It was a cool, wet Sunday as my parents and I arrived in Siena. We’d be only staying a single night in the city and unfortunately the rain would hardly stop the whole time while we were there. After checking in at our hotel we went back out into the rain to make the most of our short time in Siena.
Our hotel was right by Piazza del Campo and we headed there first. Better known as “Il Campo,” this large medieval square looks sort of like a seashell or a fishtail and was built on a shallow slope at the spot where three hilltop towns converged. These towns would combine to form the city of Siena and as a symbol of unity the city government created guidelines in 1297 to make sure all buildings on Il Campo had similar architecture. In 1349 the square was paved with bricks and on sunny days it’s common to see people sitting around Il Campo like it’s a beach. Twice a year the square is also home a horse race called the Palio di Siena in which riders representing each district in the city race around Il Campo to claim glory for their neighborhood.
At the top of the square you can find the Fonte Gaia, which translates to the “Fountain of the World.” This fountain was built in 1419 to replace an older fountain and it supplied water to this part of the city for centuries. In the 1800s, however, the facade decorations had become so worn down that they had to be replaced. Thankfully the original designs for the fountain had been preserved and the city was able to get a duplicate facade crafted. The original fountain decorations are now stored in a museum.
Down at the bottom of Il Campo is the Palazzo Pubblico, the old seat of Siena’s government. The palace holds a good city museum and you can climb the tower for great views of Siena but we chose not to go in that day.