Piazza del Campo, Siena’s living room
A symbol of Italian beauty in the world
It is no coincidence that Siena is one of the favorite destinations for those who are fond of a certain idea of Italian urban landscape, made of order, harmony and taste for beauty, since its Piazza del Campo offers one of the postcard images that strike most Italian and foreign tourists. The main feature of this public living room is the shell shape which makes it the only square of its kind and is due to the terracotta wedges that occupy the central part. The where Piazza del Campo was built had – so to speak – a natural vocation to become the hub of the city, since it is located at the crossroads of the main roads of the three historical parts of Siena (Città, Camollia and San Martino); but it was with the governments of the Twenty-Four and the Nine that the square started to become as we know it: in fact, just between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, important zoning regulations concerning this area were approved and work began on the complex of the Palazzo Comunale, the paving of the square and the future Fonte Gaia. Today, after centuries, Piazza del Campo continues to show one of Siena’s most beautiful sides.
A shell full of pearls
In its final form, virtually unchanged to this day since then, Piazza del Campo holds together some of the major monuments in the city, often taken as an example of Italian medieval architecture. A place of honor is reserved to the imposing Palazzo Comunale, a marble and bricks complex with battlements which also includes the bell tower known as Torre del Mangia. It is a name that reveals all the satirical character of the people of Siena and their innate passion for nicknames: the “Mangia” was none other than his first caretaker, lover of the good life. The bell tower is the second highest ancient tower in Italy and hosts at it the base the chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary for the end of the terrible plague of 1348. In the past, one of the most popular places of the square was undoubtedly the Fonte Gaia, named for the joy that accompanied its appearance; the fountain was so busy that its decorations were put at risk, and they have now been transferred to a museum and replaced by exact copies, adequately protected. Finally, turning to look around, it is impossible not to notice the majestic facades of the buildings that have been watching Piazza del Campo from centuries, respecting its strict perimeter.
There’s no Palio without its square
If you want to see the Piazza del Campo in the height of its splendor, crowded with people clapping and decorated with medieval splendor, the event is scheduled for July 2 or August 16: the traditional dates where the two races of the Palio take place, the first dedicated to the Madonna of Provenzano, the second to the Assunta. On these occasions the paved track that surrounds the shell are covered with tuff and become the terrain where the historic districts of the city challenge each other to win the so-called Drappellone, awarded to the first runner after three rounds of crazy and dizzying horse race, which has its most adrenaline-intense moments in the corners such as the San Martino one. In addition to the race, the beauty of the Palio is also in the costumed parade that precedes the event, in a festive atmosphere in which Piazza del Campo and Siena renews all their medieval charm, attracting crowds of delighted tourists from around the world.