The Siena area is a land of soft valleys that have made Tuscany famous worldwide with their wines and food products. It is home to all the villages and land within the "Siena Province" political boundaries. In this article, you’ll find some tips about the best local produce, food specialties, food fairs, main events and restaurants along Siena’s wine and food routes.
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Siena, sweet Siena
Siena is one of the most famous Italian cities and one of the top touristic destinations in Tuscany. The historic city is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and offers many interesting places to visit and specialties to taste. Here you can find all the countryside’s best foods, but above all you’ll find plenty of unique desserts produced in all the Siena area.
Must taste in and around Siena: Panforte (which can be compared to gingerbread) is a traditional Christmas sweet, low and compact, and made from honey, nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, spices and candied fruit, flavoured with cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and coriander. Cavallucci and Ricciarelli are two delicious local biscuits. Cavallucci have a soft texture and contain nuts and spices, while Ricciarelli are made with almond flour and are covered with vanilla icing sugar. If you are in the Siena area around All Saints’ day, you will find almost everywhere a cake called “Pan co’ Santi”, a fluffy sweet bread flavoured with walnuts and raisins. Another delicious dessert that you must taste is the Tuscan pine nuts cake or Pinolata senese.
Around the Merse valley
The Merse Valley is an oasis of silent forests full of historical and artistic treasures in the southern part of the Siena Province. Local produce: there are many culinary delights. Here you can find delicious Pecorino cheese. Mushrooms grow in the woods, which are dense in oak and chestnut trees. The best local wine is Chianti Colli Senesi and a very important Tuscan PDO product is made in this valley: "Terre di Siena" extra-virgin olive oil.
Must visit: Chiusdino (and The San Galgano abbey), Monticiano, Murlo and Sovicille.
San Gimignano and surroundings
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena. One of the most scenic routes for wine tourists is the road of the Vernaccia di San Gimignano, which combines a spectacular landscape and one of the greatest white wines in the world. Local produce: San Gimignano Vernaccia was the first wine (1966) to be awarded with the DOC classification (Appellation of Controlled Origin). In 1993, it also obtained DOCG status. As you wander down the Wine Road of Vernaccia di San Gimignano, be sure to notice the area’s lovely fields, cultivated with Savitus Crocus, also known as PDO saffron.
Must visit: San Gimignano (of course), and the nearest towns of the Val D'Elsa as Colle Val d'Elsa, Casole d'Elsa, Monteriggioni, Poggibonsi and Radicondoli.
Montepulciano and its wine road
Montepulciano is located in the south of the Siena province between Valdichiana and Val D'Orcia surrounded by olive groves and vineyards. Local produce: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is one of the oldest wines in Italy. It’s a flavourful, dry, red wine with the Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita status produced in the vineyards surrounding the town. The Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from this area is an important product and is often found with the PDO Terre di Siena certification. Other food products include pecorino cheese, marmalades, Chianina beef and Cinta Senese salami.
Must visit: Montepulciano and the nearest towns as Chiusi and the areas of Crete Senesi and Mount Amiata.
On the Chianti Classico road
The Chianti Classico territory with its hilly countryside lies in the very heart of Tuscany between Siena and Florence. Local produce: Chianti Classico DOCG red wine, Chianti PDO extra-virgin olive oil and Vinsanto del Chianti Classico DOC are made here. The meat is among the world’s best: here you can find the very tender Chianina beef and flavorful cold cuts like Tuscan ham, soprassata, buristo (sweet blood pudding) and finocchiona (salami seasoned with fennel seeds). The native pig breed, Cinta Senese, is highly prized, the only one to survive extinction and now regarded as one of the finest species. A very special "Chianti Tuna" is made in this countryside: an incredible soft pork meat cooked for many hours in white wine and vegetables, then stored like tuna, in a jar covered with olive oil and laurel.
Must visit in Siena province: Castellina in Chianti, Castelnuovo Berardenga, Gaiole in Chianti and Radda in Chianti.
Amazing Val D'Orcia
In 2004, UNESCO included the Val d’Orcia on its list of World Cultural Landscapes, the first rural area to be honored with this award. This unique countryside between Siena and Grosseto was created by generations of people who cultivated the land. Must taste: the Val d'Orcia is the land of the famous Brunello di Montalcino DOCG and the Orcia DOC wine. Pienza is considered the “capital” of Pecorino cheese because the little town is situated in the middle of a clayey area, where sheep pastures are characterized by a series of aromatic herbs that make the milk particularly tasty and aromatic. Among the best local dishes you must taste Pici and the Mount Amiata mushroom soup.
Must visit: the Orcia Wine road includes the areas of Abbadia San Salvatore, Buonconvento, Castiglione D'Orcia, Chianciano Terme, Montalcino, Pienza, Radicofani, San Casciano dei Bagni, San Giovanni D'Asso, San Quirico D'Orcia, Sarteano, Torrita di Siena and Trequanda.
Top food events and festivals in Siena province
- TrenoNatura rides on a vintage train combined with special food events. Check here the TrenoNatura programme
- Pici pasta feast (Sagra dei Pici) in Celle sul Rigo, the last Sunday of May
- Game fair (Sagra del Tordo) in Montalcino, the last Sunday of October
- Raviolo feast (Sagra del Raviolo) in Contignano (Radicofani), in August
- Crouton feast (Sagra del Crostino) in Casiglione d’Orcia, in August
- Marzuolo truffle fair (Sagra del Tartufo Marzuolo) in San Giovanni d’Asso, one weekend of March
- Olive oil feast (Sagra dell’Olio) in San Quirico d’Orcia, on December 8
- Chestnut fair (Sagra del Marrone) in Campiglia d’Orcia (Castiglione d’Orcia), the last week of October
- Crastatone chestnut festival (Sagra della Castagna) in Piancastagnaio on November 1st (and the weekend nearest)
- Mushroom and chestnut fair (Sagra del Fungo e della Castagna) in Vivo d’Orcia (Castiglione d’Orcia), the second and third weekend of October
Where to eat in Siena and surroundings
For a wide choice of food places, check out the Vetrina Toscana database, but for a faster search we’ve created a map with the best 20 value-for-money restaurants in and around Siena:
Cover image credit: Goncalo Figueiredo
Cover image credit: Goncalo Figueiredo