After we  said our bittersweet goodbye to the Etruscan Coast of Tuscany, where its lesser known hamlets enthralled us,  we headed into the Central Tuscany to revisit towns that captivated us on previous visit more than a decade ago. These towns are more touristed, but absolutely for good reasons. They are both UNESCO World Heritage sites and the jewels of Tuscany after all. They are very atmospheric,  historic, fascinating, and definitely worth returning to.


Situated in the heart of Tuscany, Siena is considered one of the loveliest towns in the region. It has been known from the medieval time up to this day as the rival city of Florence.Monte dei Paschi, Siena, Tuscany, ItalyAlthough Siena is only a little more than an hour drive south from its rival city, we find them a world apart. While Florence has become cosmopolitan, Siena has remained provincial. It has remarkably preserved its medieval character with distinctive Gothic flair; thus, boasts of possessing a more genuine Tuscan charm.

Monte dei Paschi, Siena, Tuscany, Italy

Monte dei Paschi di Siena

Do you know that the business of banking as we know today started in Italy during the medieval time?  And Siena holds the honor of being the headquarter of the oldest bank in existence in the world,  the Monte dei Paschi di Siena. The bank has been operating continuously in this impressive gothic building since 1472.

Siena Duomo, Siena, Tuscany, ItalyOne of the treasures of Siena is its Duomo, an impressive gothic cathedral built in the 1200’s and is filled with works by Italian masters such as Michaelangelo, Pisano and Donatello.Ceiling of Siena Duomo, Siena, ItalyWorth seeing in the Siena Duomo is its magnificent library built by Pope Pius III in honor of his uncle Pope Pius II (nepotism in the Vatican?!) and to preserve the manuscript that he collected. The manuscripts are no longer here but you can admire the majestic frescoes of great Pinturicchio and his students that included Rafaello.

Basilica of San Domenico, Siena, ItalyAnother Siena’s religious treasure is the 13th century gothic Basilica of San Domenico where the relics of the town’s beloved saint, St. Catherine of Siena, are stored. The saint’s family house from the 14th century still stands today and is located near the basilica.

Piazza del Campo, Siena, ItalyThe charming, car-free streets of Siena lead to a central piazza known as Piazza del Campo or simply Il Campo. It is regarded as the most beautiful medieval square in Europe.

Piazza del Campo, Siena, Italy

Some of the buildings that surround Piazza del Campo.

Piazza del Campo, Siena, ItalyIl Campo is dominated by Palazz0 Publico and its tower, Torre del Mangia. This civic palace was built in the early 1300’s and still houses the government offices. It also contains a museum and, if you have the energy, you can climb the 500 steps to the top of the tower and be rewarded with spectacular vista of Siena and its surroundings

Piazza del Campo, Siena, ItalyThe massive Il Campo is the venue of the most important event in Siena- the Palio. It is a horse race that takes place twice a year on July 2nd and August 16th and where each of the town’s 17 “contrades” (district) is represented. It is an event that Sienese are profoundly passionate about. It is Siena’s equivalent to the SuperBowl or the World Cup.

Piazza del Campo, Siena, ItalySienna is proud of its typical cuisine and its piazza is surrounded by many cafes and trattorias offering dishes unique to Siena.  We suggest that you  try “pici,” a thick spaghetti typical of Siena, as well as “ribollita,” a hearty vegetable and bread soup.


Located halfway between Florence and Siena, San Gimignano – the “Town of Fine Towers” –  is a small, walled  hilltown that captivates any visitor with its medieval architectures and imposing towers.

Towers in San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

The patrician families who controlled the town during the middle ages built around 72 tower-houses as symbols of their wealth and power. Only 14 of these towers have survived today; however, the town’s feudal atmosphere still remains.

Towers in San Gimignano, Tuscany, Ital

Some of the surviving towers of San Gimignano

View from Torre Grasso in San Gimigniano, Tuscany, Italy You can climb the 214 steps to the belltower of Torre Grossa, the tallest of the existing towers,  and admire the spectacular vista of San Gimignano and its surrounding.

View from Torre Grasso in San Gimigniano, Tuscany, Italy

View from San Gimignano’s highest tow

Street in San Gimignano, Tuscany, ItalyWalking  on the streets of San Gimignano feels like stepping back in the middle ages.

Piazza Mayor in San Gimignano, Tuscany, ItalyPiazza della Cisterna, the beautiful main square, is surrounded by fine medieval houses and palazzos.

Waterwell in San Gimignano, Tuscany, Italy

Waterwell in San Gimignano, Tuscany, ItalyThe presence of ancient wells and fountains added to the charm of the town. They can be found in the middle of a square and obscure courtyards. They were the main source of water for the medieval townspeople.






Gelateria in San Gimigniano, Tuscany, ItalyAfter walking around town and climbing its towers, you can sample the town’s culinary delight and its local white wine, the Vernaccia di San Gimignano.


Travel Notes:

  • To thoroughly enjoy your visit in Siena and San Gimignano, avoid visiting in peak summertime when hordes of daytrippers from Florence overtake the towns. September until late fall is a better time to visit.
  • On how to get to Sienna by train, bus or car, click here and to San Gimignano, click here.
  • Cars are not allowed inside both towns and you have to park the cars outside the towns. For parking information for Siena click here and for San Gimignano click here.


Linking to Travel Photo ThursdayFriday Postcards and Travel Photo Monday. Check them out for more interesting travel links.


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About Marisol

Taking you on our journey one photo - and footstep - at a time.

39 responses to “Jewels of Tuscany: Siena and San Gimignano

  1. Oh my goodness! I am enthralled by the images you featured here. I have seen Rick Steves show on these two gems of a destination and I am salivating. Medieval architecture and lifestyle fascinates me. I would love to visit these two places someday, but in the meantime your post satisfies me momentarily. Thanks.
    Photo Cache recently posted..Valley of Fire @ SunsetMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Maria, you’re welcome. Glad you enjoyed the images. I hope you can make it there sometimes. They’re truly enthalling.

  2. Incredibly beautiful photos, Marisol! I have wanted to visit Tuscany since reading Under the Tuscan Sun many years ago but I haven’t made it yet. As long as I have kids in school though, I’m afraid it would have to be during the busy summer months and I’m a little concerned that the hordes of tourists would leave me with a bad impression of the region. Then again, we spent two weeks in Provence during the summer season a few years ago and still found it delightful so maybe it would be okay!

    • Marisol

      Thank you Lisa! I’m sure you will enjoy Tuscany busy summer or not. Like Provence, I’m sure you will find the charm amidst its busy season.

  3. I’ve been to Florence a couple times but have never been to either Siena or San Gimignano. Judging by your photos, I need to make a stop there the next time I’m in Italy. It doesn’t look as crowded as Florence, but maybe that’s because you didn’t go during peak season. You know have me craving ribollita.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..Discovering Art with Kids at Galleria BorgheseMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Michell,e, definitely check them out on your next visit. It can really be crowded in peak season so best to visit off peak.

  4. noel

    I remember my visit to Sienna and the loads of gelato I consumed at Il Campo. It is a lovely place to walk everywhere and have a low key visit especially when the day trippers leave and the locals come out and take back their city and enjoy a passegiata for the late afternoon in the walking zoned areas.

    • Marisol

      Hi Noel, those gelato in Il Campo are surely divine. And yes, the passegiata is our favorite local experience.

  5. Those are really great photos Marisol! I just passed through Siena and San Gimignano as well on my road trip through Europe and was fascinated with the beauty of these Tuscan towns. I mostly loved San Gimignano for its many tall rising towers and the great views of the surrounding area, while Siena seemed amazing for its overall vibe. My favorite place was definitely the Piazza del Campo. With or without gelato, it was simply the perfect place to watch the world go by… :)
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    • Marisol

      Hi Dennis, so glad that you enjoyed these cities as well. Glad you enjoyed the photos.
      Marisol recently posted..Florence At LeisureMy Profile

  6. Wow! Your photos are amazing. Crisp and clear, each highlighting something interesting. I am sorry I didn’t visit Siena and suddenly want to get back to Italy. Thanks for sharing .
    Rhonda Albom recently posted..I Was Chased by a Crazy Cow in New ZealandMy Profile

    • Marisol

      Hi Rhonda, our pleasure. I hope you get to visit these cities when you return to Italy. They’re truly magnificent.

    • Marisol

      Hi Rajesh, thanks!

  7. Corinne

    Marisol, I love that all of your photos of Siena sport that color. Beautiful! I haven’t been to Siena, but you make it sound so perfect, I can’t wait to go. That gelateria is calling my name, too! Thanks for linking up with Weekend Travel Inspiration. I hope to see you next week as well!
    Corinne recently posted..One Full Day in QatarMy Profile

    • Marisol

      HI Corinne, thank you! Glad you enjoyed the photos. Siena is truly photogenic but more magnificent in person. I hope you can visit it someday. Thanks for hosting the Weekend Travel inspiration.

  8. I’m totally falling in love with Tuscany through your posts. Siena looks marvelous. I especially like your first photo. Whenever we return to Italy, apart from giving Rome a second chance, I’d love to visit Tuscany and the Italian lakes.
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    • Marisol

      Dana dear, there’s really nothing not to love in Tuscany. I really hope that you and Jave make it in this region next time you visit Italy.

  9. Bama

    Oh Siena. The first time the city got my attention was when I watched James Bond: Quantum of Solace. Then I did further research and was awe-struck by the magnificent Duomo. Your photos really do the town justice, Marisol. Ah, Tuscany… how beautiful this particular region is.

    • Marisol

      Hi Bama,
      Oh yes, I almost forgot Siena’s cameo on that Bond fllm. But Siena is much more magnificent when seen in person. I hope you get to visit this Italian region soon.

    • Marisol

      Thanks Frank! Love your photos of Siena. Thanks for sharing your link.

  10. Oh we loved that area of Italy when we were there and I think I am so attracted to Greece’s Mani and its ‘tower towns’ because of that introduction to towers in San Gimignano! Great photos – as always!
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    • Marisol

      Hi Jackie, thanks. Ha! We have to check on the Greek Mani!

  11. Now, you’re really making me regret we’re only going to Florence. :) I am now in love with Siena and San Gimignano. What great towns to visit and how neat that they’re car free. My gosh, that Siena Duomo is just absolutely gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful photos and wonderful descriptions, Marisol.
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    • Marisol

      Hi Mary, thanks.. You just have to go back and visit the rest of Tuscany. They’re definitely worth the return trip.

    • Marisol

      Hi Jessica, there’s always a next trip and I hope you’ll ge to visit these two wonderful towns nest time.

  12. Agness

    I’m not surprised that Siena is considered one of the loveliest towns in the region. It’s absolutely magical and charming. I’m in love with its powerful scenery already. How long did you explore this region for?
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    • Marisol

      Hi Agness, we were in the area for a little more than a week. It truly is magical and was worth a return visit.
      Marisol recently posted..Florence At LeisureMy Profile

  13. Leigh

    I’ve never been to this part of the world yet it’s one I always hear loads of positive reviews about. Your photos are terrific and make me want to pick up and go. I hope I live till I’m 90 so I can see everything on my wish list.
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    • Marisol

      Hi Leigh, you know this are is populas with cyclist. I’m sure you will enjoy two-wheeling here yourself. I hope you get to go soon.

  14. Mike

    I would absolutely want to visit both Siena and San Gimignano and thank you for the reminder to avoid the peak seasons. I have to tell that my eyes lit up at the sight of the huge open Piazza del Campo. That would be amazing to visit. Terrific post, Marisol and Keith
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    • Marisol

      Hi Mike, thanks. They are really amazing places. to visit. You can appreciate their charms more if you visit during off peak.
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  15. I have been in San Gimignano for 2 times now and I really love this town. As you said the medieval flair ist really amazing.
    Kind Regards Doris

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