Medieval Italy – The sights of Siena
Italy … The sights of the cities of this astonishingly rich in imperishable masterpieces have amazed travelers for centuries! Magnificent Siena is no exception. It is just as full of colorful and unforgettable places, “breathing history”, worthy of the attention of every inquisitive tourist.
- November 16, 2015
The city of Siena, a fine example of medieval architecture that charms visitors with its magnificent Piazza del Campo, its imposing Cathedral and narrow cobblestone streets, is one of the most visited cities in the Tuscany region and in all of Italy. The atmosphere of this town, almost 120 square kilometers long, captivates and overwhelms travelers at first sight: just imagine a glorious town located in the hills of Tuscany, covered with fertile vineyards and olive groves, surrounded by “emerald” valleys created by the clear waters of the rivers Elsa and Arbia, famous for its artistic splendor and rich traditions …
Siena has conquered “everyone and everything”, even the strictest judges and experts: in 1995 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its unique architecture and ancient traditions – who hasn’t heard about the famous Siena “Palio”, one of the most important and characteristic races in Italy! Add to all this an air of centuries-old culture, as Siena is the foundation of one of the oldest universities in all of Italy, and you have a tourist cocktail!
Palio in Siena Thinkstock
The best time to visit this city is undoubtedly spring or autumn: the beauty of the local landscapes, colored in the colors typical of these seasons, will take your breath away! If you want to see the Palio in Siena, you have to come to the city in summer: just don’t forget to pack sun hats, because the mercury rises above 35 degrees at this time of year.
Siena, Italy – attractions Thinkstock
The city’s history
Siena was founded as a Roman colony during the reign of Emperor Augustus and was named Saena Iulia. Some historians, however, believe that the true origin of the city dates back to the period of domination of the territory by Etruscan tribes, as evidenced by some findings around Siena. The city’s coat of arms is based on a famous legend: The inhabitants of Siena considered themselves the descendants of the brothers Senio and Ascanio, the two sons of the famous Remus, one of the founders of Rome. Despite the fact that Siena is overflowing with statues of she-wolves who, according to legend, nurtured Remus and Romulus, the popular belief has no historical basis.
After the Romans, Siena submitted to the king of the Langobards (in the VI century AD) and the Franks, and in the XI century, the city even managed to be an autonomous republic.
This period in the history of Siena can be rightly called “golden”: the city was crowded with great writers and creators – artists and architects who created here masterpiece buildings such as the Duomo, Palazzo Comunale and the Torre del Mangia tower.
Siena flourished not only culturally – its military power was also growing stronger. The history of Siena “remembers” many fierce battles for territorial expansion with neighboring Florence, at that time also an autonomous and powerful republic. In tough battles Siena often lost to the more economically and politically advanced Florentine Republic and, after a while, the city completely surrendered to the Florentines.
The second “golden” period in the history of Siena began in April 1559, when the city was transferred to the power of the Duke of Florence, Cosimo I de Medici. It was thanks to the authoritative and educated rulers of the Medici dynasty that Siena, enslaved by Florence, once again reached an unprecedented economic and cultural prosperity.
After the unification of Italy as a republic, Siena became part of Tuscany and today thrives on tourism and a well-developed agricultural industry, delighting tourists with excellent gastronomic products and the splendor of the artistic and historical heritage.
Italy … Surprisingly rich in works of art, Siena has amazed travelers for centuries! Magnificent Siena is no exception. It’s full of colorful and unforgettable places, “breathing history”, worthy of attention of every inquisitive tourist. We’ll highlight just the most striking sights of this Tuscan city so we won’t bore you with the narration – we’re sure you’ll discover the rest on your own as you travel through the intricate streets of Siena.
The Romanesque-Gothic cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or as the city calls it, simply the Duomo, is one of the most beautiful churches in Siena and probably in all of Italy. The construction of this magnificent building, located in the Duomo Square, where a Roman temple dedicated to Minerva once stood, began in the 12th century and was designed by architects Giovanni Pisano and Giovanni di Cecco.
The Duomo of Siena is certainly a great starting point to start exploring this medieval Tuscan city: the imposing facade of the church and its bell tower dominate Siena and are visible even from the hills surrounding the city.
The interior of the cathedral is magnificent and luxurious: inside the Duomo you will see the unique marble floor, decorated with incrustations, as well as the library and the Piccolomini Chapel, decorated with rich frescoes by Pinturicchio. Don’t miss the cathedral’s altar, with four statues by Michelangelo and a bronze statue of John the Baptist by Donatello. Siena Cathedral Thinkstock
Piazza del Campo
The most famous of all Siena’s squares, Piazza del Campo is the center of the city’s social life and the site of the famous Palio.
The Palio competition in Siena takes place twice a year, in July and August: all 17 quarters (contradas) of the city prepare for the famous race all year long. The appearance of the square has remained unchanged since the thirteenth century: at that time the area was mainly used for the organization of fairs and markets. The square has some beautiful historical buildings and some important landmarks of the city such as the beautiful fountain of Fonte Gaia (1346) and the Torre del Mangia.
Siena, Italy – sights (Piazza del Campo) Thinkstock
City Hall and Torre del Mangia
In addition to the numerous palazzos overlooking the Piazza del Campo, we particularly recommend a visit to the town hall, the Palazzo Comunale. In ancient times it was the seat of the “Government of the Nine” headed by Cosimo de’ Medici, but today it is home to the City Museum (it contains one of the most famous allegorical frescoes in the world, depicting “bad” and “good” government by Lorenzetti) and the Rinnovati City Theatre.
To the left of the building is the famous Torre del Mangia, which gets its name from the vices of the first servant of the bell tower, John Balduquio, nicknamed “Mangiaguadagni”: the bell ringer loved to eat, for which he spent all his savings.
According to a legend, when the tower was built in 1325-1348, some coins were buried in its foundations to bring luck according to a popular belief of the time; in each corner of the Torre del Mangiagi you can see massive stones with inscriptions in Latin and Yiddish, which were supposed to protect the tower from “thunder and lightning”.
Siena, Italy – sights (Torre del Mangia) Thinkstock
Behind the Siena Duomo there is another important religious building of the city, the baptistery, where Siena’s residents, both noble lords and commoners, have been baptized since 1325. The interior of the baptistery is decorated with beautiful frescoes by Benvenuto di Giovanni, Lorenzo di Pietro and Pietro degli Orioli, and in the center of the building you can admire a luxurious fonte of bronze and marble, created by the joint efforts of Tuscan masters, among them Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia
Siena, Italy – sights (Baptistery) Thinkstock
Near Piazza del Campo, more precisely on Via di Citta, is a beautiful example of Renaissance architecture, the most striking in Siena. It is the Palazzo Piccolomini, also known as the Palazzo Papesse. This beautiful Florentine style palace was built at the end of 1400 for Caterina Piccolomini, sister of Pope Pius II. Today the building houses the Center for Contemporary Art.
Piccolomini Palace, Siena Thinkstock
There isn’t a single art lover who hasn’t been struck by gorgeous Siena: the city’s history holds the memories of the many artists who lived and worked in the city. Siena does not disappoint fans of paintings, sculptures and installations: there are art galleries, foundations and museums all over the city. Among them we would like to mention the National Art Gallery, whose halls contain not only the works of Siena painters, but also canvases of famous Flemish artists, the City Museum, located in the City Hall, and the Museum of the Works of Siena Duomo, where the original works created for the cathedral of the city are collected.
How to get to Siena?
Unlike many other beautiful cities in Italy, Siena cannot be called conveniently located for travelers. The city has no civilian airport, so most tourists land in Florence, at the airport of Amerigo Vespucci, where you should get to the station of Santa Maria Novella by shuttle bus and from there go to Siena by train.
Another option is to land at the airport of Galileo Galilei in Pisa. The other option is to land at the Galileo Galilei airport in Pisa, which is 150 kilometers from the city.
Siena is easily reached by train from Florence, Pisa and Rome: Siena’s train station is only a few kilometers from the city center. Find a hotel in Siena for any taste and budget is absolutely no problem: hotels, guest houses and hostels are located in every corner of the city and are ready to fulfill all the wishes of guests.
Piazza del Campo in Siena
The Piazza del Campo is Siena’s central square and the departure point for the city’s 11 main streets. Here are the most beautiful palaces of the city: Palazzo Pubblico and Palazzo Sansedoni and the famous Torre del Mangia which is visible from afar.
Many tourists in the square gather at the amazing Fountain of Joy, designed by famous Italian sculptor Jacopo dela Quercia. In general, there is a lot to admire in Piazza del Campo.
For gambling tourists, horse races, the so-called Palio, which take place in the square twice a year, are of particular interest.
Photo: zummolo / Shutterstock.com
History of the origin of Piazza del Campo
Piazza del Campo is one of Italy’s oldest squares. Its origins date back to Medieval times, when it was a market square.
This place was quite convenient for trade – since the founding of the city all the main roads passed through the square. It was also the site of all sorts of popular celebrations.
However, the importance of the Piazza del Campo in the life of the city increased dramatically after in 1327-1349 the square was allocated 9 sectors in honor of the Government of the Nine. Each sector was paved with red stone of a different shade. This color design of the square has survived to this day.
Since then public meetings began to be held on the square and it ceased to be just a marketplace.
The Piazza del Campo attracts a lot of tourists at any time of the year. First of all, it is the most famous place of Siena, where all the main attractions of the city are gathered. Here you can not only sit by the Fountain of Joy and admire the monumental Medieval palaces, but also lie down on the rocks, which is considered good luck in Siena.
Secondly, in July and August each year, you can go to the horse race, the Palio, which takes place directly on the Piazza del Campo. The road that runs along the perimeter of the square is specially covered with sand, which is cleaned up after the races are over.
The Palio in Siena is characterized by a special beauty of presentation: the races always start with a costume parade.
Photo: Stepniak / Shutterstock.com
Buildings in Piazza del Campo
Since the 14th century, the gradual building up of the Piazza del Campo began: Palazzo Poglico and Palazzo Sansedoni appeared. It is noteworthy that the square has a unique shape that resembles rather a shell.
This is because the piazza is located between three hills and in the Middle Ages, rain streams flowed here, which influenced the formation of such concave topography of the area.
The most famous palace on the square is the Palazzo Poglio, which was built in the 12th century and served as the royal residence until the 16th century. This building is one of the tallest towers in Italy, the Torre del Mangia.
On the opposite side of the square is a no less ancient palace, Palazzo Sancedoni, built in the 13th century. The palace was the property of the Sancedoni family, one of the most famous and wealthy families of Siena in the Middle Ages.
The palace is made of red stone and is a colorful landmark located on the Piazza del Campo.
Fountain of Joy
In the central part of the piazza is the beautiful Fountain of Joy, which brings an element of grace to the architectural image of Piazza del Campo. This Gaia fountain, built between 1412 and 1419, was originally decorated with a marble statue of the Virgin Mary and Jesus with angels hovering beside them.
In more recent times, the marble statues were replaced by copies and the original statues were placed in the Santa Maria della Scala Museum.
How to get to Piazza del Campo
The address of Piazza del Campo is Piazza del Campo, 53100 Siena SI. It is very easy to find the square, it is located in the central part of the city.
If you take a tour, you don’t have to search for information on where to go and what to see. A guide will take you through all the main sights of the city, tell you about the history and architecture – you will only have to enjoy the walk and get to know Siena.
You can choose and book the most interesting tour online on Tripster.