How to Take a Flawless Florence to Siena Day Trip

Ah, beautiful Siena: delightfully Tuscan and yet still distinct from the cities around it, Siena is a gem of a city–and if you’re headed to Florence but looking for another city to add to your trip, you can’t go wrong with planning a day trip from Florence to Siena.

The former medieval military rival of Florence, today Siena is best known for its beautiful Duomo, its biannual Palio di Siena horse race, its distinct, oval-shaped Piazza del Campo, and–like just about everywhere in Italy–its delicious food scene.

We‘ve been lucky enough to spend about a week exploring Siena over the course of several trips, but this classic Tuscan city is commonly visited as a day trip from Florence, and it’s with that in mind that we’ve structured this guide.

Hop on a train in Florence, and an hour and a half later you’ll be deposited in the land of horse races, Gothic architecture, and stunning vistas.

Here are the best things to do in Siena in one day (or less), plus tips on how to get there!

view of piazza del campo from a small street just off the piazza, one of the best places to visit in siena day trip from florence
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Should you book an organized Florence to Siena Day Trip?

When taking a day trip from Florence to Siena, there are pros and cons to doing it yourself as opposed to taking an organized tour.

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Neither way is wrong, so go with whichever is right for you!

Here are some of the pros and cons of each option.

kate storm and jeremy storm taking a selfie when visiting siena for a day
All smiles on a beautiful fall day in front of the Siena Cathedral!

Pros and Cons of an Organized Siena Day Trip from Florence

The biggest benefit to taking an organized Siena day trip (other than having transportation handled for you) is that your tour will likely cover far more ground than you’ll be able to independently.

Organized day trips from Florence to Siena, like this popular one offered by one of our favorite tour companies in Europe, often include a visit to Siena, a hilltop village (usually San Gimignano), and a visit to the Chianti wine region as well.

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While you can definitely take a day trip to Siena itself independently, you’d be hard-pressed to cover that much ground in one day alone!

With an organized day trip, you’ll also have more structure to your day, not worry about getting lost, and know that you’re certain to see the highlights of Siena and beyond.

The cons, of course, are that you will pay more than you would by traveling independently and that you’ll likely have less time to spend in the city of Siena itself.

Book your day trip to Siena, San Gimignano, and the Chianti region today!

Florence to Siena Day Trip: View of Siena

Pros and Cons of Taking an Independent Day Trip to Siena

When taking an independent Siena day trip, you’ll be in complete control of your time, spend less money on transportation, and likely end up spending more time exploring Siena specifically.

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On the other hand, you probably won’t be able to partake in any wine tourism or explore outside the city center, and you might lose a little time handling travel arrangements and navigation.

If you do want to travel from Florence to Siena independently, we recommend taking the train.

Siena Day Trip: Jeremy with Classic Cars

You can search routes and timetables via Omio, the aggregate we generally use to plan train travel in Europe (note that while there are many trains between the two cities per day, some routes require you to make a change while others are direct).

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Since traveling between Siena and Florence is a regional route, the prices are consistent no matter when you book, and there’s generally no need to book your train tickets in advance–unless, of course, you prefer to have everything completely organized before you go!

If you’d like to handle transportation yourself but still enjoy the benefits of a structured walking tour in Siena, this guided walking tour is a great option!

narrow street in siena italy with contrade flag hanging from the buildings on the left, a fun stop during a 3 day tuscany itinerary

The Best Things to Do on a Siena Day Trip

Start your day in the Piazza del Campo.

Any day in Siena is best begun in the Piazza del Campo, which is the heart and soul of Siena (not to mention one of its most distinct landmarks).

Here are a few things you should be sure to take notice of while you’re there.

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Palazzo Pubblico

The Public Palace is home to Siena’s Civic Museum as well as some truly incredible frescoes dating to the 14th century that depict the effects of good vs bad government.

And notably (not to mention very uncommonly for 14th-century Italy) the frescoes were commissioned by the secular government rather than the Church.

collection of people hanging out in piazza del campo with palazzo pubblico siena in the background

Torre del Mangia

Torre del Mangia sits to the left of the Public Palace and is probably the most recognizable structure in Siena.

While you can climb the tower, with only a day trip to Siena to work with, we’d recommend passing on the climb in favor of the Porta del Cielo tour at the cathedral (more on that in a bit).

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Fonte Gaia

Beautiful, eye-catching, and incredibly intricate, the Fonte Gaia has been delivering water to the Piazza del Campo since the 15th century!

The original is now held in the Loggia of the Palazzo Pubblico, while the replica fountain that you’ll see in the Piazza del Campo was built in the 19th century.

close up of fonte gaia as seen one day in siena italy with a she wolf statue in the foreground

Palio di Siena

Okay, to be fair–this one only comes around two days a year, and the odds that you happen across it accidentally are small.

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But, no discussion of the Piazza del Campo could be complete without mentioning the Palio di Siena!

Siena’s bi-annual horse races are held on July 2 and August 16 each year–just as they have been since the 17th century!

Additional events are held in the few days leading up to the race, so if you’re going to be in Tuscany during those weeks and don’t get scared off by crowds, schedule your Siena day trip to see Il Palio in action.

Siena Day Trip: Contrada Parade

Il Duomo di Siena

Siena’s Gothic cathedral is one of our favorites in Tuscany, and is often ranked among the most beautiful churches in Europe.

Home to a more opulent interior than even the Duomo of Florence while still maintaining a distinct Tuscan flair, Siena’s Duomo is definitely worth a peek inside.

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While you’re there, don’t forget to duck inside the exquisite Piccolomini Library, which was partially painted by Michelangelo.

Though it has a separate entrance, you’ll also want to be sure to check out the exquisite baptistery in the Duomo complex, which is one of Siena’s best-known buildings.

Book tickets to visit Siena’s Duomo Complex today!

front facade of the siena cathedral, one of the best things to do in siena in day trip from florence

Pay a visit to the Santa Maria della Scala.

One of the oldest hospitals in Europe is now a maze of frescoes, chapels, stone hallways, and art displays, and it is a delightful combination.

Visit the Santa Maria della Scala to learn a bit about the Siena of the Renaissance (and to thank your lucky stars that medical treatment has vastly improved in the centuries since).

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Take a tour to the ‘Porta del Cielo’ (Gate to Heaven).

There are plenty of viewpoints to consider climbing to the top of in Siena, but during your Siena day trip, we recommend prioritizing your time on the best: the Porta del Cielo.

This guided tour of the rooftop of the Siena’s Cathedral is one of the most memorable tours we have ever taken in a house of worship.

It weaves in and out of the cathedral, allowing you to glimpse up-close views of the interior of the cathedral as well as views of Siena and the Tuscan countryside outside.

Do note that this tour is very popular, so if you want to add it to your Siena day trip, we recommend reserving your time slot in advance!

Honeymoon in Tuscany: Interior Siena Cathedral

Step inside the Siena Opera della Metropolitana.

I’ll be quite honest: you may not have time to do this during your day trip to Siena, as the list of things to do is already packed rather full.

But, if you have a little time to spare and are itching for another epic view over the countryside, the view from the top of the Opera della Metropolitana (called the Facciatone) is absolutely magnificent, and where we captured the classic view of Piazza del Campo you see in the below photo.

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The museum you see on your way up isn’t bad, either!

If you’d like to go up, double-check that you have the right ticket–the entrance to the museum doesn’t automatically include entrance to the viewpoint.

This combination Duomo Complex ticket will allow you access to the Facciatone!

Tuscany Honeymoon: Rooftops of Siena

Keep your eye out for the Contrade.

The Contrade, or districts, of Siena, are all distinct and memorable neighborhoods, noted by an insignia, such as a Tower, Eagle, Snail, Wave, or Panther.

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Today, 17 rival Contrade still exist in Siena, down from an original 54, and they make up the teams in Siena’s horse races each year (10 at a time–not all of the Contrade race in a given year).

When strolling through Siena, you’ll likely spot small signs of what Contrade you are in, especially on flags.

Each Contrada flies their own distinct flag!

Florence to Siena Day Trip: Contrada Flag in Siena

Indulge in delicious food.

No discussion of a Tuscan city can pass without a small discussion of the food, right?

Siena is home to impeccable Tuscan cuisine, and is an excellent place to taste truffles, boar, pecorino cheese, and, of course, Tuscan wine!

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Be sure to build in time during your Siena day trip for a delicious lunch–you won’t be sorry.

There are countless wonderful restaurants in Siena, but we can point out that we enjoyed our laid-back lunch at Antica Trattoria Papei enough that we returned to the restaurant 2 years in a row (and the second time, we brought several extended family members with us!).

Day Trip to Siena: Tuscan Food

Getting from Florence to Siena and Back Independently

If you choose to take your Siena day trip independently, we strongly recommend that you take a train.

The train takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, there are many options each day, and the trains are regional (meaning the prices are fixed and the seats unassigned–there’s no reason or need to purchase tickets in advance).

You can search schedules and routes via Omio (note that some trains require you to make a change, while others are direct and therefore a bit faster).

Honeymoon in Tuscany: rooftops of Siena

If you buy paper train tickets at the station rather than on your phone, don’t forget to validate them before boarding!

Though it’s tempting, we don’t recommend driving between Florence and Siena for a day trip.

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Both cities are difficult to park in and don’t require a car once you’re there.

(Or, as our hotel receptionist in Siena put it when we told her we didn’t have a car, “Good! It is better this way.”).

Siena Day Trip: Jeremy in Cafe

Getting Around During One Day in Siena

Siena is a small and walkable city and it is exceptionally easy to get around on foot.

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Once you arrive near the city center by either train or car/bus, people without mobility issues should have no problem walking through the city throughout their Siena day trip.

Fair warning, though–there are a few hills you’ll need to be prepared for!

Cone of gelato with a cookie stuck in it held in front of a gelato counter.
You can always reward yourself with a scoop of gelato at the top of the hill, though!

Read More About Visiting Italy

Ready to keep planning your upcoming trip to Tuscany?

We’d love to help!

You can browse our 100+ Italy blog posts here, or check out these guides:

How to take the perfect Siena day trip: what to do, how to get there, and more! #siena #tuscany #italy #travel
About Kate Storm
Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

2 thoughts on “How to Take a Flawless Florence to Siena Day Trip”

  1. We just returned from Tuscany. We were based in Siena and spent 2 days exploring the old town. The Duomo is a must see including the museum which includes many of the original works from the Duomo
    I felt Siena was more enchanting at night than during the day so would recommend an overnight stay.

    Reply

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