Siena is another one of the underrated places in Italy. It should definitely be considered when planning your Italy itinerary. It makes for a great day trip from Florence for example if you’re short on time, so very little excuse not to seek it out. This Tuscan hill town is worthy and is for sure one of the best medieval cities in the Tuscan region. Here are 12 reasons to visit Siena, especially in the fall. It has a lot in common with Perugia, another lovely city we liked a whole lot.
12 Reason To Visit Siena In The Fall:
1) Weather is awesome
Siena weather in the fall is fabulous. We visited at the end of September and wore tee-shirts during the day as you can see in the first picture. The temperature was a pleasant 74 degrees on average during the day. At night, it dipped to the high 50’s so a light jacket is recommended. October weather is still nice with a slight drop to mid 60’s. November, it dips even lower to mid 50’s but there is usually some rain, so keep that in mind. You miss the intense heat of summer, and that is always a god thing.
2) Crowds are less
Yeah! Traveling to Siena off season means less crowds and for me, screaming kids because they are back in school. The lines for restaurants, museums etc. are much shorter. After our fiasco with Sintra, Portugal, I have vowed not to visit places at the height of tourist season, and certainly not in Italy.
3) Museums are plentiful
For such a small compact city, Siena has quite a few excellent museums. Some of the most famous ones include Complesso Museale Santa Maria della Scala, Palazzo Public and Museo Civico, Pinacoteca Nazionale and the curious Museo della Tortura which has an interesting array of torture devices. Not for the faint of heart l’ve heard.
4) The Siena Cathedral (Duomo)
The word that comes to mind is stunning when you see this cathedral. Despite being a bit jaded, I was still wowed by the looks of this Duomo that reminds me so much of the ones in Florence and Milan. A skip the line tour is highly recommended if you want to discover this Gothic medieval church because there were still long lines. I’m sorry we skipped this and hope to rectify on our next visit. We met a couple on their way out who told us that the Piccolomini Library alone was worth the entry price. They were duly impressed.
5) Siena Wednesday Market
Also called the Mercato dela Lizza (for the area), this Wednesday morning market is a great place to catch a glimpse of life in Siena as the locals go about their day, shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables. Other things to buy include fish, meat, kitchen supplies, antiques and vintage clothes. It reminds me of the Campo di Fiori market in Rome.
6) Piazza del Campo
The piazza del Campo is the place to be in the historic centre of Siena. Considered to be one of the very best squares in Europe, not to mention one of the most beautiful. Did you know the historic centre of Siena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 1995, and deservedly so.
Shaped like a shell, the piazza contains architectural gems like the Torre del Mangia tower from which you can get a spectacular view of Siena, the Fonte Gaia (Fountain of the World) which was previously used to bring water into the city centre and Palazzo Public, a former palace transformed into the seat of government.
You might recognise the piazza from the James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace which featured a Palio race. The Palio de Siena is a horse race where ten riders riding bareback and representing ten of the 17 wards in Siena vie for the drappellone (banner), which the locals call “the rag”. Amazing that this very popular race which takes place in the summer on July 2 and August 16th yearly only lasts about 75 seconds! But hey.. .bragging rights for a year. Check out this awesome list of other movies with Italy settings. (so many awesome ones, like Come, September).
7) Truffles are in season
The Tuscan region is known for truffles as they grow in abundance in the area. Fall is truffle season as these fungi grow underground in hills covered with pine nuts, hazelnuts, oak trees and the like. There are pricey but fantastic truffle hunting tours that one can take to understand more if you really like truffle.
We settled for visiting a store called Siena Tartufi very close to the piazza del Campo in lieu of the hunt. A small store that sells a huge variety of truffle infused goodies such as olive oil, potato chips, dips and what seemed like a hundred different food items. It was a very popular destination as they had samples out and people were gorging :-).
We did buy a small jar of truffle cheese spread (that we finished even before getting back to Rome), some white truffle spray as well as a jar of black truffle that we made some pasta with upon our return to Rome. Delicious! I wish l could have tasted the chips..but l couldn’t get anywhere near the sample dish! People!!! :-)
8) Wine is always good
Wine in Tuscany is a given. Chianti Classico is probably the most well known wine variety from the region. It is a young wine that is excellent with just about every dish and very tasty and reasonably priced. There are so many varieties of wine from the Tuscan region, including the Brunelli di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
A wine tasting experience should be considered as part of your Tuscan trip. We made do with a nice bottle of Chianti from the Il Battistero to take back with us one of several wine shops in the centre (and attached to the hotel) who were eager to share their knowledge of wine with us. They also offer wine tasting in the cave.
9) Tuscan Cuisine is top notch
Tuscan cuisine is hearty and utterly delicious. Some of the best food to try in Siena are:
- Pappardelle sulla lepre (pasta with hare sauce)
- Ribollitta – Tuscan vegetable and bread soup. I saw the waiter taking this to a table and asked wha it was and he explained it was a Tuscan food that takes three days to make. Meaning leftover, it is made from minestrone that is made and eaten as is on the first day. The next day, the leftover soup is covered with plain or garlic bread layers, kind of like a lasagna, and then baked with red onions. The last (3rd) day the, leftovers is boiled again to make the hearty soup. It sounded so good, I demanded one, only to be told that was the last serving :-(.
- Fagipoli all’uccelletto
I love this! This beans and sausage dish is usually a side order, but l am not ashamed to say l had it as my main meal and have since had Fede make it for me at home since we got back. It is so delicious.
Pasta of any kind with sauces
Try it with lamb, wild boar..whatever. Just try it. They are all good! Some Siena restaurants we recommend are Bar Nannini Posta (for light sandwiches and gelato), and the family owned Bar Osteria II Bargello which was my absolute favourite.
10) Hand Crafted Leather Goods
Leather is another thing that Tuscany and Siena is known for. You can purchase amazing handcrafted leather goods at any of the stores in the centre. The prices are pretty reasonable too and be like me, and haggle a bit. They will knock off some $$ off. I’ve been using my new handbag on a daily basis and it’s starting to get that special feel that l love so much. For sure it would cost at least three times as much of what l paid in the U.S. I know handbags, they are my Kryptonite. Victory dance.
11) Medieval Siena Cityscape
Small tiny streets that beckon you to discover them, pedestrian only zone that makes walking very lovely, gorgeous views everywhere. What’s not to like? We didn’t mind getting lost when searching for a pizzeria that every local kept saying was just a “five minute walk” that was more like 30! and people watching.
Must eat in all of Italy, and definitely in Siena. Homemade gelato is a nice way to finish off the day… Everyday!
Where to stay in Siena?
We can highly recommend the residence attached to the above mentioned wine shop at the base of the Duomo :-). Historic and has plenty of stories to tell. Price was about $120 per night converted.
Is Siena worth visiting?
Yes. It most definitely is. An absolutely gorgeous and compact city that deserves its UNESCO designation. I would visit again for sure.
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Have you been to Italy? If so, was Siena one of your destinations? Did you like it? can you think of any more reasons to visit Siena? If not, would you like to visit Siena?