The Unique Piazza del Campo of Siena

Medieval architecture has always enthralled me and Siena’s Piazza del Campo is an amazing example of a medieval square. It is unusual in shape. I’ve heard it described as shell-shaped, although I personally think that it resembles more of a fan-shape. It is divided into 9 sections which you can probably see in the first photo below. The number 9 is symbolic as it represents the nine governing bodies of Siena during the late 13th to mid-14th centuries.

Siena is famous for the Palio, a horse race, held twice a year in July and August. Basically, there are 10 horses with the rider on each horse riding bareback. The spectators stand in the middle and the horses go around – there are some tight turns in this piazza!

I don’t quite know what it is about medieval structures that fascinate me. I use the term “medieval” loosely, I suppose I should be more specific and say “gothic”. Maybe it’s partly because this is architecture and design that has withstood the test of time – unlike the falling glass buildings of Toronto! Yes, the glass are still falling. Just had another incident a few weeks ago. Now don’t you wish you were in Toronto! Ha! Anyway, here are a few close up photos of the buildings surrounding the piazza.

Palazzo Pubblico and Torre Del Mangia

Piazza del Campo is dominated by Palazzo Pubblico (town hall) and Torre Del Mangia (the bell tower). See the crenellations at the top of Palazzo Pubblico? For those of you who’ve read my previous blog posts, there was another structure in Florence that had similar adornments – Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signoria.

Interesting bit of info I read on this tower from the site – “The tower takes its name from Giovanni Duccio, first keeper of the tower, also known as “mangia-guadagni” (Litterally: “Money eater”, in Italian it’s a way to call people who waste their money), who spent all his money eating in all Siena’s taverns. That’s why the tower is called “Torre del mangia” (Litterally: Mangia’s tower). The legend tells that during the construction at the foot of the tower were hidden some lucky coins and that at the 4 corners of the tower there are stones on which are engraved sentences in Latin and Hebraic with the task of keeping away thunders and storms from the tower.”

Something Unexpected

So as we were trying to figure out how to climb the tower, we heard the sound of drums. We went right back out on to the piazza to investigate and we were surprised to see a parade! The contrade or district of Aquila or Eagle were parading through the piazza in their costumes! (No, I didn’t know which district they represented at the time, I had to look it up.) What a treat for us! Lots of flag waving, throwing and of course, the sound of those wonderful drums. It was something so unexpected that we ended up forgetting to further investigate the tower and the Cappella di Piazza! Honestly, it was hot; we were tired… so what to do but  get some gelato, relax and soak in the atmosphere.

Fonte Gaia

Directly across Palazzo Pubblico and Torre Del Mangia is the Gaia Fountain (Fonte Gaia) or Fountain of Joy, completed in 1419 by Jacopo della Quercia. The significance of this fountain in the history of art is the use of both Gothic and Renaissance styles. Here are some of the details of the fountain.

Like in all the other places I’ve visited – there were still so much more to see and do which gives me a good reason to re-visit. Siena will definitely be on top of that list. So for now, we bid farewell to Siena. I will leave you with this photograph from the gardens of our hotel. By the way, the bartender there is formerly from Washington DC. He makes the best mojito we’ve ever had! I know, go figure – best mojito is from Siena!


About May Dayao

Carpe diem!
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