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.
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 3 and 4, 2016
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 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 1 until January 10th, 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 December 25th until January 22, 2017.
As in previous years, a large installation of Nativity Scene located inside the train station, is open to visitors from December 4th until January 10th. 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 (open until January 17).
From Monday, December 12, the MPS Foundation on Via Banchi di Sotto will open its 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. 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. Ticket sales open
Art, music and good taste meet up in Siena for the 5th Edition of the “Sette Note in Sette Notti". On each of the Thursdays between December 1st and 15th (1st, 8th and 15th), 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. Cost is just 6 euro for the evening, and reservations are recommended either by phone +39 0577 292420 or email at email@example.com. For more details, check out the program by date here.
Welcome the new year with a traditional gospel concert at the Teatro dei Rozzi on January 1st at 5pm with the Serenity Singers from Baltimore (MD). Cost is 15 euro and you can buy tickets directly at the theater the day of starting at 3pm.
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 10:30am until 5:30pm.
The City of Siena has introduced #SienaFrancigenaKids, which are trekking routes for children in the historical center. Every Saturday from December 10 until February 25, 2017, guided tours for kids with their parents will start from the old pilgrims hospital Santa Maria della Scala in Piazza Duomo at 3pm and permit children to experiment a glimpse of the life of these ancient travelers! Cost €7,50 for kids, €10 for adults. For information and reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Creative activities for children with themes related to art will be held every Saturday, from December 3 through January 28th at the Corte dei Miracoli with bilingual workshops (Italian - English) for children 5-12 years old called "Art, Math & Natural Sciences. Cost 15 euros, for more info Tel. 338 8686285, email@example.com.
The Botanical Garden will offer a guided visit for children called ‘L’Officina dei semplici’ every Saturday between December 3-31 from 10am-12pm and from 3-5pm. Recommended for kids older than 6. Cost is 10 euro per family (2 adults and 2 kids). Book by calling 338 4696296, 339 1125987 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Within the Children's Museum at the Santa Maria della Scala complex, the museum will offer "E' Festa", artistic workshops dedicated to Christmas on December 18 and 28 and January 8 at 4pm. To book, calll 0577 534531 or email email@example.com.
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. I suggest checking the program 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 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 to 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.