Siena, a lesser-known Italian city among Americans, is the hidden gem of Italy. Siena does get a lot of foot traffic, but tourists are often stopping by on their way to a more popular city or only taking a day trip here. But, contrary to popular belief, Siena cannot truly be seen in a day. Heck, the Palio itself takes at least 24 solid hours to explain! However, if a day is all you have, here are a few must-see spots to visit:
KopaKabana Gelateria: Kopa changes the game for gelato lovers everywhere. They offer a range of mouthwatering flavors (Caramello and tiramisù being among my favorite) all at the most reasonable price you’ll find in all Italy (probably). I can get a small cone piled high with two different flavors of gelato for about €2.
Pronto Pizza: I’ve never seen this place closed, which is great if you like to stay out a little late. Also, “they have the best pizza in Siena.” That’s a direct quote from a local…and my stomach. I recommend the one with hotdogs and French fries on it.
Piazza del Campo: This is the center of Siena. No matter what your plans are for your day in Siena, you cannot avoid going to the Campo. It’s a really great place to sit with a group of friends, play your guitar (if you’re one of those kinds of people), or simply read a book. I usually just got there to sit and eat my Pronto Pizza. Alone.
Club Ventitre at La Birreria: Do you like reasonably priced cocktails? Do you like hip-hop music? Is it a Tuesday? Then Club Ventitre is the place for you! Every Tuesday La Birreria, a restaurant/bar in Piazza del Campo, transforms into a discoteca that plays fun and familiar music. Since clubs aren’t as common in Siena as they are in places like Florence and Rome, the city really comes alive on nights like these.
Philadelphia Bar: This bar has 3 for €5 shots and a fun bartender named Giovanna who will surely keep up with you. Also, free Wi-Fi, which is a rarity in Italy. It is loosely themed after Philly. Very loosely.
La Diana: THIS PLACE HAS CHESSEBURGERS. I will warn you that this is not the place to go to get a true Italian experience: it’s basically designed for American tourists. But, as I said before, they have cheesburgers. I recommend the La Diana burger: it has brie and eggplant on it. They also have taps in the middle of the table and live music every so often. It’s ideal for homesick Americans.
Santa Maria della Scala: This particular museum is actually a medieval hospital turned museum. It offers a lot by way of history as it was one of Europe’s first hospitals, but what makes it truly special is the “underground.” Downstairs you’ll find a vast, nearly untouched, catacomb-like extension of the museum, decorated with religious relics, and even preserved items from its time of operation. Among my creepiest/most interesting finds: a vile of blood from the medieval period; a skull with an ominous message. If you faint easily, I recommend sticking to the frescos on the first floor.
Santuario Di Santa Caterina Da Siena: This place holds the head of St. Catherine, so it’s worth a visit.
“The Fig Trees”: My peers and I stumbled upon this park on a class tour of the city during our first week. I’m not 100% sure on how to get there, as I’ve only been there twice, but it has the best view of the city. “The Fig Trees” also creates the perfect environment for bonding and friendship.
Scuola di Cucina di Lella: Lella is the host mom of two of my friends and she owns the cooking school right next door to my school. A lesson with Lella is crucial if you want to learn, step by step, how to make an authentic Italian meal. Because of her, I now know how to make pici, pizza, and tiramisu from scratch. A class with Lella makes for a very delicious and educational night out.
Although there is so much more that I can recommend from the city I adore, this list is sure to get you through a day in Siena.
Karisa is a current student at Baylor University studying at Siena Italian Studies (SIS) in Italy during the Fall 2014 term.