Our 6 Favorite Things To Do in Siena Italy with Kids

View of the town of Siena Italy. Photo by f11photo/AdobeStock
View of the town of Siena Italy. Photo by f11photo/AdobeStock

Siena is — in its “a little bit country, a little bit rock-n-roll” way — the perfect Tuscany town to visit with kids. Its historic center (much of it pedestrian only) is big enough to offer a mix of bustling shop-lined thoroughfares and picturesque medieval side streets to explore, yet small enough to be easily visited on foot in a day, even with kids in tow.  

With wide-open, car-free spaces where younger travelers can blow off a bit of steam, fabulous artwork to satisfy their more staid older siblings, and a yearly historic festival with enough pomp and revelry to satisfy everyone, the numerous things to do in Siena, Italy with kids puts it squarely on the map of every family’s Tuscan vacation itinerary. 

Inside of the Duomo di Siena- credit AdobeStock
Inside of the Duomo di Siena

Best Tips for Visiting Siena with Kids

Siena, like much of Italian towns is filled with cobbled streets, hills, and heat in the summer months. Pack wisely so you can tackle the elements, both natural and manmade

  • Walking Shoes: Comfortable walking shoes are a must if you want to traverse the uneven streets of Siena. 
  • Stroller: If traveling with very young children, a sturdy stroller is helpful, though be prepared for some challenges on steep or bumpy streets, especially if you have an umbrella stroller with small wheels. 
  • Rest Breaks: Take frequent breaks to rest and hydrate, especially in the summer months. Gelato is the perfect excuse to stop and cool down several times a day.  
Piazza del Campo in Siena Italy- credit AdobeStock
Piazza del Campo in Siena Italy

Best Things to do in Siena according to locals

Unconventional Playgrounds 

Although Siena does have a small children’s playground in the historic center (on Vicolo della Fortuna), there’s no need to look farther than the town’s famed Piazza del Campo for a recess break. This vast, shell-shaped public square generally teems with tourists soaking up the sun, kids kicking around soccer balls and tight klatches of locals avidly discussing the day’s gossip.  

With the added bonus of pigeons just begging to be chased and a number of cafes ringing the square, where parents can relax with a cappuccino while keeping an eye on the chasing, this is one of the most picturesque “playgrounds” in Tuscany. Possibly even more important, there is excellent gelato close by.  

View of the town of Siena Italy- credit AdobeStock
View of the town of Siena Italy

If you have aspiring kings and queens among you, another fabulously Sienese monument-now-playground is the Fortezza Medicea (Medici Fortress), located slightly outside of the old town with a beautiful view over the historic center. The wide outer walls, topped with shaded, bench-lined walking paths, and the original brick ramparts at the rectangular fortress’ four corners make for an excellent play space with a bit of culture thrown in. 

The Enoteca Italiana is located in the fortress as well, just in case the grown-ups are interested in a bit of wine tasting and purchasing while the kids play. 

Duomo in Siena
Siena’s Duomo is a spectacular sight from every angle

Artistic Teaching Moments in the Duomo di Siena 

Even kids who profess to be “churched out” will be amazed by the incredible inlaid floors in the Siena Duomo (Duomo di Siena). Kept covered by protective carpets for most of the year, the eye-popping marble panels are revealed once a year (usually from August to October), and their intricate biblical and allegorical scenes stretch across the entire cathedral interior.  

These are best seen with a guide (Ciao Bambino recommends vetted guides as part of their Family Vacation Planning Service), whose explanations can make the tableaux come to life for both kids and parents. The most spectacular way to view the floor is from the dizzying heights of the gallery, by booking the Porta del Cielo tour directly at the Duomo. 

If you want to see more churches in Siena, make sure you stop at the Basilica of San Domenico, which began construction in the 13th century, and is worth a look if you have time.  

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Palazzo Pubblico flags at Piazza del Campo
Flags of the different contrade hang at the Palazzo Pubblico (town hall) in the Piazza del Campo

Palio di Siena: Tuscany’s Biggest Party 

Siena is perhaps best known for its raucous Palio, a medieval festival and horse race held each year in early July through mid-August. With a bit of careful planning, attending the Palio di Siena can be one of the most memorable adventures your family can have in Italy.  

I strongly discourage any visitor from showing up blind on the day of the Palio race, however, as the crowd crush and general mayhem can be overwhelming for anyone, but especially for children. 

The most rewarding way to participate in the Palio is through a Palio-themed day tour customized specifically for families. These tours give context to the event by explaining the city’s history — including the 17 rival neighborhoods (“contrade”) that compete — and give your family the opportunity to experience the Palio as participants rather than mere spectators by including you in the pre-race contrade banquets, having you meet the horses and their jockeys, and arranging for you to watch the race itself from the best vantage points in the piazza. 

Palio in Siena Italy- credit AdobeStock
Palio in Siena Italy

If you’d rather not book a day tour, there are still ways to make the Palio enjoyable for your family.  To avoid the worst of the crowds, consider attending the pre-race trials (known as “prove”) held each morning and evening during the three days prior to the race itself. Make sure you’ve aligned yourselves with a contrada and have picked up a scarf (fazzoletto), sold virtually everywhere during the week of the Palio, with its colors to don. 

If you are set on seeing the Palio itself, consider purchasing bleacher seats (trying to see the race above the crowd is tough for kids, especially if they are easily overwhelmed in populated spaces). You’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the race and the pre-race pageantry, including costumed processions and flag-throwing demonstrations.

Cooking class for kids in Venice 

What to do in Siena with kids if you have more time 

  • Torre del Mangia: Climb to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of Siena. Older kids, who are better suited to tackle the numerous and steep steps, will enjoy the adventure and the spectacular views. 
  • Palazzo Pubblico and Civic Museum: Discover the historical and artistic heritage of Siena through its paintings, frescoes, and artifacts. 
  • Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico dell’Università di Siena): This peaceful retreat from the city’s bustling tourist spots is a welcome respite and a great place for kids to learn about different plant species found in the region. 
  • Museo dell’Acqua: Learn about Siena’s historical water supply system through interactive exhibits, which will bring to life the many wells and water sources you will see throughout the town as you wander. 
  •  Cooking Classes in Siena: Enroll in a family-friendly cooking class to learn how to make traditional Italian dishes like pasta and pizza, which your kids will love tasting at the end. 
  • Orto de’ Pecci: Explore this little slice of country life just a short walk from Piazza Del Campo. The farmlands and fields were once inhabited but were destroyed and abandoned during the plague in the 14th century. Children of all ages can still learn about farming in Medieval times and organic orchards, or simply play in this green space.  
  • Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Accademia dei Fisiocritici: While architectural enthusiasts may marvel at the building, science lovers will want to dive into the natural history museum’s collection of fossils, minerals, and taxidermy.  

Relevant Links:

Best family accommodations and kid-friendly activities in Italy

Top things to do in Tuscany with kids

52 things to know before traveling to Italy with kids

Essential tips for a farm stay in Tuscany with kids

10 tips for travel to Italy with kids

Editor’s Note: Rebecca Winke is an innkeeper, blogger and travel writer. She moved to Italy from Chicago in 1993 and shortly thereafter opened an agriturismo at the foot of Mount Subasio near Assisi, Umbria. She spends her time taking care of guests at Brigolante, writing about the lovely region she now calls home at her blog Rebecca’s Ruminations and for Umbria on the Blog, and wondering what strange winds blew an urban vegetarian to a farm in Umbria. 

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