After spending a semester in Siena exploring every inch within the city walls, I discovered the “hidden gem” spots where local students go to experience la dolce vita. Siena may seem small, but once you’re standing in the magnificent Piazza Del Campo, you’ll find there are countless things to do, see and eat. To provide you with a treasure map, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite go-to spots in Siena as a student.
Have your breakfast overlooking Piazza Del Campo
Forget sitting in the piazza with an overpriced coffee from one of the surrounding restaurants. Treat yourself to an economic breakfast with a view. At Bar Key Largo, you can take your morning caffè, cappuccino or pastry (or all of the above!) up to the balcony that overlooks the entire Piazza del Campo. It is the perfect place to enjoy the fresh morning air and watch over the vivacious city center. If you loved your morning coffee at Bar Key Largo, be sure to head back for aperitivo!
Relax in the gardens of L’Orto de’ Pecci
Whether you are studying in Siena or just passing by, paying a visit to the lush All’Orto de Pecci is a must if you’re looking to enjoy a beautiful day outside in a romantic, Italian garden. Students utilize this space to soak up sunshine, study in peace, or to pass a ball around. Poke around the grounds to see the free-roaming peacocks, donkey, and other animals. If you get hungry, there is an authentic Tuscan restaurant in the gardens called All’Orto de’ Pecci that offers delicious food.
Grab the best panino in Siena
In Piazza del Mercato, the panini shop Gino Cacino di Angelo, known as the best panini shop in Siena by locals, offers a huge menu with thousands (I am serious!) of different panino combinations. Their ingredients are fresh and locally sourced. If you’re feeling bold, ask if they’ll make you a custom panino instead of ordering off the menu. Trust their judgments! This is what my Italian friend, a student at the University of Siena, made me do when he took me on my first visit to Gino Cacino. Whatever you order, you’ll be licking your fingers and ready to head back for more, especially since a panino is only around 6 Euro.
Catch the sunset with a view of Siena at Fortezza Medicea
Before the sun begins to set, head over to the Fortezza Medicea, the stunning Renaissance fortress built by the famous Medici family in the 1500s. It’s there that local students and city residents exercise, or gather in the center gardens to relax, pitch a slackline, and enjoy the outdoors. Fortezza Medicea has one of the best panoramic views of Siena, so it is the perfect place to watch the sunset over the Tuscan hills. We would regularly coordinate group trips over to the Fortezza with a bottle of wine and some snacks to watch the sun set all together, even as runners whizzed past our lazy bums.
…Or catch the sunset outside Porta San Marco.
One day, as we wandered the streets of Siena, intentionally getting lost, we found a gate at the Southwestern edge of the city. The gate is called Porta San Marco, which leads outside the city walls. Just outside the gate, you will find the terrain drops off past a metal fence. Overlooking this drop off is a flawless panoramic view of the countryside, with perfectly seated benches facing out. This spot is frequented by local students looking to decompress from the buzz of the city, and take in the beauty of the surrounding scapes. This spot is another great place to gather with friends, enjoy some wine, and live out la dolce vita.
Dine on a traditional pizza with friends at Il Pomodorino.
No matter where you are, Italian pizza will not disappoint, but if you are in Siena, it is imperative you visit the one eatery that combines the pizza-making traditions from Siena, Puglia, Campania, and Lazio Alto. Il Pomodorino makes incredibly authentic pizza, and the restaurant looks out onto the city, offering yet another dining experience with a view.
If you’re lucky, the owner, who is from Southern Italy, will make an appearance to ask your party about the meal. Once when I went with friends, the owner insisted we have a taste of their homemade Crema di Banana We happily obliged. Not surprisingly, it was delicious. It is for this reason, genuine Italian hospitality, that local students are drawn to this restaurant.
Are you going to be studying abroad in Siena? Follow our Italy Pinterest board for more study abroad in Italy tips.