Visit Siena through its ancient gates
Origins and development of the gates of Siena
Historical records show that the first gates gave access to the oldest part of the town, Castelvecchio, around which the first city walls were constructed. The only gate still remaining from this original fortification is the Arco delle Due Porte (Arch of the Two Gates), one of which was closed during the XIII century. The first system of early medieval walls was further expanded on at least five occasions, in line with the increasing growth of the town and its population. Each extension of the walls incorporated new areas of the city, and so required the creation of additional gates, while some of the older gates were filled in during later operations. The position of the entry points has remained unchanged since the operations of 1290, but some of the actual gates are of a later date, because they were destroyed during sieges of the city and then rebuilt.
The city gates still in existence
Siena still has 12 remaining gates, which you can admire as you walk around the walls or through the historic centre. Only traces remain of some of the original gates, in the form of rounded arches between ancient buildings. Examples include the Arco di San Maurizio, the Arco delle Due Porte, the Porta all’Arco and various smaller entrance ways. Most of the gates, however, are still clearly visible. Porta Tufi, Porta Pispini and Porta San Marco were built after the final expansion of the walls, marking the southern limit of the old city. Two other gates were constructed during the same period: Porta Giustizia, once used to lead prisoners to the place of execution, and Porta Laterina. On the other hand, Porta Romana and Porta di Fontebranda, in the south-east and north-west parts of the old city, date back to the time of the fourth extension of the walls. Porta a Ovile, between Via di Vallerozzi and Via Martini, is among the oldest and best preserved: it is even decorated with a fourteenth-century fresco of the Virgin and Child.
Porta Camollia is one of the main gates into Siena: indeed, it was the gate used by any travellers arriving from Florence. The gate was supposedly built on the spot where the Roman general, Camillus, pitched his camp. After murdering his brother, Remus, Romulus sent Camillus to defeat his two nephews, the legendary founders of Siena. Constructed after the city walls were first extended in the 12th century, Porta Camollia was one of Siena’s most secure entrances, and the only one preceded by an outer defensive gateway, still in existence. A hotel near Porta Camollia is a great choice if you want somewhere easy to reach by car or public transport but also close to the city centre. The Hotel Italia, the 3 sters hotel of the Siena Inns chain, is close to the external gateway, about 500 metres from Porta Camollia and the beginnings of the old town. The Hotel Italia is therefore in a convenient location if you want to explore the historic centre on foot, and when you go through Porta Camollia, you will discover the truth of the inscription above the gate: “Cor magis tibi Sena pandit” – Siena opens a heart bigger (than this gate).