On the hunt for the best area to stay in Siena, Italy? Stop right there and read on. This guide scours the handsome hill town in the heart of Tuscany to outline a handful of amazing neighborhoods that are just about perfect for the would-be sightseer and pizza muncher in these parts.
We think you could find yourself surprised at the variety of options that are in the mix, even in the heart of such a relatively small town. Then again, Siena has had more than a millennium to develop and expand, to spread over the surrounding hills and add ever-new areas this way and that.
We also think you’ll find that there’s really no such thing as the best area to stay in Siena, Italy. It all depends on what you and your travel crew are after. If you’re coming to tour the campanile, see the duomo, and strut your stuff on the Piazza del Campo, there’s tourist-friendly Aquila. Or do you prefer local trattoria and wine bars with quiet vibes? For that, there’s Giraffa and San Prospero. Let’s take a closer look at the whole lot…
If you’ve never been here before then you could do a lot worse than a hotel in the Aquila district. This is often hailed as the single best area to stay in Siena, Italy, for those keen on checking off the main sites. It’s easy to see why…
The iconic Duomo di Siena rules the skyline just above it, with its eye-wateringly wonderful marble façade of filigreed Gothic and Renaissance design. Piazza Postierla sits in the heart of the district, leading up to the lovely street of Via del Capitano and the Palace of the Captain, a 13th-century building with intriguing crenulations and brickwork.
The other main thing you get in the Aquila neighborhood is access to the acclaimed Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena. That’s among the best art galleries in the city, holding works by Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Bartolo di Fredi among others. Finally, the Piazza del Campo waits just on the northeast side of the area. That’s where you’ll want to be for the amazing Palio horse race in August, but also for your evening aperitivo.
We can recommend the highly rated La Terrazza Sul Campo ($$-$$$) for those who want to stay in Aquila. It’s a grand hotel that has rooms with wrought-iron balconies that gaze out over the soaring towers of the nearby Piazza del Campo.
Torre is named for the needle-like spire of the Torre del Mangia that dominates pretty much every angle overhead. It’s a stunning thing to be keeping watch. Dating from the middle of the 14th-century, it’s got a lovely Romanesque look and reigns as the second-tallest secular tower in the country, clocking up a whopping 102 meters in total!
That sprouts from the Pubblico Palace, which marks the northern side of the area. From it flows a web of alleys and streets that often enchant and enthrall visitors to Siena. It’s actually the historic Jewish Quarter of the town, made evident by the appearance of the unassuming Siena synagogue (also dating from the 14th century).
Other sights here include the aged Logge del Papa, an arcade carved from shimmering white marble that was made in homage to a pope, and Piazza Mercato, a square with a covered trading space that still hosts farmer’s markets and flea bazaars throughout the summer months. Adding to all that is the easy walking access to the main historic core of town via Piazza del Campo, which buts up to Torre on its northern side.
As far as hotels in these parts go, we don’t think there’s much that could beat the grand Casatorre dei Leoni Dimora Storica ($$$), a beautifully restored medieval townhouse with sprawling suites and beds fit for royalty. Those on a tighter budget might consider the B&B Sallustio Rooms ($$).
Giraffa is a sort of extension to the old town of Siena that sprouts from its north-eastern side. Close enough to the historic core to retain that authentic Tuscan charm but far enough away to be a whole load quieter than the areas by Piazza del Campo, it’s a great place to be based if you value peace and lay ins come the morning.
There are two constituent parts to Giraffa. First, the lower part of the district. That’s got a conventional Italian hill-town layout, with streets barely wide enough for a Vespa scooter and overhanging houses topped by terracotta roofs. Second, there’s the upper part, which is solely given over to the gorgeous Basilica of Saint Francis, a 15th-century Gothic church with some of the finest stained-glass art in the town.
What’s lovely about Giraffa is that it’s not inundated with cafés and bars and trattoria. There are some, mainly clustered around the crescent of Via dei Rossi. However, the backstreets here are largely residential, largely relaxed. That said, everything is still within 10-15 minutes’ walking of the main sights and attractions.
For hotels, consider the deluxe apartment on offer at Casa Katy ($$), which comes with proper local design features and vintage furnishings. Or plump for Residenza D’Epoca Palazzo Piccolomini ($$), a hotel with suites that boast some sweeping panoramas of the Siena church domes.
Go north from the Piazza del Campo through the palazzo-fringed streets of the main old town and you’ll eventually enter Istrice. It’s officially a part of the main center of Siena but has long lived on the fringes. That has its pluses and downsides but means it’s a fantastic choice for anyone keen to escape the baying crowds, particularly during the key festival times of August and July.
Where Istrice really shines is in its offering of parkland. There’s a handful of wide, open urban spaces here and plenty of spots for those picnics under the Tuscan sun. They include Giardini la Lizza, a pebbly round of walking paths with proud equestrian statues rising between the hedgerows, and Giardini Pubblici Armando Diaz, a small and romantic park with a couple of secret benches under the plane trees.
It’s super easy to access the colossal Fortezza Medicea from here. It’s shared between Istrice and the district of San Prospero (more on that below) and plays host to open-air concerts in the warmer months. You can also stroll straight down the main – and 100% pedestrianized – Via dei Montanini into the thick of the city. It’s less than 15 minutes to the big campo in the downtown from most Istrice hotels.
Talking of Istrice hotels…we cannot recommend the B&B Governo dei Nove ($$-$$$) enough. One of the most stylish boutique hotels in the town, it’s got rooms that meld modern touches like polished concrete with dashes of the old-school medieval structure that it’s housed in. Guests also get to enjoy an a la carte breakfast in the bright and breezy on-site dining space.
San Prospero spills down the side of a hill on the western edge of Siena. It’s been there a long time, known for its formidable citadel, the Fortezza Medicea, a great castle that was raised by the ambitious Duke of Tuscany way back in the 1560s. Today, you can delve within to find a wine shop, an open-air theatre, and lovely parklands aplenty.
The streets of San Prospero spread south from the Fortezza through well-planned blocks of relatively wide (at least for Tuscan hill towns) streets. The upshot? There’s parking here. And in case you’re wondering: Parking is gold dust in Siena. It’s rarely available and expensive when you can find it, though the hotels of San Prospero provide a unique opportunity to stow your wheels away.
Now primarily residential in nature, the district is also quiet and authentic. It’s home to the acclaimed Panificio Pizzeria, a bakery come café where you can go for tasty lunches or take-away breads, and a smattering of pharmacies and supermarkets besides. The major downside is that the walk to the sightseeing hub of Siena will all be uphill. Expect that to take around 10-15 minutes.
For us, the best hotel in San Prospero is charming La Villa ($$-$$$). It’s a deluxe stay in an old townhouse, with grand furnishings, chandeliers, and sprawling double suites.
The best area to stay in Siena, Italy – our conclusion
There’s no hard and fast rule about where’s the best area to stay in Siena, Italy. It all comes down to what you want from your trip to this enchanting Italian city that dates back so many centuries. The good news is that there are plenty of options in the mix…
We especially like Aquila, one of the main central parts of Siena, for those looking to see the big sights around the Piazza del Campo and the duomo. Quirky restaurants, wine bars, and markets abound in nearby Torre. Then you have the quieter areas of San Prospero and Giraffa, which are top if you want to dodge the big tourist crowds that come here between May and August.