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Siena Old Town

Exploring the Tuscan countryside with children can pose challenges to families, especially if major cities are the object of your travel lust. Thankfully, even Italian cities laden with tourists like Siena can appeal to the youngest of children. By planning the trip ahead of time, a day trip or an afternoon in Siena is the perfect way to see a Tuscan city.

How much time should a family with children allow in order to see Siena?
With small children, plan to arrive in Siena around 11 AM, just before lunch time. This allows plenty of time to park and potentially walk to the city centre, arriving in time for lunch. The city’s Duomo is a must-see sight, but otherwise, the highlight of the city is its cool and shaded streets. A nice walking tour, comfortable for children or parents and pushchairs, should have you finished around 3 pm, including time for a leisurely lunch and gelato.

Siena Old Town
Siena Old Town

What will the children love in Siena?
Once you arrive in Siena, stroll through city streets on the way to il Campo, the beautiful piazza in the center of the city. Young children will love running in this vast open space. Choose a restaurant flanking il Campo for lunch, and children can still have some freedom, instead of being roped down for lunch. Allow one parent to sit and sip a Bellini, while the other walks around with the little ones. If the children are a bit older, a climb up to the top of the Palazzo Pubblico affords a great view of the city and the palazzo below. Don’t try this with toddlers or pre-schoolers, though–there are almost 400 steps!

Will children be able to handle the Duomo?
Siena’s famous Duomo is located a short walk from il Campo. The streets are lined with buildings that house gelato shops, tourist souvenirs, and leather, pottery, and wine. Our visit to the Duomo actually started at the back of the expansive building, and the children ate gelato on the steps and ran around for awhile before we headed up the hill to see the front. My children were, sadly, too tired at this point to explore inside, but older children gladly waited in line to see this gorgeous church, whose ceiling is painted in black and white stripes! We did manage to sneak a glimpse inside, thankfully. Older children and families should be aware that it’s necessary to have their shoulders covered, and getting to put on the paper drape might be fun for little girls if an extra incentive is needed. The Duomo is definitely do-able with children, as long as they aren’t too tired yet, as mine were.

Siena old town square
Siena old town square

Should we try to take the kids to il Palio?
This famous bareback horserace occurs around Siena’s piazza every year, on July 2 and August 16. When we arrived in Siena, they were just beginning to prepare for this enormous festival, since the race is followed by days of celebration. However, leave il Palio to the adults, or at least to families with much older children. The streets and cafes will be littered with people, with hardly room to walk, let alone see the race. For families with small children, it’s best to leave Siena alone during il Palio.

What else should I know about taking my family to Siena?
Siena is much smaller than Florence, making it easier to get around. Thankfully, there are less scooters on the ride, so it’s possible to drive into the city and look for a parking place. Park just outside the center and walk, but be sure to bring along a pushchair for small children. Streets are often a bit steep, and walking around can be tiring. Keep hydrated, especially during the hot summer months. Don’t forget the sunscreen.

What’s the final word on Siena with children?
A visit to Italy or to Tuscany wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Siena. This beautiful city is less crowded than nearby Florence, meaning that children are able to explore with a bit more freedom. The food is delicious, the gelato tasty, and the sights pleasing for the entire family. Travel through Tuscany with the children should definitely include Siena.

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