Five of the best attractions for sightseeing in Siena

22nd April, 2016
Along with Florence and Pisa, Siena makes up a trinity of great Tuscan cities, with its own wealth of amazing history, culture and architecture. Whether you’re spending your whole holiday at one of our Siena villas or just paying a fleeting visit to see the sights of this wonderful city, Siena has plenty to offer. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, here are some of the landmarks and attractions that have helped make Siena the culturally and historically important city it has been acknowledged as.

Piazza del Campo

The main square located in the heart of the city, the Piazza del Campo is best known for being home to the world famous Palio horse races. These races take place in July and August every year, with bareback riders from ten of Siena’s 17 districts competing for glory. During the rest of the year, the Piazza is still just as great to visit, surrounded by beautiful buildings as well as the Fonte Gaia and grand palazzi signorili (mansion houses).

Siena Cathedral

Welcoming more than a million visitors every year, it’s no surprise that Siena’s cathedral is so popular – it is home to some of the most important monuments in Europe. Comprised of the Duomo Vecchio (Old Cathedral) and the Duomo Nuovo (New Cathedral), some of the attractions found within the cathedral complex include the crypt, baptistery and the Museo dell’Opera.

Biblioteca Piccolomini

The Biblioteca Piccolomini is one of the many parts of Siena’s cathedral, built in 1492 by the Archbishop of Siena, who later became Pope Pius III, in order to preserve the vast collection of books and manuscripts collected by his uncle, Pope Pius II, for future generations. Painted by Renaissance artists Pinturicchio, Aspertini and a young Raphael, the interior of the library is truly remarkable, decorated with thousands of frescoes as well as painted ceilings.

Abbazia di San Galgano

Although technically this abbey lies outside of Siena’s city walls, making the visit here is certainly well worth the effort. Only its walls are still standing, though the absence of a roof actually helps to emphasise the beauty of the architectural structure. The abbey dates back to the 12th century, and was built in hour of St Galgano, who lived as a hermit on the abbey’s hillside in the years leading up to his death. Legend has it that he turned a sword into a cross by driving it through a boulder, and in the abbey’s rotunda, you can see a corroded sword protruding from a cracked rock in tribute to this.

Torre del Mangia

Located in the Piazza del Campo alongside many other attractions, the Torre del Mangia is hard to miss, as it stands over 290 feet high. Built in 1325 by Minuccio and Francesco di Rinaldo, the tower is just as impressive to see from the ground as it is from the top, sporting the Chapel of the Piazza at its base. Its main appeal, however, comes from climbing the tower’s steps to reap the rewards from the top; fantastic sweeping views looking out for miles across the city.

Image: Steve Jurvetson, available under Creative Commons