Would appreciate opinions from the forum. Thanks!
Since Florence is much larger, has a richer history, more to do and see, I would stay in Florence and day trip to Siena.
Florence is wonderful, so much to see and do. I liked Siena, the little sister of Florence, but I think taking a day trip there is enough.
Most travelers checking in here sleep in Florence and do Siena as a day trip.
But some have had a good experience sleeping in Siena and doing Florence as a day trip.
As has been pointed out above, there are so many sights in Florence that a single day trip is not enough for most people. But if you like smaller and more atmospheric, you may find upon further research that you decide to choose to sleep in Siena.
I agree with the other posts, but would prefer to spend some nights in both. Certainly more time in Florence. I also spent time in Siena however. I arrived mid-day and while wandering around the busy town during the afternnoon, I wondered "so what's so special here?" It was only when the sun went down, the crowds of both tourists and locals thinned out, and the lights came on to illuminate the public buildings, that Siena really became magical. There are numerous sites to visit, and if you do Siena as a day trip, I would certainly recommend staying for dinner, strolling the town after dark, and a late evening bus back to Florence. Don't miss the magic!
Stay in florence and daytrip to siena by bus. 2 very diff towns with very diff tourist activities.
How many days total?
We really like Siena - more than Florence during our last visit there last year.
If you're just staying in the larger cities of Italy, I'd definitely vote for Siena for you. But, if you're already staying in other smaller cities, i.e. Orvieto or Lucca, then as a first time to these locations you probably want to stay in Florence.
If you have time to split between the two, that would be my first choice. Siena has as much history as Firenze, but fewer sights. With a car, I would stay in Siena (several hotels have parking near the city gates but outside the ZTLs).
If Renaissance art and architecture float your boat, you'll want at least 3 full days in Florence. If not, you can see the highlights in a day trip.
I've not stayed overnight in Siena, an omission I hope to rectify. For me, Florence has a big city feel, with crowds and high-end shops. On my single day trip to Siena it felt more like the typical small town atmosphere. In my imagination I picture it to be especially nice in the evenings, like I've found other small towns. It's my understanding you can day-trip by bus to other Tuscan towns, like San Giminagno.
I'll throw a vote in for Siena. Stay near the Campo in the historic center. I just like the feel of the city better, especially at night. Its an easy bus up to Florence and to many other hill towns.
Thank you for all of the helpful replies! I think we will stay in Florence and day trip to Siena. But we will arrive in the afternoon and be sure to stay into the evening.
Another vote for Siena. We also couldn't decided between the two and opted for three nights in Siena with a day in Florence and then used our Siena location to see Tuscan hill towns as well. We loved Siena and were so happy we made that choice. We actually couldn't wait to get out of Florence with the crowds, exhaust, noise, etc. but, maybe we didn't give it a fair shake since we only spent a day. Siena was magical, beautiful, quiet ( off hours or off the beaten path) and we loved staying within the walled city.
This may be helpful for this person to know if they do the bus back & forth to Siena as a day trip: Is anybody familiar with exactly how late the bus runs back to Florence from Siena? The last time I was there in 2011 we were told the last bus back is late afternoon? (which we could have misunderstood) We actually went back earlier in the afternoon, but this would be a big factor to know if you plan to stay in Siena for dinner. *We enjoyed the 1 hr. bus trip up & back we when did it. While not always scenic, you were able to see some hillside vineyards & homes. Also helps if it's a nice day and not too warm. (bus not air conditioned)
I too would love to know how late the bus from Siena to Florence runs. We have 5 nights in Florence and it is our second trip there. I already know I will NOT be bored in Florence and have a list of things we did not do on our first trip that I hope to get to this time around. We are planning a day trip to Siena, and the idea of staying into the evening is very appealing. However, I wouldn't want to miss the last bus and get stranded there.
The last train from Siena to Florence leaves at 21:26, takes 1.5h and costs 8 euros.
Honestly I think it really depends on how you like to travel. Myself, I do love Florence and always stay there... and sometimes really regret it and wish I'd take my own advice to stay in Fiesole, where the crowds are less and the air is cleaner, then take day trips down into Florence. Siena gives you a bit of a taste of what Florence must have been like in the Renaissance... very little car/scooter traffic, smaller, cleaner, less tourists. Of course the payoff is, there is a little less to do than Florence, but Siena is still historically crucial, with lots of amazing things to see. There are a few Michelangelos in their Duomo, some Berninis, an amazing, ground-breaking Duccio in the Duomo museum, and of course the famous Effects of Good and Bad Government fresco in their town hall. Oh and don't forget St. Catherine of Siena's... er... head. :o\
There is a lot to do and see in Siena, is what I'm saying, and it's a relatively clean, traffic-free, less-crowded, small-town-feel alternative to Florence. The food is just as good, just with a few less options in their small historical center. It's about an hour by bus into Florence, if I'm remembering correctly, so maybe not quite as convenient as, say, Fiesole (a 15 minute bus ride down the hillside), but you won't feel like you're missing out by spending a day in Siena.
So I guess my advice would depend on your style of travel. If you like to nestle in relatively stress-free small town and then venture into the big city, I would say stay in Siena and visit Florence.
We love Florence and have been there each of the 3 times we visited Italy. And going back again in 2017. But we always stayed in Fiesole and a beautiful Pensione, 15 minute bus ride into Florence. After a day in the crowds, it is nice to retreat and relax with a glass of wine over looking Florence and the Duomo in the background. We have also stayed in Sienna and had a wonderful time. The church in Sienna is one of the most beautiful churches we have seen. Both different vibes and amenities. The only downside to staying outside of Florence is we haven't experienced Florence nightlife. But Sienna was wonderful at night. If there was a way to spend overnight at both Florence and Sienna, that would be the best.
I think you maximise your options if you find accommodation in (or near) Siena that has both ...
1) parking and proximity to a car rental outlet
2) proximity to the public bus or train in to Florence
Thank you for all of the replies. I think we drop off our car in Florence and spend 2 nights there. Then pick up a car and to visit a few towns in Tuscany and Umbria - we will have 3 nights for this.
This is really a difficult choice, because it is nice when touring a larger city to have the option to return to our hotel to regroup a bit during the day. I wish we had a few weeks and we would stay in both towns, but alas we do not.
We were in both Florence and Siena this past June. Both are worth seeing and both are wonderful in the evening. I would split your time and stay in both cities, if you can. You will need more time in Florence. We spent three nights there and still didn't see everything we would have liked. We spent two nights in Siena and it was enough time to do all that we wanted to. Enjoy both cities and I am sure you will too.
I prefer to sleep and wander around Siena and just visit Florence by a day trip. I leave Rome and Venice as the big cities I stay in.
Since you have 3 nights between Tuscany and Umbria, take a look at this agriturismo.
Dependent on the towns you wish to visit, this could be an ideal location.
Siena and Assisi are around 30 minutes away, Montepulciano around 45 min.
The trains run later than the bus, if you decide to stay in Siena for dinner. Check the train options on www.trenitalia.com. For buses google Siena Mobilita'
Thank you - that agriturismo looks great! Have you stayed there?
We have been staying there on and off since 2008. Beautiful property,great central location.
The apartments are designed with comfort in mind, and are named after the grandchildren.
The couple who own it are delightful.
There's a Coop grocery store 1 1/2 miles away. Everything you'd need to cook gourmet meals.
The owner also has an herb garden and they press their own olive oil which is to die for.
Edit. Wanted to correct myself, Assisi is 1 1/2 hrs from the Borgo. Arezzo is 1/2 hr.
Great stop on the way to Assisi would be Castiglione del Largo, about half way.
We are in Florence now. So beautiful! Can someone please direct me to the bus to Siena? I googled it and there seems to be more than one company and it takes 1 1/2 hours. I thought someone posted an hour length trip option.
I plan to leave Florence around 3-4pm and return by 9 or 10pm. I know I need more time, but I don't have it unfortunately.
Ask the people at your hotel for directions to the Bus station. It's very close to Firenze SMN rail station. When you arrive there, check schedules for Corse Rapide buses as those are the ones with the shortest travel time. Buy your tickets there, but be sure to validate them before boarding the bus!
Be sure to note the time of the last bus back to Florence.
When I did this in 2008, the buses to Siena left from a bus stop (no bus station) across the street from the train station. The main entrance to the train station faces the big TI. The buses were opposite the side entrance.
I would recommend staying in Firenze and visiting Siena for one-two days. I was just there, So much to see in Firenze! Siena is lovely but doesn't require as much time/days.
Be ready for the difference in terrain. Florence is flat, but Siena is hilly, and take that literally. While you may walk, wander, and stroll around Florence, you climb Siena, and climb and climb, the hills are quite steep, and never-ending. I lasted one day trip there and then hi-tailed it back to Florence.
Please note the OP's post on Sept. 30. The choices have been made, the OP is there now - or has already left.
Travelcrazy1 - hope you found the bus okay and are having a great time.
Thank you everyone for your help. I went to the bus station in the morning while in Firenze and bought round-trip tickets. Note to those who read this in the future - all tickets will say Firenze as the Departure and Siena as the arrival - even the return tickets! Tickets are for any bus - no need to specify the time you want. That freed up my day quite a bit.
We left Firenze around 15:00 in the pouring rain. Still raining like crazy in Siena when we arrived. I could tell it was a beautiful city. But with all the rain, it was not the best visit. We toured the Duomo - perfect to do in that weather, had some dinner and headed back to Firenze.
We will hopefully be able to visit again, but I am still glad we went when we did. It was worthwhile even for a few hours. :-)