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Walking by Siena’s Fountains

Let’s meet by the fountain

When in Siena people say “Let’s meet at the fountain!”, there is no doubt as to which is the meeting point: the Fonte Gaia, named for the joy that accompanied the appearance of water in the central Piazza del Campo. Built in the fourteenth century, it became a monument in the fifteenth century with the precious reliefs by Jacopo della Quercia: nowadays replaced with copies by Tito Sarrocchi, while the originals are kept in the Museum of Santa Maria della Scala. The Fonte Gaia is perhaps the most famous of the many fountains of Siena, witnesses of how necessity is the mother of invention, especially the one of the medieval engineers that allowed a city that had no access to a river always had water available. In addition, the fountains of Siena were designed not to waste even a drop of the precious liquid, thanks to a functional breakdown into three collection basins shared between drinking water, cattle water and a basin for washing clothes; final spills were reused for fields or to operate machinery. Today, the fountains dotting Siena offer starting points for interesting urban trekking routes, where walks can be enjoyed also by pausing to admire the functionality and artistic beauty of these structures, but also to breathe a little of the friendly air that has accompanied them for centuries..

Walking in Siena from fountain to fountain

Describing a possible path that touches some of the fountains in the city, you could start from Porta d’Ovile, along the walls of the north-east, with its two majestic and solid fountains located in a truly strategic place. From here, going down towards the south-west you get to Fontebranda, famous for its connection with St. Catherine and the quote by Dante in the Inferno. aking the homonymous street, you arrive in the central Piazza del Campo with its Fonte Gaia, from which it’s easy to walk by via del Casato di Sotto to discover Fonte Serena, hidden among the buildings of the historic center and reachable by walking up a few steps. Immediately to the left is the Market Square with its ancient fountain, which served as a drinking trough and laundry spot. These are just some of the fountains of Siena you can include in an exploratory tour of the historic center. There are many others scattered in the city, some can be visited only by appointment or on special dates, such as the one called delle Monache.

The district fountains

Not as ancient, but equally integrated in the rituals of Siena’s social life, the district fountains are seventeen fountains spread in the districts that reflect the historical division of Siena, when the city extended only within its walls. The idea to build these fountains came to Silvio Gigli, unforgotten chronicler of the Palio, in the thirties and immediately collected the enthusiastic adhesion of the various districts, who built the fountains from scratch or using existing structures. Most of them portrays the symbol of the district and their most typical use is as “baptysmal font” for the ritual of the Battesimo Contradaiolo, which also became popular in the twentieth century. Fun fact: Silvio Gigli, Contrada of the Tartuca, always regretted that the first district to build a fountain was not his, but instead the rival one of the Chiocciola. Also the seventeen fountains of Siena located in the districts offer an excellent starting point for a unique and relaxing itinerary through the most ancient part of the city.