The beauty of Siena is appreciated only a few days after leaving it. When you’re there, too busy trying to see as much as possible, you don’t immediately realize the beauty of this town in the middle of Tuscany.The memories emerge only a few days later: first Piazza del Campo comes to mind with the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia; then the black and white of the Duomo, the Baptistery and all the rest.
But perhaps most of all that we remember is the colour of the facades of buildings and roofs, that “Terra di Siena” known all over the world that makes the city landscape coherent, harmonious and beautiful to look at. Perhaps this is what makes Siena so fascinating and loved: it has remained as intact as in the Middle Ages and is a kind of time travel, the search for a golden age that belonged to many other small and large Italian cities and that will never return.
Piazza del Campo in Siena is considered one of the most beautiful squares in the world. It has a characteristic shell shape with 9 segments, a detail that can only be seen from the top of the Torre del Mangia. Since 1300 it has been the center of the life of Siena and has played the role of market and gathering place of the Sienese during important political moments, parties and rides. As happens twice a year during the famous Palio.
Today, Piazza del Campo is the tourist place par excellence of Siena, an obligatory point of passage where restaurants and souvenir shops lord it, without however obscuring the beauty of the square. The slight slope makes the shape of the Palazzo Pubblico with the Torre del Mangia even more imposing, while the whole square is surrounded by the beautiful and imposing facades of noble palaces. The tourist ritual par excellence requires that you sit on the ground to admire the piece of sky that opens above the square. Which is also a way to rest after all the ups and downs that the narrow streets of Siena are forcing. High in the square there is Fonte Gaia, the most beautiful of the Sienese water sources. What you can admire today in Piazza del Campo is a copy of the source that Jacopo della Quercia carved between 1409 and 1419.
If you suffer from vertigo, you may not want to venture up to the 88-meter Torre del Mangia, but we warn you that you will miss an exceptional view. In fact, from up there, the show is truly breath-taking. You can see all of Siena: from Piazza del Campo, to the Duomo a little further away, to the distant hills.
The tower takes its name from Giovanni di Duccio, the first custodian who enjoyed his life spending all his earnings eating in the taverns of Siena. The Sienese had renamed it Mangiaguadagni, from which Torre del Mangia. Legend has it that during the construction at the foot of the tower lucky coins were buried and that at every corner of the tower there are stones with Latin and Hebrew inscriptions, with the task of keeping thunder and storms away from the Tower.
The Palazzo Pubblico of Siena is the place par excellence of the political power of Siena. In fact, from the Government of the Nine (which in 1300 made Siena as beautiful as we see it) until today, all the rulers of Siena have resided here. If only nine “politicians” were able to imagine and make this wonder come true, we should expect something better from the hundreds of administrators who crowd our municipalities these days …
The Palazzo Pubblico of Siena is considered one of the most beautiful civilian buildings in Italy, always admired for its majesty and harmony. A beauty that was perceived already during the construction and that pushed the city government to issue an edict that forced the owners of the houses of Piazza del Campo to build the palaces in stylistic coherence with the Palazzo Pubblico but no longer beautiful and large. In the Palace there is the Civic Museum of Siena, with the famous frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti that represent the Allegory of Good and Bad Government.
Usually, you arrive at the Duomo after visiting Piazza del Campo. Still with the majesty of the Piazza and the Palazzo Pubblico in the eyes, one does not expect to be surprised again. What can Siena offer that is bigger and better? The answer is simple: the Duomo with the façade in which white and black prevail.
But however splendid, this is not the best part of this church dedicated to Maria Assunta. The most important jewels are inside: the floor, full of esoteric symbols and religious stories: there are all the Sibyls of tradition, but also the Massacre of the Innocents, King David and Hermes Trismegistus, the life of Moses and the Sacrifice of Jephthah. In the left aisle, before the transept, the Piccolomini Library opens, frescoed by Pinturicchio and which despite the name has never hosted the books of Pope Pius II. Immediately after the Library is the Piccolomini Chapel, where Michelangelo worked from 1501 to 1504 sculpting the 4 statues of the lower niches. Do not miss the Pulpit, created by Nicola Pisano, with biblical scenes and the Life of Jesus.
Just behind the Cathedral of Siena, from 1325 the Baptistery contends with the cathedral the role of the most important religious place in the city.
For many centuries all the Sienese, notable and not, were baptized under the vault of the Baptistery. On the three naves, the frescoes of Benvenuto di Giovanni (The Miracles of St. Anthony of Padua – 1460), Pietro degli Orioli (La Lavanda dei Piedi) and Lorenzo di Pietro called the “Vecchietta” (frescoes of the vaults with vaults) recall and enchant the eyes. Articles of the Creed 1447/1450). But the protagonist of the Baptistery is the baptismal font in bronze and marble, placed right in the Baptistery center. Jacopo della Quercia, Giovanni di Turino, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello, who also made the bronze angels that decorate the ciborium, have put their hands on it and left their mark.
The Palio di Siena is a competition between the Contradas of Siena in the form of an equestrian carousel of medieval origin.
The “career”, as it is traditionally called the race, normally takes place twice a year: on July 2nd the Palio is held in honor of the Madonna di Provenzano, the feast of the Visitation in extraordinary form, and on August 16th the one in honor of the Madonna Assunta.
On exceptional events, of city or national celebrations deemed relevant and relevant (for example: the centenary of the Unification of Italy), the Sienese community may decide to carry out an “extraordinary Palio”.
The race takes place in the central square Piazza del Campo; each Palio will participate in 10 districts among the 17 total, chosen by lot and according to a particular regulation that allows the constant rotation of the participants. The 7 districts running the corresponding Palio of the previous year run by right, and one month before the Palio (the last Sunday of May for that of July, and the first Sunday after the Palio of July for that of August) the three missing districts are drawn by lot; the announcement to the people is given through the flags of the three quarters extracted that are hoisted to the windows of the Town Hall. The other 7 remaining districts are also extracted, to establish the order of parade in the historical procession; they will participate by right in the corresponding Palio of the following year. In the case of an extraordinary Palio, a draw takes place between all the districts to determine the ten participants.