Siena makes a perfect destination for a visit during the holiday season. The historical center is small enough even for a one-day visit and big enough to offer many events and nice shops for Christmas delights. The narrow medieval streets are already set up with all the lights and decorations ready to welcome citizens and visitors with the magical atmosphere of a Christmas in Siena!
Editor's Note: This article was last updated on November 28 , 2018, to make sure we’re giving you up-to-date info, if the dates have not yet been announced then we indicate TBA (to be announced)
The City of Siena every year promotes a series of events during the holiday season from the beginning of December until the end of January. Art, music, gastronomy, and traditions are all protagonists of a rich calendar of events. I will summarize some of the most interesting events and things to do and see in this period in Siena in this article.
The first thing not to miss is the light of the Christmas lights on the first of December - watch as Siena is illuminated in a magical way!
Mercato del Campo - the Medieval Market: December 1 and 2, 2018
The Medieval Market in Piazza del Campo held at the beginning of December has become a tradition in Siena. The beautiful piazza is transformed into a medieval style marketplace with Christmas atmosphere and stands for all kind of products are available, perfect for holiday shopping for the two days of the market. Half of the square is dedicated to handicrafts and Christmas decorations and the other half for food and wine.
You can also taste delicacies of all types, from ham, salami, sausages and cheese to honey, sweets, and cakes. The market is open from morning until 8 pm. I really recommend the visit after sunset because you can get the best of the atmosphere when the stands are illuminated. Usually, the restaurants around the piazza participate in the event; for example, you can buy a sandwich with grilled sausage directly in a stand outside the restaurant for a delicious snack.
Christmas Village @ the Giardini La Lizza
Every year the park next to the bus station and to the fortress is transformed into a Christmas village with an ice skating rink, games for kids, stands for handicrafts and Christmas products and food court for snacks and drinks. Especially if you are visiting the city with children, this park offers a good place to stop. It is also very popular among local children. Open every day from December 6 until January 6th, including December 25 and 31.
Every child's Christmas fantasy is open for visitor's at the Fortezza Medicea. The Kingdom of Santa Claus (Il Regno di Babbo Natale) is open 6-9, 14-16, 21 December to 1 January and from 4-6 January. The hours are from 11 am till 7 pm except on December 6, 25, 31 and the 1st of January when it is from 3 pm till 7 pm.
Presepi - Nativity Scenes
There are several Nativity scenes exhibited throughout the city during the Christmas period.
As in previous years, a large installation of Nativity Scene located inside the train station is open to visitors from December 6th until January 6th. It is actually one of the most prestigious in all of Italy, considering it includes pieces of art and backdrops from San Gregorio Armeno in Naples.
The Misericordia will also prepare a Nativity from December 1st in via del Porrione together with a solidarity tree and welcomes donations of food for the local “Adopt a family” initiative. It will also open its Museo Storico dell’Arciconfraternita.
Be sure to visit the MPS Foundation on Via Banchi di Sotto when they open their doors to the pre-chapel area of Palazzo Sansedoni to allow visitors to admire the splendid 14th-century frescoes that depict a Nativity scene.
Read here to learn about the Tuscan Presepe and where you can see other Nativity Scenes across the region.
Christmas with Music
Music is, of course, one of the protagonists of the events of this period. However, we are still waiting for the holiday programs to be made public, keep checking back to this page for constant updates.
Art, music and good taste meet up in Siena for the65th Edition of the “Sette Note in Sette Notti". On each of the Thursdays, the Museo Civico will open in the evening from 9:15pm for a special visit of a part of the museum, followed by a tasting of local products - one day it will be of wines, another Panforte and Ricciarelli with sweet wines and the other with other sweets from Siena and wines - followed by a special concert.
Welcome the new year with a traditional gospel concert at the Teatro dei Rozzi on January 1st at 5pm.
Cooking classes and local products
If you would like to learn how to prepare traditional dishes with Tuscan recipes it might be a good idea to attend a cooking class. The Cooking School Lella proposes courses and lessons with a Christmas theme for adults and children from seven years of age throughout the month, and on Saturdays upon request. Lessons range from how to make "i Dolci Senesi" to Christmas gifts you can eat to the making of an authentic Christmas dinner Siena style. Cost is 50 euro per person. Information and reservations: Tel. 0577 46609 email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The International Chef Academy of Tuscany offers thematic cooking courses in this period, for example to learn how to prepare riccarelli and cantucci cookies, very popular during the holidays. Information and reservations: tel. 0577 280121 or email email@example.com.
In addition to the two days of medieval market, there will be the market of equo and solidarity artisan ACLI producers, from 9:30am to 7:30pm, at the Auditorium Santo Stefano (next to the park La Lizza) from December 1 - 15.
Events for children
Many appointments are naturally dedicated to children in this period, like artistic laboratories, visits, and performances. Guided visits and laboratories for children are only in Italian but I suggest a couple of occasions that can be enjoyed without knowledge of the language!
For the feast of Saint Lucia on December 13, the traditional Fair of Saint Lucia will be held in the area near the church dedicated to this saint (Pian dei Mantellini) throughout the day (8am-8pm). The stands sell various types of sweets, games and the typical ceramic bells painted with the colors of the contradas and many other gift ideas.
Waiting for the Epiphany with Firemen: traditionally, there is a party for children organized by the firemen on the Epiphany on January 6 in Piazza del Campo, waiting for the Befana-witch. Children can follow a path of fun activities with the help of firemen, naturally with a visit inside the fire truck. When darkness falls in the square, the Befana arrives with candies down a rope from the roof of City Hall! All day from 10:30 am until 5:30 pm.
The City of Siena has introduced #SienaFrancigenaKids, which are trekking routes for children in the historical center. Every Saturday in this period, guided tours for kids with their parents will start from the old pilgrim's hospital Santa Maria della Scala in Piazza Duomo at 3 pm and permit children to experiment a glimpse of the life of these ancient travelers!
The Christmas season in Siena
These are just some ideas for a glimpse of all the initiatives in this period in Siena! Especially on the weekends, the city is very welcoming and full of life and you may also find itinerant performances in the streets of the historic center.
If want to visit the city with an expert guide, you can join one of the many guided tours to discover the various aspects and lesser known places of the city. For example, join a guided tour dedicated to culinary excellence with tasting or to the Jewish Synagogue. Check with the tourist office to check which of the organized guided tours are available also in English in Piazza Duomo 1.
How to arrive in Siena
Please check this article for logistic information if you arrive in Siena with public transport.
If you come to Siena by car, read these suggestions for parking in Siena.