made in the shop) shops have 50+ flavors. Smaller shops with only a half dozen flavors might be more enjoyable. These seem to focus on the flavors they offer, and making the decision on which flavor to choose will take much less time. Breakfast is not the same as English or American breakfasts so be careful when you ask for full board. Breakfast at Le Paul in Sirmione, has English and American style foods. They even offer cereal.
Where to Drink at Lake Garda
Always drink plenty of water or other fluids as weather can be very warm.
One of the most popular summer drinks in the area is the Aperol Spritz. Obtained by mixing Aperol, Prosecco wine and sparkling water. Usually served in a glass with ice cubes, and a straw. Can be garnished with a slice of orange, and served with green olives.
Where to stay at Lake Garda
Many shops have outdoor stands and stalls, even if a shop is indoors, so always carry the receipt with you. Bag theft is not uncommon as in theme parks, lines often have a bag drop off point, which in turn is left unattended. If your bag is stolen it is usually left in the street with just your wallet or camera/phone stolen.
Lake Garda Photo Gallery
Veneto Coronavirus Covid-19 Update – Cases Quarantine Deaths Stats to Italy
Veneto is a region in north-eastern Italy, with its capital in Venice. It was an independent republic until the invasion of Napoleon in 1797.
- Venice – with St. Mark’s Square, the Great Lagoon, the gondolas on the Grand Canal, Venice’s Carnival together with great architecture, artistic masterpieces, particular narrow streets, the Biennale, the Marine Republic, but Veneto is not only Venice.
- Castelfranco Veneto – is a walled city, with its medieval castle still in nearly-perfect condition.
- Cortina d’Ampezzo – in the province of Belluno, is part of the Veneto as well. A place with spectacular views of the South Tyrol where you can relax and walk in summer and go skiing in winter. The Olympic Wintergames in 1956 helped Cortina d’Ampezzo to become a city known anywhere in the world.
- Padua , the ancient and learned city with its Basilica del Santo that houses the relics of Saint Antonio is one of the major attraction points for millions of pilgrims every year.
- Verona – The city of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. If you plan to go to Verona you should at least try to get one of the rare tickets for the opera in the Arena.
- Lido 10 minutes from Venice, the golden beach
- Bibione – seaside town
- Eraclea – seaside town close to Jesolo
- Jesolo – large seaside town near to Venice
- Quarto d’Altino – situated about 15 minutes, by train, from Venice’s main island
- Valpolicella – world famous wine region north of Verona
- Lake Garda- the largest Italian lake, and a well known tourism destination
Get a map of Venice with the water bus routes. You can see major parts of the city just by getting on and traveling the canals around the major islands.
Just sit in St Marks Square and watch the pigeons, listen to the music, watch the people go by.
The Venetian glass is beautiful.
Be careful about the time of year you go to see Venice. It is under water some times. Planks are put out to walk when the sidewalks are not walkable. If you go the right time of the year, it is a beautiful city and well worth the trip.
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