Here is a jewel. When individuals have written us and asked if they should see both Florence and Siena as they are trying to juggle all to see on a single trip, I say see both. The two cities are very different.
Florence is relatively big, has traffic you have to work around while you walk to see the sights. Yes there is incredible architecture and that all balances out what one has to go through. Not to mention the tourists. Every year we return to Florence we say there are more and more tourists. But that is Florence.
Siena has a beauty and feeling that all its own. If you drive to Siena you will have to walk from one of the car parking lots, and it may seem like you are walking through an endless city, but the city is compact.
On our 1994 visit we just walked into the Duomo, one of the most stunning you will find in Italy, and walked around admiring the incredible inlaid marble floor. When we returned a few years later we found out how special our 1994 visit had been as now the floor is covered for protection with only sections of the flow open for viewing. There are 56 panels on the floor, each depicting a scared scene. Plan your visits for September, when the floor is open. Were were last there in 2010 and while parts of the floor have barriers to keep people from walking on it, the floor is stunning.
Construction of the Duomo started in the 1200's and continued to 1382. A good number of the sculptures on the facade of the Duomo are copies, with the originals inside the Museum. No comparison of this Duomo to that of Florence. The Duomo is Florence is larger, and the dome so impressive, but this is not a church to be missed.
The pulpit was carved in the 1200's and it is simply outright magnificent. There are hundred of heads and faces all with remarkable detail. Regrettably, pictures may not be taken inside.
The piazza dei Campo is the centre of the city. The Palazzo Pubblico and the tower of Mangia overlook the piazza and this is one of the piazza's in all of Italy.
On our 2001 visit when we returned they had introduced time slots to book a time to climb the tower. It actually works very well. Buy a ticket for a specific time. You can walk about the city and return at the right time. It is still busy but you are not fighting the crowds you would have to do otherwise and you can manage your time in the city more effectively.
One of the great things about driving to Siena, is it will take you through the Crete Senesi, the barren rolling hills create a very unique landscape. A chalk grey clay with only pockets of vegetation.
The calanchi are formations of sharply cut valleys with thin crests. The biancane are dome-shaped hills usually in groups. It is all very scenic.
You never forget being in Piazza dei Campo
Piazza dei Campo
The roofs around Piazza dei Campo
Architecture in Siena
The inside of Siena Cathedral