When it comes to the best places to visit in Italy, Siena is a must-see. This historic spot is home to one of Europe’s most magnificent Gothic cathedrals and is lined with narrow medieval streets, which fan out from the scallop shell-shaped main square, Piazza del Campo. So, if you find yourself in Siena and wondering: how should I spend my free time in Italy? You'll want to head right for the Piazza del Campo—and these free time tips for enjoying “Il Campo” on a tour of Siena.
The top portion of Piazza del Campo is home to the “Fountain of Joy,” or Fonte Gaia. It was commissioned to replace another fountain after its Pagan statuary was blamed for the Black Death, the plague that swept the city in 1348. While Fonte Gaia’s panels are only replicas of the 15th-century originals sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia, the depictions of Madonna and Child, Adam and Eve and the cardinal virtues are still just as lovely to look at. During your free time, walk to the upper part of the square to admire the artistry of the white-marble carvings, watch pigeons sip from gurgling spouts or make a wish and toss a coin into the turquoise water.
From wandering past red-brick buildings in the city’s UNESCO-listed historic center to admiring breathtaking frescoes inside the Piccolomini Library, there’s so much to do in Siena. If you’re looking for a spot to rest after a day of exploring, the many cafes surrounding Piazza del Campo are the places to go. Spend your free time in Siena, Italy under a maroon awning to sip a cappuccino or a glass of Tuscan wine as you watch the world go by. Taste some of the region’s famous pork, Cinta Senese, paired with soft marzolino cheese. Or, indulge in one of the city’s specialty dishes, which often feature wild game such as hare and boar—pici al ragú di cinghiale, or pasta with wild boar, is a must-try.
If you happen to visit Siena between the beginning of February and the end of March, be sure to seek out the small wooden hut on the perimeter of Piazza del Campo. This quaint pop-up stand serves up one of the city’s most indulgent delights, frittelle, which are fried rice balls made to celebrate Father’s Day. While there are many variations of this treat, the rice version is traditional to Siena. The texture of these noshes is reminiscent of rice pudding wrapped in sugar-coated fried dough, making for a mouthwatering snack that is best eaten warm. If you have a sweet tooth, follow the scent of orange and vanilla to the popular stand, and then sit in the bustling square while you taste one of the season’s most decadent treats.
If Siena’s famous cathedral has any rival in the city, this 14th-century bell tower is most certainly it. The “tower of the eater” stands almost 300 feet tall above Siena’s town hall, Palazzo Pubblico, and was specifically built to match the height of the duomo’s campanile to show that church and state were equal in power. Today, a climb up this soaring Gothic structure is an opportunity to take in stunning panoramas of the city and the surrounding Tuscan hills.
What would you love to see on a tour of Siena, Italy?