By Meredith Pollock, MA 2015-16
One of the advantages of studying in Florence is your proximity to the beautiful small towns of Tuscany. Siena, located about fifty miles from Florence, is just a short bus ride away and is full of activities for a day trip or an entire weekend. It is the perfect relaxing getaway, and while enjoying an aperitivo on the Piazza del Campo or exploring the Duomo di Siena you’ll already be planning your next visit!
Getting to Siena: Although you can take the train to Siena, the bus is a better option because it drops you off much closer to the city center and there are many buses going between Florence and Siena throughout the day. Tickets cost €7.80 each way and do not need to be booked in advance – you can buy them at the ticket counter at the bus station, which is southwest of Santa Maria Novella. Buy both your ticket to Siena and your return ticket before you leave, and when you are ready to leave Siena you just have to present your ticket to the bus driver. There is an express bus that will get you to Siena in about an hour and twenty minutes and a regional bus which will take closer to two hours. Once you arrive in Siena be sure to get a pamphlet with the return times so you won’t miss the last evening bus back to Florence.
Activities in Siena: Siena is very walkable, so after you are dropped off at the bus station you most likely won’t need to take a bus or taxi while you’re there. Head to the Piazza del Campo when you arrive as it is one of Europe’s best preserved Medieval squares and is in the center of town, making it an excellent spot to begin your sightseeing. The Campo is surrounded by quite a few restaurants – they are fairly touristy but are right in the middle of everything and provide you with perfect views of the Palazzo Pubblico. The Palazzo Pubblico, or Town Hall, is the focal point of the Piazza and was constructed from 1297 to 1344. When construction of the Torre de Mangia, the Palazzo’s bell tower, was completed it was the tallest building in Italy! For €10 you can climb to the top of the bell tower for amazing views of the surrounding countryside. The Duomo di Siena is another beautiful Sienese sight. Constructed between 1215 and 1263, it is an excellent example of Gothic architeture. The interior floor is made entirely of mosaics and is one of the most ornate examples in Italy, and the Piccolomini Library is breathtakingly beautiful. For €12 from May 1 to October 31 and €8 from November 1 to April 30 you can buy a combined ticket which gives you access to the Duomo and all of the associated museums.
One of the most enjoyable things about Siena is simply strolling along the streets. The city is full of narrow, winding alleyways and beautiful architecture, and every once in a while you’ll catch a glimpse of the Tuscan hills peeking through the buildings. It’s the perfect place for a relaxing Saturday getaway – not only are there world-class sights, but you also get to enjoy the best parts about la dolce vita.
Photos by Meredith Pollock