I noticed that parking in Siena is difficult because there is not a lot of space to maneuver a car. The residents park on the side of the street making the street tinier. The motobikes, I guess, is the best mode of transportation here.
In many famous European cities, parking is a challenge. In Sienna, however, parking was not a problem. We parked closer to the fortress. It was quite a walk to the Piazza but we had all the time to see the piazza.
There are designated parking spaces in Sienna but these are designated by days like Saturdays and Wednesdays for example.
Make sure to read the signs on what time the parking slots are available otherwise your car will be towed.
It is very easy to get to Siena by train. There are numerous trains that run during the day, so you don't have to worry about missing the only train. The ride was fun, the scenery was beautiful and the journey time was just under 90 minutes.
The train station in Siena is outside of the city walls, and is a hassle if you are thinking about pulling your luggage all the way to your hotel. We grabbed a taxi at the station and avoided that problem.
Siena is easier to get to by bus or coach rather than by train. The train station is about 2-3 km from the main area and you may have to change trains at Empoli.
The coach companies will deliver you to Piazza San Domenico which is much closer.
These busses are GREAT! They go all over the city and a schedule is posted at every stop. While there is no car or bus activity permitted inside the city (it's small enough, use your feet!), if you have a hotel outside the city walls, this is the greatest mode of transportation. It was 77 cents in euros while i was there for one trip, which you could buy at any tabacchi shop.
Firenze (airport code FLR) is the closest airport for those who come by plane. Connections are very easy and very reasonable. Train is not a good option because it means changing at Empoli and apart from that, Siena’s train station is out of town, so it involves a rather expensive (= long) taxi drive from the train station to the accommodation in Siena.
The bus shuttle called ”Vola in bus” leaves from the airport every 30 minutes, at the right hand side of the airport, behind the taxi stand. Price was 5 Euro in November 2010. The bus drops off passengers in front of Firenze’s train station Santa Maria Novella. From there it is a short 5 minutes walk to the bus station of SITA busses. Or ask the airport bus driver to let you stay in the bus because he drives there anyhow. It is the place where the airport bus leaves back to the airport.
SITA Bus is the perfect way to get to Siena quick and reasonable. Price was 7,10 Euro for the rapida in November 2010. Travel time is 1 hour and 15 minutes. In Siena, the bus stops at Piazza Gramci, this is the piazza next to Via Tozzi, the end point in SITA bus information. Piazza Gramci is also the bus hub in Siena with intelligent information system (an electronic timetable with departure times, destinations and bus tracks, see photo 2).
One word about Firenze Airport:
In my opinion this is one of the lousiest airports in Italy. Maybe no one cares because tourist masses will come anyhow, so why make it a tad bit nicer? The selection of shops is very small (bookshop and clothes shop), the food thing is very expensive (even more expensive than at Frankfurt International), the people rather rude and also after check in and security it does not get better. Compared to Ancona Airport, another small airport I use quite often, Firenze is really a rubbish one!
Oh, and in case you wonder what this very futuristic building on the way from airport to Firenze centre is – that is the new Court of Justice. I almost fell off my chair when I saw it, so very unusual for this city of ancient arts... Here is a youtube video of Court of Justice.
Thanks to Bill for your patient help with these public transport questions in the travel forum.
© Ingrid D., November 2010.
Travelling to Siena by car is not a good option. The city within the town walls is closed to non-local traffic. Or more precise: any car without a specific sign at the windscreen is not allowed to enter the town. Locals pay a hefty price for this privilege to park inside. Apart from that, given the narrow streets of a typical old town it should go without saying that the parking space is for locals only. We tourists with cars have to stay outside of the town walls.
Most naturally the car rental companies are also located outside of town, some near, some quite far. When I wanted to travel to Gubbio on the weekend and realised that it is almost impossible or better a very long trip with many changes if I would take public transport, so I decided to rent a car. But... it involved a lot of walking, internet research and phoning but thanks to Serena and Claudio of Dante School I was able to get a car at a reasonable price. Avis ruled out itself by wanting to charge me 200 Euro for the two days and so Europcar made it. I got a car, fully insured, for 110 Euro for two days. It is a bit of taking the bus and walking to get to Europcar (approx. 30-40 minutes in total) though.
Via Simone Martini 36: which is outside of the walls, near San Francesco church;
Viale Europa 23/25: too far to walk, but pollicino bus No. 52 takes you to Due Ponti and from there it is a 15 minute walk along SS73 Levante until Viale Europa turns off to the right (south).
© Ingrid D., November 2010, update Feb 2011 (links Avis and Europcar).
Imagine, you arrive in a new town on a dark grey November evening and don’t know how to get to your destination. You want to take a taxi. You ask where the taxi stand is. People tell you. You go and try to find it and don’t find it. You have your luggage either rolling behind you or on your back. You get desperate...You don’t want anything else but a coffee and a bed. But there is the distance between you and the bed. That’s what happened to me because at all costs I could not find the taxi stand.... And then it almost bit me. The taxi sign I mean. When I finally saw it mounted at the wall I really started to laugh. But then I was at the taxi stand but there were no taxis... Saturday evening, approximately 8:30 p.m. The time when seemingly every Senese was out and about to a restaurant, by taxi. It took some time until eventually one arrived and brought me to my final destination. And it was dirty cheap, 6 Euro only for a distance between north of town to south of town. And I had a nice chat with the driver who was from Sicilia; we talked about... Commissario Montalbano (although this is irrelevant for a taxi tip, isn’t it?). Much later, when I passed the taxt stand again, this time during the day I almost collapsed again when I saw the huge amounts of taxis. It almost looked like a big car shop....
The taxi stand in Siena is at Piazza Matteotti, opposite of the post office. Directly opposite. The sign is not at the street but at the wall. No light in the evening to illuminate it. My photo is a bit misleading – the camera flash illuminated it. With the help of reflective pigments.
© Ingrid D., November 2010.
Yes, it is easy, although one has to understand Siena Mobilità’s information overflow. And information overflow it is. There is a huge 9 MB (!!) and 68 pages brochure with all information one might need. Though in Italian only. Emphasis seems to be given to the bus transport outside of Siena, to all the tiny towns nearby and also to other famous Toscana towns. The information for Siena itself is rather thin, or I should say not explained enough. Small busses, called pollicini, have a quite expanded network but not exactly in the city centre around the Campo. Or I should better say that they travel from near the Campo in all different directions but radial/starlike. And there is no station for these small busses anywhere near Piazza Gramci, where busses to and from Firenze arrive and depart. But these pollicini stations have a rather intelligent schedule and information system. A touch screen electronic monitor is mounted at each station (the orange one in photo 2) and with quick clicks one can find the timetables for the desired busses. In addition, written information with bus numbers and stops is at these little stations.
Tickets can be bought in Tabaccherie, easy to detect with the big T on the shop sign. Each ticket costs 1 Euro, valid for pollicini and Siena urban busses. The word urban might be misleading, because it is not inside of the town walls but outside and means everything which belongs to Siena’s district. Note that the map of this urban service does not have north as it should be on maps but at the bottom..., which confused me, a map person, almost to unconsciousness....
This part of Siena Mobilità is where all maps can be downloaded as pdf.
Oh, and don't forget to validate the ticket inside the bus.
© Ingrid D., November 2010.
Finding a space to park a vehicle is not easy. The public areas were almost all full, even at this time of the year, not in tourist season. Cost to us was 1.6 euro an hour. That can be very costly for a day at Siena. Our parking was about 5 blocks walk to enter the town
The bus from Florence takes about 70 minutes, but be aware that there are two different buses; the other one goes through some other places, so that, it takes longer. Check the schedule before you take the bus.
Regarding the bus station in Florence, it is on Via Santa Caterina, opposite Santa Maria Novella Railway Station.
To get to Siena from Florence, we decided to follow the advice VTer leics had given me and went by bus. The SITA bus station is Florence is located right across the street from the Santa Maria Novella train station, on Via Santa Caterina da Siena. A one-way ticket to Siena costs 7.10 Euros, and the 75 minute bus ride through the beautiful Tuscan countryside was quite enjoyable and very comfortable. In Siena, the bus stops just within the city walls, not far from the Fortezza Medicea. Siena's main attractions can easily be reached on foot from the station, which is the biggest advantage of traveling to Siena by bus instead of by train (the train station being much further away). Buses between Florence and Siena run several times a day so there's no need to book your ticket in advance, but one thing to keep in mind for your return trip is that the last bus for Florence leaves Siena at 8:45 pm.
Siena is not along the main train lines, so getting to Siena by train from Florence is a bit tricky - you change trains at Empoli. A faster, more direct way would be to take the SITA express bus from the main bus terminal in Florence (beside the main train station) on a quick 1 1/4-hour ride along very scenic hilly route. The bus ride costs about 7 euros as of November 2008.
Don't expect any written information in english. Don't expect transport employees to speak more than rudimentary english. Expect delays, and count on the unexpected.
GETTING TO SIENA
Take the bus, it's by far the better option and costs about 6 euro. The bus station is close to the very heart of Siena.
From Florence, it's the SITA bus garage, a short walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station. If you're facing the station, below the big stairs, turn 90 degrees left, and approach the corner of the block. Continue down the street 20 m or so, and you'll see the garage entrance on your right. Buy a ticket for the "rapida" bus, it's faster than the "diretta". Validate the ticket in one of the machines before getting into the bus. Don't let anyone (except the bus driver, if he bothers) "help" you with putting the luggage in the storage compartment of the bus.
From Rome, get to Tiburtina bus station. You need to find the right ticket office for Siena, it can be a bit confusing. It's about 3 hours on the bus, if traffic is ok. You'll end up at the train station in Siena, see below.
If you want to take the train, beware that Siena is not that well connected. You're likely going to have to change on the way. The train station is located outside town, it's a 15 min walk if you know where you're going, and pretty steep, to get into Siena centre. Better take a bus to reach the centre (see below), it's a bit slow but more comfortable, especially if you have luggage. Don't expect to see a lot of taxis - you might you need to call for one, which is going to be a hassle if you don't speak italian. However, if the time of day is right, you can always wait for a taxi dropping someone off. At peak hours, you will find a few taxis lingering.
Arriving by car is probably the worst option. The city centre is closed for traffic unless you're a resident. Hotels in the centre do not have parking, although you could get away with dropping off luggage if you can show the police a hotel reservation. While there are a few big parkings just outside the city walls, you will have to walk a bit. Don't even consider a car if you're arriving during the Palio (horse race) days. If you're arriving on the south side, look out for the "Duomo" parking. From the north, the Fortezza is good. A convenient option is San Francesco, close to Porta Ovile (east side, roughly, not too far from the train station). Should you park there, you can take the escalators up and avoid a very steep walk. Parking is about 1.50 euro per hour. There are several free parking lots in the periphery, and you could take a bus to the centre.
Siena centre is not that big, and the best option is to walk. You'll be hard pressed to walk more than 30 min between any two city gates. However, beware that the town is very hilly, and walking can be tiring, especially if it's a hot day. Also, do get a city map, or you'll soon get lost in the maze that is Siena.
Riding anything with wheels in the very city centre is not allowed. While you're unlikely to get a fine for doing it, it's not going to be convenient. Steep cobbled streets and crowds make it a dubious choice.
Unless you're a resident, the city centre is closed for traffic. Should you somehow end up within the city walls, get out. There's plenty of traffic police, and you will be fined. The red-and-white sign "traffico limitato" means that you should stay clear.
Don't bother with the few buses travelling around the very centre. Buses are a decent choice for going anywhere in Siena periphery (a special restaurant, the train station etc). Remember that you're supposed to get a bus ticket before getting on the bus. You can buy them in any place that sells tobacco (market with a distinct "T" sign on the street). Once on the bus, you need to validate the ticket in one of the machines. You could get on a bus without a ticket and hope for the best, but there are occasional controls, and the fines are pretty steep. When planning, do count on some time figuring out exactly what line you need to take. There are no easy maps, the system is quite confusing, and the bus drivers are not very helpful. Depending on where you are, there are no buses after nine-ten PM.
You don't usually hail a cab on the street. Hotels and expensive restaurants will call for their guests. In the city centre, taxis pick up at Piazzi Matteotti (=Piazza della Posta), right outside McDonalds. Taxis are allowed to go nearly anywhere in the city centre. A rough price estimate is 1 euro per minute, and as long as you won't be leaving Siena it shouldn't cost more than 15-20 euro.
I learned from the locals that their preferred way to visit Siena and San Gimignano from Florence in one day is as follows:
Train Florence to Siena - during the day hourly at 40 minutes past the hour - journey time 1 hour 20 (take bus from station into town)
Bus Siena to San Gimignano circa 1 hour during the day hourly at 40 minutes past the hour - get bus at San Stefano - buy ticket in advance in underground ticket office
Bus San Gimignano to Poggibonsi 20- minutes 3 euros
Train Poggibonsi to Florence 1 hour