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What to see in Siena: practical tips for visiting

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We had already been to Siena several years ago on a romantic getaway, when we were a carefree couple with no children in tow, and we loved it.

Siena is a truly enchanting medieval fortified town, with an intimate historic center that is almost entirely pedestrian friendly, so you could say it is a child-friendly city.

On our last on-the-road tour that took us from Genoa to Umbria, we decided to make several stops in Tuscany, including Siena.

In this article, you will find practical tips for visiting Siena also with children, with an explanation of the main attractions and an indication of where to park and sleep.

Where to park in Siena

Outside the walls that enclose the historic center of Siena, near the city gates, there are a variety of paid public parking lots and the rates are approximately € 2.00/hour or € 35.00 for the whole day.

Theoretically, it is not possible to enter the historic center by car unless you stay overnight inside the walls → the camera will take the picture but the hotel will arrange for the fine to be taken down by communicating the license plate number.

I said theoretically because in reality there is parking inside the walls that you can access without being caught by the cameras!

Where to park inside the walls of Siena without getting a ticket

We explain where to park inside the walls of Siena without getting a ticket. The parking was recommended to us by the hotel so it is perfectly “legal.”

It simply remains unknown to most many because effectively who is the fool who goes into the ZTL zone unless specifically directed by someone local.

The directions are as follows:

  • set on the navigator parking via Mascagni and follow the directions entering inside the walls EXCLUSIVELY from Porta San Marco because only in this stretch there are no cameras;
  • check that the navigator from Porta San Marco leads you to the parking lot via via del Nuovo Asilo via Paolo Mascagni (it is about 500 meters);
  • remember to ALWAYS AND ONLY exit from Porta San Marco and not from other doors even if they remain closer to the parking lot (like the Laterina).

The parking lot is not huge and it is metered but remains really strategically located for visiting the historic center.

Where to park for free in Siena

Near the Fortezza Medicea and more specifically on Via Vittorio Veneto, so about a twenty-minute walk from the historic center, there is a small free parking lot.

Near the Laterina Gate, outside the walls, there is a small free parking lot located on Via Laterino.

Where to park for a fee in Siena

As indicated earlier, there are public paid parking lots near each Gateway but they are few and there is a risk of not finding a space.

On Via Baldassarre Perruzzi, there is the San Francesco Parking lot, which is very large and also convenient because it is a short walk from the escalators leading to the historic center.

What to see in Siena

In Siena we began our sightseeing by wandering aimlessly, admiring the typical stores and savoring the medieval atmosphere.

Every glimpse of the historic center is delightful.

historic center
typical store
what to see in siena

Strolling in the historic center of Siena

There are 17 neighborhoods in Siena as well as the number of contrade, and each neighborhood has its own heraldic coat of arms and organization.

If your child is a little older, it might be fun to try to recognize together the coats of arms of the contrade found just about everywhere within the neighborhood.

contrade
what to see in siena
flags

Our visit to Siena, took place a few days before the famous Palio di Siena and all the neighborhoods were festively preparing.

We attended several rehearsals and the girls had a great time watching the flags flutter to the drum roll!

The advice if, like us, you are visiting Siena on the days of the Palio and are staying overnight inside the walls, is to make sure you can enter with your car for loading/unloading luggage and parking.

We, for example, followed the route that our hotel recommended but, just on the occasion of the Palio, they had changed the road system and only by a whisker did we not get a big fine.

Finally, in your Sienese walk, you cannot miss a stop at Piazza dei Salimbeni, also called Piazza del Monte, because it is home to the historic Monte dei Paschi bank.

At this point, we went in search of the city’s main attractions, all of which are close by and easily walkable even with small children.

What to do in Siena

Duomo of Siena

duomo of siena
what to see in siena

The Duomo – or Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta – is one of the must-see places to visit in Siena with children.

The cathedral is truly majestic and holds precious jewels inside. In the nave on the left is the Piccolomini Library, followed by the chapel of the same name in which Michelangelo sculpted the four statues inside.

From the cathedral is access to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, which houses a variety of works from throughout the diocese of the city of Siena.

Opposite the cathedral, on the other hand, is the Antico Ospedale di Santa Maria alla Scala, one of the first hospitals in Europe, which arose to accommodate pilgrims passing through Siena who continued on to Rome via the Via Francigena.

Santa Maria alla Scala was used as a city hospital until 1999 and today houses the Giuliano Briganti Library and Photo Library, The Art Museum where there are interesting workshops for children, and the Archaeological Museum.

If you have time, a visit to the monumental complex of the Duomo, of which the Cathedral, Piccolomini Library, Heaven’s Gate, New Cathedral with Facciatone and Crypt, and Baptistery are part, could easily take half a day.

Siena Cathedral Entrance Ticket: OPA SI PASS

There are two types of admission tickets to visit Siena Cathedral:

☛ one provides entry only to the Duomo and the Piccolomini Library and costs €9.00 – Buy here.

☛ the other is the OPA SI PASS and provides entry to the entire Siena Cathedral complex; it costs €17.80 – Buy here.

Piazza del Campo

torre del mangia
piazza del campo

Piazza del Campo is located in the heart of the historic center and is surrounded by the most important historic buildings in the city of Siena, such as the Palazzo Pubblico which contains the treasures of the Civic Museum inside.

It has a distinctive pavement made of red bricks that form a shell divided into 9 segments in honor of the 9 Lords who ruled the city.

Piazza del Campo was built in 1300 with the purpose of containing all the inhabitants of Siena during political and social events.

In the center of the square, towers the Fonte Gaia i.e., the fountain that has guaranteed water to the citizens since the mid-1300s, thanks to the famous spoils.

Siena, in fact, was not built near a river but on top of hills, and in order to have potable water, it became necessary to build aqueducts (bottini) underground that harnessed rainwater.

Take some time to pause in Piazza del Campo, admiring the buildings, the fountain, the peculiar gently sloping shell shape, amidst the hubbub of the many tourists who, like you, will be enraptured by this unique atmosphere.

Piazza del Campo: Palio di Siena

At Piazza del Campo, twice a year on July 2 and August 16, the Palio di Siena, the famous horse race, is run.

It is a medieval festival that is felt really strongly by every Sienese.

What to see in Siena: Torre del Mangia

torre del mangia

If you have time and breath, you cannot miss the walk up the Torre del Mangia, which at 87 meters high – and 400 steps – is one of the tallest towers in Italy.

The entrance fee is €10.00 and cannot be purchased in advance. It is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day and during weather alerts.

There is a cumulative ticket with the Museo Civico (Palazzo Pubblico) and costs €13.00 per person.

Children’s playground in Siena

Right in the historic center, on Via Sant’Agata (near the Church of Sant’Agostino), there is a small playground with a slide and swing, in a very scenic location.

A much larger playground, recommended to us at the hotel, is located inside the Fortezza Medicea and remains about a 20-minute walk from the center.

Children's playground in via Sant'Agata
Children’s playground in via Sant’Agata

What to see in Siena in a day

Basilica di San Domenico

The Basilica of St. Dominic is a Gothic church and an important pilgrimage site for the faithful who come to venerate St. Catherine of Siena, whose Basilica houses her shrine.

Inside, one can admire the main altar and visit the chapel where the Saint’s relics are kept.

The Basilica is located on a small tuffaceous hill, below which are the Fontebranda Springs, Siena’s oldest spring built in 1193.

Orto de’ Pecci

Orto de’ Pecci is a country oasis, just a few steps from the Torre del Mangia.

A park where you can stroll and rediscover plants from all over the world within the medieval garden as well as relax in complete tranquility.

Inside you will also find a restaurant and farm animals.

Where to sleep in Siena

Family room at the Hotel Duomo in Siena
Family room at the Hotel Duomo in Siena
Breakfast buffet brioches
Breakfast buffet
Panorama from our room
Panorama from our room
Sunset over Siena Cathedral
Sunset over Siena Cathedral

Hotel Duomo – This is a perfect accommodation because it stays within the walls, just a few steps from Siena Cathedral.

Double rooms and family rooms communicating with a wonderful stained glass window of which you have an exceptional view of the Duomo.

Breakfast included buffet with choice of sweet and savory not very large but good.

Additional services for children: free cot/crib with bars and possibility of requesting babysitting service for a fee, communicating it in advance.

You can come in to load/unload luggage, and at the front desk they advise where to park to avoid fines.

If you want, they have an agreement car parking at a cost of 25.00€/day – Book here.

Where to eat in Siena

bruschetta with livers
chianti tuna

Osteria Permalico – A two-minute walk from the Duomo, on a downhill side street, we found this excellent osteria with indoor and outdoor tables.

We had bruschetta with livers, raw meat, pici all’aglione, chianti tuna, and a huge plate of gnocchi that the girls halved.

Together with two glasses of wine, we spent a total of € 58.00 so value for money was absolutely excellent.

Information for visiting Siena with children and strollers

Siena is built on a hill, and as you walk around the city, you will find several ups and downs that might create some difficulty if you visit with strollers.

Nothing particularly hostile, in the case of a steep flight of steps, for example, just go around it and you’re sure to find an alternative route that is easier for the stroller.

The historic center is a ZTL zone: cars are not allowed to enter and children can run wild.

What to do around Siena

Siena is set among hills and cypress avenues, and its surroundings deserve more than one stop to discover the Crete Senesi, sunflower fields, and the Val d’Orcia.

Florence, Perugia and Orvieto are a little less than 1h30 away; Pisa 1h45 and Lucca 2h.

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Continue reading:

1. San Galgano Abbey

2. Pinocchio Park in Collodi

3. The City of Sunday in Perugia

4. Aquarium of Genoa

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