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Two artisans carrying an antique desk through Siena's town center

Siena sports some of the most photographed sights in the world and you won't need a map to find them. But apart of piazza del Campo and the famous cathedral you'll be able to hunt down countless lesser known churches, museums and sunset spots which are off the main tourist track.


A nice sight in its own right, the walls of Siena's Medici fortress are also a great location for panorama shots which include the San Domenico church, the cathedral and a big slice of Siena. For a close-up of the same panorama walk on to the rear side of the San Domenico church, which is dedicated to Saint Catherine. Even without a fancy wide angle you'll be able to pack the cathedral its never finished extension and Torre del Mangia into one pick. 

A panorama view of Siena with the cathedral


Together with piazza del Campo Siena's most famous sights, the cathedral is at its best in the late afternoon when the sun provides the main entrance of the west facing church with a golden hue. To get an idea of the massive size of the whole complex climb the Facciatone, the facade of the never finished new cathedral (access via the OPA museum).

From the Facciatone you'll also see part of piazza del Campo and the rolling Tuscan hills. And even if you don't, the climb has its charm on a foggy winter day too. 

Torre del Mangia and the roofs of Siena in November

The Gate to Heaven tour (on reservation only) is a fabulous option for close-up shots of the cathedral's facade and more Siena from the top views. You'll also want to climb Torre del Mangia (as long as you're fit and don't suffer from claustrophobia) for the famous bird's eye view of piazza del Campo. Get up there in the morning if you want to have the long shadow of Torre del Mangia in the picture. 

For more church facades walk on to the Chiesa di Santa Maria di Provenzano. The July Palio is dedicated to this church and its white marble facade and blue-grayish dome is always an impressive sight (less so its interiors). 

Santa Maria di Provenzano church in Siena

You're not allowed to take pics in most of Siena's museums. However photos can be taken now in Italy's state museums. The Pinacoteca Nazionale is Siena's only state museum, but its a great start for a photo tour, since you won't just be able to take pictures of Sienese and Renaissance art, but also get some great panorama shots over the Tuscan city from the museum windows.

Open only in the mornings, the guided tours at the Biccherne museum offers great panorama views over piazza del Campo. And the civic museum in piazza del Campo aren't just the frescoes by Lorenzetti and Martini, but also the view from the Loggia (a covered balcony on the upper floor of the museum), which spreads over the roofs of the Torre and Onda neighborhood and via the hills of the Crete Senesi all the way to Mount Amiata . For all museums, be sure to check museum opening times beforehand. 


A stroll down Siena's backroads is a must. Many a lovely Sienese detail will be only found here. And not a single tourist will stand in front of it. 

House facades in the typically yellowish colors of Siena

You won't run into as many nuns and priests in Siena as you would in Rome, and the washinglines can't compete with the ones in Naples or Venice. But you'll be granted with countless genuinely beautiful photo opportunities if you slow down your pace to explore Siena's backroads. 

Two nuns on a morning walk in Siena's historic town center

An all white washing line in one of Siena's quiet backstreets


Vespa parking in the Civetta (owl) neighborhood near piazza del Campo

This is a tricky one because each of Siena's 17 contrade has plenty of beautiful buildings, churches and some spectacular views for the photo crazy. However for the traveler, who doesn't have time to explore each single one, here are my favorite five for two lay-back photo walks: 
  • for sunrise and beautiful morning light head from piazza del Campo to porta Romana via the Torre (tower) and Valdimontone (ram) neighborhoods (great panorama views!) and/or to porta Pispini into the Nicchio (shell) neighborhood. 
  • during golden hour walk from piazza Sant'Agostino to porta San Marco through the Tartuca (tortoise) and Chiocciola (snail) neighborhoods. Piazza Sant'Agostino is not just another beautiful church, but also a great place for a shot of Siena after the rain, when the humidity still lingers in the Orto dei Pecci area (see first photo up on top).
During the walks through Siena's contrade look out for the symbols of each neighborhood (on fountains, doors, etc.). They make for great photos, help you figure out where you are and kids in Siena will love the improvised treasure hunt.

Panorama view with torre del Mangia and the cathedrals' facciatone from the Valdimontone neighborhood


One of the most attractive aspects of Siena is the way the city blends in with the famous cypress lined countryside. No better way to call it a day with a few sunset pics from porta San Marco, Siena's south-western city gate.  

For the exact location of the recommended spots check out the Siena photo map below. And for more Tuscany pics click through to my Instagram feed

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