If you’re looking for a fun day trip out of Florence, Siena and San Gimignano are two great options. Siena is a small, medieval city with a lot of history. Located about an hour and a half from Florence, it’s a must see for everyone in the area, not only for its stunning views of Tuscany, but also for its many attractions that appeal to thousands of tourists annually.
San Gimignano is a walled city known for its well-preserved towers and picturesque views. In addition to being located on a hill, you must go through gates in order to enter, really giving the city an ancient feel.
The easiest way to get from Florence to Siena is by bus. While the train does go there, the Siena train station is a twenty-minute walk from the major attractions of the city while the bus station is only a five-minute walk. I used the SITA bus company for my trip, which meets in front of the Santa Maria Novella train station and costs about €7 each way. I recommend taking the direct bus route to Siena, which gets you there in about an hour and twenty minutes. The train to Siena can cost anywhere between €5-€10 each way and takes about an hour and a half to get there from the Santa Maria Novella train station. Depending on the train you take, you may have to transfer in Empoli, so it really is worth it to take the bus. SITA also offers a bus to San Gimignano from Santa Maria Novella train station, tickets run about €6 each way. Train tickets cost between €5-€10 each way and take longer to get you there, so once again the bus is really the best way to go!
Here are my must-sees for both:
- The Basilica Cateriniana San Domenicois a beautiful basilica architecturally shaped like a cross. Considered one of the main attractions of Siena, an ancient relic, the mummified head of Saint Catherine, is preserved inside.
- Another important site in this city is Piazza del Campo, the main square in Siena. Twice a year this piazza hosts a horse race, called the Palio di Siena, in which ten riders, each representing one of the districts, compete against one another.
- My third recommendation is the Cathedral of Siena, which is almost overwhelmingly beautiful inside. Brightly colored frescos cover the walls, and even the floor is decorated with biblical images. What is probably the best part of this cathedral is the Libreria Piccolomini, a room adorned from ceiling to floor with ornate paintings detailing the life of Pope Pius II and medieval choir books that have been preserved over time.
- Climb to the top of the Torre Grossa! Standing at 177 feet, this is the tallest tower in San Gimignano and overlooks the Italian countryside of Val d’Elsa.
- Il Museo della Tortura (The Torture Museum) is one of the most popular attractions in the city. Located inside the Torre Della Diavola, this museum exhibits a variety of torture devices, a few of which are still in use today.
- One of the best gelaterias in the world, Dondoli Gelateria di Piazza, is located in Piazza della Cisterna, right in the center of this city. This gelateria has actually won the gelato world championship twice, in both 2006 and 2008. The line may be long but it is more than worth the wait!
-Article written by Arnub Farooqi, Travel & Culture Intern
Have you been to Siena or San Gimignano? What’s your favorite thing to do there?