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!
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 summaruze some of the most interesting events and things to do and see in this period in Siena in this article.
Mercato del Campo - the Medieval Market: December 5 and 6, 2015
The Medieval Market in Piazza del Campo held at the beginning of December has became 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 (with a parking place) are 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 1 until January 31 , including December 25 and 31.
Presepi - Nativity Scenes
There are several Nativity scenes exhibited throughout in the city during the Christmas period.
Visit, for example, the church of San Francesco with the exhibition of Nativity Scenes in the art and popular traditions from 25 December until 24 January.
As in previous years, a large installation of Nativity Scene is located inside the train station, open to visitors from December 7th until January 10th.
In Piazza del Campo instead you can assist a live Nativity scene come to life with the participation of the children of the different Contradas of Siena on Saturday, December 19th. It will be beautiful to witness this scene with the magnificent setting of the Fonte Gaia fountain and the musical accompaniment of the Band Città del Palio.
Christmas with Music
Music is of course one of the protagonists of the events of this period. Italian Opera in Siena, for example, offers various concerts with the participation of musicians and opera singers from around the world at the Auditorium of Santo Stefano (La Lizza). Tickets cost from 15 to 20 euro (free entrance for children under 12 years ). For information and reservations: tel. 345 9305865 email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are many concerts with traditional Christmas music in this period as well, such as the concert of the Choir "Coro Polifonico Senese" on Thursday, December 31 at the Civic Museum in the beautiful hall "Sala del Mappamondo".
In the "Sala del Mappamondo" there will also be other concerts, like the one by Orchestra of San Bernardino (13 dicember) and Madrigalisti senesi and the dance group Vita Nuova, with the choral concert and exhibition of Renaissance dances (28 December).
For information and reservations: tel. 0577 292223 email: email@example.com
Orchestra and choir of the Institute of Musical Studies "Rinaldo Franci" will perform at the Cathedral of Siena for a Christmas concert 22 December at 7.15 p.m.
The year 2016 in Siena starts with the traditional gospel concert at the Teatro dei Rozzi on January 1st at 17 with Cedric Shannon Rivers & Brothers Gospel.
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. 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.
In addition to the two days of medieval market, every Friday there will be the market of agricultural producers from Tuscany, with direct sales from 7 am to 14 pm in Viale Cesare Maccari (next to the park La Lizza).
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. The stands sell various types of sweets, games and the typical ceramic bells painted with the colors of the contradas.
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!
Among the novelties of 2015, the City of Siena has introduced #SienaFrancigenaKids, which are trekking routes for children in the historical center. Every Saturday from December 12 until January 30, guided tours for kids under 11 with their parents will start from the old pilgrims hospital Santa Maria della Scala and permit children to experiment a glimpse of the life of these ancient travelers! For information and reservations: email@example.com
Creative activities for children with themes related to art will be held every Monday and Saturday, until 31 January at the association Corte dei Miracoli with bilingual workshops (Italian - English) for children over 4 years.
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. I suggest checking the agenda of all the events for the day you have chosen for your visit to discover many other offerings to enjoy the city at its best, but most of all, visit and roam around enjoying the festive atmosphere.
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 tastings (December 6) or to the places and the life of St. Catherine of Siena (6 December). Check from the tourist office of the city if some of the organized guided tours are available also in English: phone +39 0577 292206.
How to arrive in Siena: Please check this article for logistic information if you arrive in Siena with public transport.
If you come in Siena by car, read these suggestions for parking in Siena.