The pigeons in Europe are notorious. They are so many of them and being fed by the locals. I had seen pigeos every plaza and park I went. In Siena, the pigeons hang out on the edges of the fountain.
Watch out for them when they fly above you because sometimes they poop! One of the students got the "bomb" on her shoulder. Luckily, the bomb did not fall on her head!
Siena is like a maze. You can so easily get lost. While living there, my roomate left the apartment telling me she would be back in 15 minutes. She didn't return for over an hour. She had gotten lost and had no map with her to help her find her way back.
To buy a map on the internet see website below.
Of all the possible jobs in the world there is one I would definitely never dare to apply for: driving a taxi in Siena. No, not for the maze of the streets or the challenging width or rather narrowness of the streets. No, because of the pedestrians. I might wake up one day and decide that I will simply drive over them instead of using the horn every other second. It would result in a mass extinction of tourists, like the dinosaur extinction way back in time.....
Ok, enough rant. Eurodisney tourists, listen, please, for your own sake: the majority of cars in Siena is not electrically driven but clearly audible. And despite Siena might look like a Medieval gem, which it is, we already arrived in 3rd millennium and that’s where cars have been invented already. MOVE, when you hear a car behind you. Make room!! For your own sake.
VTers won’t do that, I am sure :-) They would make room or otherwise avoid the main axis streets.
© Ingrid D., December 2010.
Having lived in Italy for more than five years and travelled around a fair bit here, I can confidently say - don't worry! Siena is about as safe as it gets in Italy, and certainly safer than your average american city/town. Here's a summary.
Basically unheard of, except for the occasional bar brawl. The one exception is during soccer days (mostly sundays), when violent fans from out of town may run a bit wild once or twice per year.
There might be some pickpockets in crowded situations, mostly around Piazza del Campo in peak season. Still, with the bare minimum of street savvy you should be ok. No need for a money belt, but perhaps keep your wallet in a front pocket, and don't be stupid leaving anything valuable unattended, or visible in your car.
If you're acting very gullible, being rather drunk, or just plain unlucky, you run the risk of being overcharged. In a restaurant, if the price doesn't seem right, do ask to see the menu again and count. A service charge is common, and the percentage should be stated on the menu. In addition, a cover charge is standard, usually around 2 euro per person. Bars generally have prices displayed on a sign somewhere, but remember that sitting down at a table might mean a different price than having your coffee/beer at the bar, and definitely so if you're being served at the table. In shops, haggling is usually pointless. At most, you can help the shop-owner cheat taxes by accepting a discount without receipt. Obviously, if you're buying from street vendors, expect the starting price to be a rip-off.
You can generally go anywhere, anytime without worrying, but see below.
Women on their own.
While less evident than in some other parts of Italy, women may experience guys coming on to them and occasional cat-calls/comments. Do be aware that some italian men like to think of female tourists as comparatively "easy", and might be rather insistent. An invitation to have a coffee or show you around town is not general friendliness, but a definite pickup, even if it's an elderly man asking. Accepting to do things one-on-one means that you're potentially interested. While it's generally safe to walk anywhere in town, even after dark, you might want to avoid isolated streets if you're on your own.
Keep your eyes open when crossing streets, and be sure that the approaching car has seen you and is intent on stopping. Scooters are everywhere, don't expect them to slow down noticeably just because you're walking on the same street.
I was surprised to find gypsies in Siena. They were worse here than Florence. It was mainly a problem in the area of the Campo. We were approached constantly while we sat in the piazza by women and several times while we were eating at a restaurant on the edge of the Campo. So just be aware. Several girls who had approached us at the piazza got on the same bus back to Florence as we did.
If you are the slightest bit claustrophobic, have a fear of crowds, or have a small bladder, DO NOT EVEN THINK OF OF VIEWING the Palio from the center of the Piazza. Once you are in there, there is no leaving until the end of the race. There are no facilities and it gets quite packed and can be rather frightening. Although the actual race takes just over a minute once it begins, it does not necessarily begin on time. Once in there, you could be stuck for two or three hours. It is better to get reserved seat tickets, if you want to see the race. For tickets see website below.
It's easy to take the bus from Florence (SITA)to Siena and it's probably the best way to get to Siena. A ticket is only about 5-6 Euros.
I have taken that bus a couple of times. If you have luggage with you, you might want to know this:
You know how you put your suitcase or bags in the compartment below the bus before you get on it.
Sometimes these guys hang around the bus station who want to help you put your suitcase on. Sometimes they try to strike up a conversation with you first. My advice is just: don't let anyone (but the bus driver) help you with putting your luggage on. Do it yourself and see that it goes inside. Maybe, even once you're on the bus, keep watching who takes things in (or out) of the compartment. then you should be fine.
I know this probably doesn't happen very often, but I have guys like that offer me help and refused. With me on the bus was this English lady who had someone help her and then her luggage wasn't on the bus when she got to Siena.
Just be a bit careful, that's all. In Florence one should be a bit careful about things that like and pick-pockets. Siena is not like that at all.
The flagwaving etc. is nice to see, but watch out for some demonstratic political actions afterwards. Another warning: at the yearly races on Piazza del Campo it's very busy, watch out for getting stuck or pushed by large crowds.
No real dangers, just beware of low prices on great wine- it may lead to excessive drinking! I took a picture of this Brunello di Montalcino, one of the most famous varieties in all of Tuscany. Delicious!
Whilst vehicles are not allowed in the old city center, you will still come across some naughty cars & vespas riding though the narrow cobble streets. Watch out and don't get run down
Not really a danger. Just don't misbehave in the Piazza del Campo because these guys are always patrolling the area!