How to travel from Rome to Siena – What is the best way?

How to travel from Rome to Siena
Rome, Image by RG in TLV via Flickr

Picturesque romantic Siena is a wonderful city to explore while holidaying in Rome. For those wanting to get away from the bustle of the Italian capital, the medieval town can be a one-day escape assuming you have a car. If you are willing to spend the night there, it can also be an appealing option to travel by public transport. That way, you won’t have to worry about all the disadvantages and stress of a car rental.
However, you’ll still have to choose between the complicated train network and the slower but dependable bus. Here is my in-depth summary of the best way to travel from Rome to Siena.

Is Siena worth seeing?

Siena is the ultimate destination in the region to relive Italy in its medieval era. Its top attractions (the Piazza del Campo, its Duomo, the Battistero di San Giovanni, and the Palazzo Pubblico) have no equal in the region. The town is also a perfect base to visit Montepulciano, San Gimignano, and Colle Val d’Elsa.

Which is nicer Florence or Siena?

The two cities could not be more different. While one is a big city full of museums, events, and things to do, Siena is rather laid-back. It’s a place where you can truly enjoy a slower pace and relax. The town is the perfect destination after visiting bustling Rome as it let’s you appreciate another aspect of the Italian peninsula.

Driving from Rome to Siena

Ultimately the most straightforward and uncomplicated way to cross the route between the 2 Italian cities is to travel by car. It is a well-known fact that having a car is practically an obligation for a trip through Tuscany.

Departing from the center of Rome, there are two ways to cover the 220 km separating you from Siena. Taking the inland route usually takes about 2,5 hours. If you opt for a journey along the Tyrrhenian coast, expect a 3 hours 17 min drive instead. The main hurdle will be getting out of Rome, as it can be a bit of a challenge to drive there. (Although, driving out of in the eternal city is much easier than driving in.) Be reassured. This minor difficulty will be worth it, allowing you to enjoy an exquisite pastoral road trip.

If you are leaving from FCO (Rome–Fiumicino International Airport), there is no difference between the two routes. Just take the one that appeals to you the most. It is also far easier to pick up your car from FCO and start your road trip from there than if you had to grapple with Rome’s narrow streets.

How to travel from Rome to Siena
Rome, Image by Jorge Franganillo via Flickr
Rome, Image by ErWin via Flickr

Taking the coastal route

Although the coastal route is slightly longer, some claim the added mileage is worth it. The spectacular setting of the coastal villages makes for a more scenic route than the one found inland. And considering travel is just as much about the journey as the destination. That’s the way to make your trip memorable! Porto Santo Stefano is an excellent place to cut the road in half and take a lunch break. Have a nice snack on the quay’s edge and enjoy a dish of Orata Al Forno. A stop at this port town, located on the Monte Argentario peninsula, represents a slight detour. Expect your entire trip to take 4 hours.

What route should you take? Drive north on the E80

Is Porto Santo Stefano always worth a stop?

While Porto Santo Stefano is certainly worth a stop from May to September, it is not advisable to go there during February, October and December. The city’s primary appeal is its seaside character, which will shine less brightly during the rainiest months of the year.

Alternatives to Porto Santo Stefano

Located slightly further South on the Italian western coast, Tarquinia is a true gem. It will undoubtedly pique history lovers’ interest with its renowned Etruscan museum and its necropolis (Necropoli di Tarquinia). Perfect for winter travellers.

There’s also a stop almost tailor-made for the Instagrammers of this world. If you want to wow your followers, head to the Terme di Saturnia. By leaving the sea route a little earlier and adding up to a 4 hours and 15min. itinerary, you will reach an absolutely stunning group of springs. Just know that with the growing popularity of this destination, the springs are getting increasingly crowded, leaving only the early morning and the winter for a respite from the flocking travellers.

porto santo stefano
Porto Santo Stefano, Image by Theo K via Flickr
Terme di Saturnia, Image by Papassina via Flickr

Inland route

For those who don’t care about the panoramic views of the sea, don’t want to see villages they’ve never heard of or just want to enjoy their accommodation in Siena, taking the inland route is the quickest way to cover the road between Siena and Rome. This route has the advantage of being fast and saving you about 1 hour, considering the regular traffic of Tuscany.

What route should you take? Drive north on the A1 and take the E35 to Siena

Siena, Image by Javier Pereda via Flickr
Tuscan countryside, Image by Javier Pereda via Flickr

Rome to Siena by train

If you don’t have a car for your travels around Italy, surely the first thing that comes to mind is taking the train. People usually prefer trains over buses, as they allow you to move from your seat during the trip, get a snack and generally offer more space.

Departing from Rome’s city centre: The trains leave from Roma Termini (the central railway station)
Departing from FCO Airport: No train to Siena leaves directly from the Leonardo da Vinci International Airport (FCO). The solution is to take a train to Roma Termini and ride the railway from there to Siena.

This route takes 3 hours to complete. Its primary disadvantage is that it requires a transfer: there are no direct trains from Rome to Siena. The shortest route is to transfer in Chiusi-Chianciano Terme. If you miss the connection, you may have to wait several hours for the next train to come. The leg from Roma to Chiusi uses a Regionale Veloce, which is much faster than the regional train between Chiusi and Siena. (Another option might be to travel directly to Florence and take the train from Florence to Siena afterwards. However, since Florence is much further north than Siena, this option is slightly more time-consuming.)

There is one last disadvantage of taking the train. The Siena train station is 2 km from the Old Town. To reach the historic district, you will have to climb a 300m high hill, which may be challenging for some, especially if you have loads of luggage. There’s always the option of taking a taxi or the bus to the Old Town. Even so, you will be worn out at this point in your journey and may not want to get inside another vehicle.

Pro Tip

If you are on the train to Chiusi and think you have already missed your connection, stay on the train, get off in Florence and buy a Florence-Siena ticket. Why is this even an option? Because the trains taking you to Chiusi are generally heading to Florence. Moreover, trains run more often between Florence and Siena than between Chiusi and Siena. That’s a stroke of luck if you ask me! (Of course, you must warn the ticket collector of this change of plans.)

Rome, Image by Kristijonas Dirse via Flickr
Chiusi, Image by CharlesFred via Flickr

Rome to Siena by bus

Leaving from Tiburtina bus station, the direct route between the cities of Rome and Siena takes 3 hours. The bus has advantages the train doesn’t: there is no transfer, and you can get off directly in the centre of Siena. However, the bus doesn’t have the perks of a train and is marginally less comfortable.

Leaving from the airport : Siena Mobilità (Bus company Tiemme) operates a bus route from the airport twice a day and gets you to Siena. If their schedule doesn’t fit yours, you will first have to go to the centre of Rome, get to the Tiburtina bus station and then take the bus to Siena. Excluding the taxi, getting from Termini to Tiburtina can be done by train or subway.

Buses are operated by : Tiemme, Flexibus, Sena and other bus lines.

Bus vs Train

I know, I know. You would have preferred me to tell you the train was vastly better than the bus. Unfortunately, regarding the problematic transportation logistics in the Tuscan countryside, it seems the bus causes fewer headaches, especially if you consider that both options take about the same time.

Tuscan countryside, Image by Antonio Cinotti via Flickr

In summary

Whether you want to leave Rome from the city center or the airport, your best options remain the same: Your best bet will always be the car. If that’s not a choice, strongly consider taking the bus; all the more if you’re traveling with children or older adults.