Siena: The Heart of Tuscany

When my mom and I were planning the trip to Italy, I asked where she definitely wanted to go and she said “Tuscany.” So I tried to figure out how best to do “Tuscany” with neither of us wanting to rent a car. (Are you sensing a theme? I feel like, while I hate to admit it, renting a car makes a lot of Europe much more accessible. So one of these days I’m going to learn to drive a stick shift so next time I’m open to renting!)

As I was looking at different options, I considered finding an agriturismo near Florence where we could just put our feet up for a couple of days, or finding one in the heart of wine country. But the problem is that all of these options definitely meant either a rental car, or a lot of taxis.

View of Siena Cathedral and upper old town at sunset

Something you should know: I HATE taxis. I know this isn’t true for all taxi drivers, but I feel like stepping in a taxi is the fastest way to get yourself scammed in a foreign country. The few times I took a taxi while abroad, I got scammed in probably 75% of them. And there’s practically nothing you can do about it. (To note, I hate taxis both home and abroad… I once had an American taxi driver attempt to scam me. Ugh.) So where I can, I like to use Uber, and where I can’t, I like to find ways to use public transit or walk. I will walk a LONG way to avoid having to get in a cab! Quirks, what can I say?

View of Siena and Tuscany from top of Siena Duomo

So alas, I searched and searched, and realized that Siena is the very heart of Tuscany. There’s a train station that’s in easy proximity to the main part of the town, and the city has the food, wine, and wonder that you’d want in Tuscany. So rather than go with the rural Tuscany experience, we went to Siena.

I’m so glad we did! Of my trip with my mom, I think Siena was my favorite city (and maybe hers too). After all the crowds of Venice, Florence, and Pisa, it was so nice to be in a city that wasn’t nearly as crowded or touristy. And we got to see the cathedral in Siena.

Viccolo del Campaccio road in Siena, Italy, with view of city at sunset

Holy crap. The cathedral there is just amazing. It’s striped with black and white marble, which is absolutely incredible. The night we arrived, the sunset was one of the most spectacular I have ever seen. Our hotel was overlooking the cathedral, and it was just mesmerizing.

For the full day we were in Siena, we walked through the town and spent most of the day at the cathedral. Because it’s not as busy as the other big cathedrals, we were actually able to get a reservation to climb up to the top on the same day we bought the tickets!

Amanda Plewes and Donna Plewes on top of Siena Cathedral in Siena, Italy

So we fully explored the inside of the cathedral, which was just amazing. Where Florence felt a bit unfinished inside, Siena was just immaculate. Every part of the cathedral was done to perfection. There’s a library in there as well, and the ceilings of that rival any of the wonders in the Vatican! It was just amazing.

Looking up at Siena Duomo and ceilings in Siena Cathedral

To get to the top, we had to climb all of these tiny circular stairs – it was dizzying and tiring! But worth it for the views from the top. We were able to look out over all of Siena and into the Tuscan countryside, and there were also vantage points where we got to see incredible views of the inside of the church.

Amanda Plewes and Donna Plewes on top of Siena Cathedral in Siena, Italy with Tuscany in the background

We took a few moments to light candles in prayer and remembrance for loved ones – it’s such a peaceful act, and I enjoyed thinking about loved ones in that way!

Candles lit in prayer in Siena Cathedral

After we explored every nook and cranny of the cathedral and museum attached, we went on to the Piazza del Campo for lunch. Twice a year, the city of Siena runs the Palio, which is a horse race on the streets of the city! I can’t even imagine. For lunch, we split an amazing platter of cheese and cured meats, and I have to admit to being so incredibly spoiled by the quality of all the foods in Italy! It was so fun to have a long and leisurely lunch talking and looking out at the Piazza.

Amanda Plewes and Donna Plewes in front of fountain in Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy

We were both exhausted after so much church exploration, so we headed back to the hotel and had a quiet night, though not without stepping out for an awesome dinner. I’m so glad we went to Siena – it was the perfect respite from all the craziness of so many of the cities!


  • Carli Chapman

    AHH I need those photos of the incredible sunset over Siena! I loved Siena so much – the duomo was under construction while I was there – seeing your pictures was so different from what I saw years ago when it was half covered in scaffolding. But seriously – you should start a photo site or Etsy something – you could make a killing on these amazing pictures.

  • Donna Plewes

    Siena WAS my many ways. I loved the exploration of the cathedral…and was quite taken with how clostrophopic it was for me. The winding stairs in such close space…that took some personal self-talking to get me through. It was dizzying, and tiring, yet gratifying… I was amazed at the sheer magnificance…and gratefully so

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *