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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers



The Historic Centre of Siena has been well preserved since the 12th and 13rd century. Its urban fabric, size and artistic identity distinguish Siena from other medieval urban centres in Italy.

The city derived its wealth from banking activities - streets named Banchi di Sopra and Banchi di Sotto are a reminder of this. Siena also was the main rival of Florence, with which it disputed over territorial expansion.

The city had gained independence in 1189. The period that followed was to be crucial in shaping the Siena we know today. It was during the early 1200s that the majority of the construction of the Siena Cathedral (Duomo) was completed. It was also during this period that the Piazza del Campo, now regarded as one of the most beautiful civic spaces in Europe, grew in importance as the centre of secular life. New streets were constructed leading to it and it served as the site of the market, and the location of various sporting events.

Map of Siena


  • Cultural

Visit February 2009

With over 50,000 inhabitants, Siena is quite a bit larger than the other medieval towns in Tuscany. Although it also has been preserved well, I found it a lot harder to like (even tacky in some parts). I had to walk for about 20 minutes from one of the parking lots that surround the city center and are aimed at handling loads of tourists (and their buses) in the summer time. Parking at the Stadium is much closer, though not free.

February 2009

My first glimpse of something grand was at the Baptistry, an enormous white-and-black marble building. It is adjacent to the splendid Duomo. This cathedral has an overly decorated gothic facade, and a striped bell tower almost like a minaret. Its dome is under construction at the moment and covered up. The colours black and white are used all over the design of the Duomo, as they are the colours of Siena's coat of arms.

February 2009

The shell-shaped Piazza del Campo undoubtedly is the highlight of Siena. The square houses several monumental buildings, like the Palazzo Pubblico. It is also the place where the Palio horse race is run twice a year. I've watched that spectacle on TV once, and it is hard to imagine the crowds and the nervous horses at this so gentle public square. A sight not to be missed there is the 15th century Fonte Gaia, a fountain that is adorned on three sides with bas-reliefs.

February 2009

Community Reviews

Nan Germany - 05-Apr-18 -

Siena by Nan

As a stopover on my way from San Gimignano to the Val d'Orcia I had an hour or so to kill in Siena. I had been before twice, but still looked forward again at the chance to have another peek at Siena.

The previous time I had visited my original plan had been to also tick off San Gimignano the same day. But when faced with the choice on skipping on the Duomo in order to catch my train to San Gimignano or staying in Siena for the rest of the day I fortunately went all in and stayed. It was well worth it and I would encourage you to do the same.

Siena to me is the quintessential Tuscan city world heritage site. Pisa may have the most iconic construction in the Leaning Tower and the Piazza del Duomo, Florence the greater collection of individual sites in the Duomo, the Uffici and the Ponte Vecchia, San Gimignano and Pienza the more picturesque location. But none offer anywhere near the same level of consistency or size that Siena offers all the while not being short on stellar sites itself: the Duomo of Siena, the Campanile, ... there is plenty here to take in. Interestingly, Siena feels a lot less touristy than any of the other Tuscan cities. I would guess it's a combination of the relatively large size and the lesser publicity it gets.

Getting There

Siena is connected by train to Florence and Pisa. On weekdays there are also direct busses to San Gimignano. Alternatively, you can take the train to Poggibonsi and catch a bus there. Via Grosseto you should also be able to get to Tarquinia.

If you plan to head to Val d'Orcia and Pienza there are some busses but these don't run all that frequently, especially on weekends and holidays. In my case I took the train to Buonconvento where I stayed for the night before taking the first bus to San Quirico the next morning.

The Siena train station is quite far outside of the city center, up the hill, then down the escalades. Plan sufficient time to get there (20min).

Jay T USA - 30-Oct-16 -

Siena by Jay T

Siena served as a scheduled rest stop during my tour of mainland Europe in the fall of 2003, and I thoroughly enjoyed my few days of relaxation and exploration in the town. Siena is probably most well-known for its annual Palio races, held twice a year at the Piazza del Campo in the center of town. On my first night in Siena I realized why the neighborhood where I was staying was festooned with green and orange flags and banners; the contrade (or district), called Selva, had won the Palio in July, and they were celebrating with a feast in the square below. Siena is composed of 17 contrade, and over the next couple of days I spent time wandering the narrow, winding streets of each neighborhood, looking for flags or seals marking their contrade. In the center of town was the amazing Piazza del Campo with its town hall and Torre del Mangia. The views of the fan-shaped piazza and the surrounding town and countryside from the tower were spectacular. Other explorations in town led me to city walls, cisterns, and churches; I particularly appreciated the rich interior and exterior of the Siena Cathedral, with its distinctive black and white striped bell tower. Siena is a beautiful town that I would love to return to some day.

Logistics: Siena can be reached by train, bus, or automobile from other major cities in Italy. The town itself is worth exploring extensively on foot.

Jeanette Shumaker US - 12-Jul-15

Siena's black and white striped cathedral imparts a joyous, partyish feeling inside and out. Inside the cathedral, the Bernini statues of the Magdalen and St. Jerome who are lost in mystic ecstasy are incredibly beautiful. The interior of the cathedral is much more spectacular than Florence's.

We loved the pan fuerte, Siena's special fruitcake, too.

Clyde Malta - 07-Sep-12 -

Siena by Clyde

I visited this WHS in May 2003. The heart of the medieval city of Siena is Piazza del Campo where the local Palio takes place.

Ann Reeves USA - 12-Nov-08

It has been awhile since I visited charming Siena but there

wasn't much posted on it so decided to give some input using

my scrapbook to jog my memory. The town, is marvelous and

the Duomo is fantastic with it's stunning mosaic floors. It's always so incredible to view Europe's amazing archi-

tecture. The highlight of our visit to Siena was having

lunch at Antica Osteria "Da Divo". It is on Via Fanciosa

close to the Piazza del Campo. The atmosphere with Etruscan

vaults and nooks and crannies is terrific, and the food was

the best we experienced on the entire trip to Italy, and that is saying something!! We ate our way through every city. The marketplace was fun and we enjoyed exploring

the typical narrow cobblestone streets twisting here and

there filled with delightful little shops and businesses.

I can see why it is described as the heart of Tuscany.

Klaus Freisinger Austria - -

I seem to be one of the few people who like Siena less than Florence, but since I like Florence a lot, that doesn't mean that Siena is not a very nice city and a great place to visit. The unique cathedral and the stunning Piazza del Campo make Siena special and I would gladly return there to see more of it.

Graeme Ramshaw -

Siena, the perennial rival of Florence, may not equal its neighbour to the north in sheer artistic achievement, but its charm and exuberance is all its own. The center of town is dominated by the Piazza del Campo around which every summer the Palio, a no-holds-barred horse race, is run to the delight of locals and tourists alike. Siena is also home to an unusual cathedral, which still sports the initial foundations of a massive planned expansion of the building that was cut short by the arrival of the plague. And of course, all of this is best seen while munching on one of the local ricciarelli, almond-based cookies.

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Site Info

Full name: Historic Centre of Siena

Unesco ID: 717

Inscribed: 1995

Type: Cultural

Criteria: 1   2   4  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 1995 - Inscribed 


The site has 1 locations.

  • Siena


The site has 38 connections.



  • Walled cities
  • Hospitals: Santa Maria della Scala - "one of Europe's first hospitals and is one of the oldest hospitals still surviving in the world" (wiki)
  • Magic Squares: At the wall of the Duomo of Siena (letters, a SATOR square)
  • Music Academies: Chigiana Academy of Music, located in one of the finest in builidings in Siena and containing a splendid art collection (Chigi Saracini Collection)
  • Unfinished constructions: Duomo: After the completion of the transept and the building of the east wall, the money ran out and the rest of the planned cathedral was abandoned.
  • Mosaic art: Mosaic floor of the Duomo
  • Tower-houses
  • Monumental Fountains: Fount Gaia, Fount Branda, Fount Ovile and Pispini Fountain
  • Freestanding Bell Tower: Torre del Mangia
  • Theatres: Teatro dei Rinnovati at the Palazzo Pubblico
  • Libraries: Libreria Piccolomini in the cathedral of Siena Link
  • Cisterns Link


Human Activity

  • Botanical Gardens: This Botanical Garden, Orto Botanico, was founded in 1784 by Biagio Bartalini.
  • Grand Tour
  • Frescoes or murals by famous painters: Public Palace by Simone Martini, Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Sodoma, Vecchietta and Domenico Beccafumi, Cathedral by Pinturicchio, Santa Maria della Scala Hospital by Vecchietta, Saint Augustin's Church by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Luca Signorelli, Arch of the Two Gates by Baldassarre Peruzzi, Santa Maria dei Servi Basilica by Pietro Lorenzetti, Saint Francis's Church by Pietro Lorenzetti and Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Saint Bernardin's Oratory by Sodoma and Domenico Beccafumi, Santa Caterina in Fontebranda Oratory by Sodoma, Saint Dominic's Basilica by Sodoma
  • Historical Financial Institutions: Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A., the oldest surviving bank since 1472. Located in Palazzo Salimbeni.
  • Oldest companies: "Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A." Oldest continously operating Bank in the world. Founded in 1472, originaally on "charitable principles" as a pawnbroker with the aim of covering its operating costs whilst avoiding usury.
  • Traditional sports and games: Palio di Siena, a horse race that is held twice each year Link

Individual People

Religion and Belief

  • Cathedrals: Cat di S Maria Assunta
  • Legends and Folk Myths: According to legend, Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus, who was in turn the brother of Romulus, after whom Rome was named. Statues and other artwork depicting a she-wolf suckling the young twins Romulus and Remus can be seen all over the city of Siena.
  • Jewish religion and culture: Synagogue (1786) in the via delle Scotte Link


  • Built in the 13th century: The cathedral was originally designed and completed between 1215 and 1263 on the site of an earlier structure.


WHS Hotspots


401 community members have visited Siena.