Visiting the Piazza del Campo of Siena, Italy

Updated on September 25, 2017
bdegiulio profile image

Traveling has always been one of my passions. It exposes us to new cultures, experiences, and makes the world a better, more tolerant place.

Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Pubblico
Torre del Mangia and the Palazzo Pubblico | Source

While there is much to see and do in Siena, its famous Piazza del Campo is without a doubt the heart and soul of this beautiful Tuscan community. As one of the most visited of all Tuscan towns, Siena is a magnet, drawing tourists from all over the world. It is certainly worthy of all the attention. With its stunning Duomo and its famous Piazza del Campo, otherwise known as the Il Campo, visitors can walk the same paths and alleys as the Etruscans did centuries ago.

The Piazza del Campo is the large public space that dominates the historic center of Siena. Its clam shell design, red brick paving, and rather large area make it one of Italy’s most unique and beautiful medieval squares.

The piazza is divided into nine pie shaped wedges, which all radiate out from the lowest point of the square in front of the Palazzo Pubblico (Town Hall). Surrounded by impressive public buildings, cafes’, and residences, the Piazza del Campo is the natural gathering spot for visitors and locals alike.

Etruscans: Early civilization of ancient Italy in the areas of Tuscany and Umbria. Originated around 700 BC and disappeared in the late 4th century when it was assimilated into the Roman Republic.

Piazza del Campo
Piazza del Campo | Source

The Piazza del Campo was built over the site of an ancient marketplace and was paved with its red brick in 1349. There has always been some debate that this location was the site of a former Roman Forum but there is little evidence to support this theory. The nine wedges to the square are symbolic of the Noveschi, or Committee of Nine, who governed Siena at the time and each wedge is separated by a line of travertine. From above one gets a clear image of the design of the Piazza del Campo and its clearly sloping wedges.

Committee of Nine: Ruling committee of nine members who governed Siena for about 70 years in the late 13th to mid-14th century.

Piazza del Campo from above
Piazza del Campo from above | Source

Surrounding the Piazza del Campo are a number of noteworthy buildings. Certainly the most striking is the Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall of Siena, which is a beautiful red brick palace. Today this stunning Gothic building houses the Civic Museum of Siena, which occupies the first floor of the palace. Built in the late 13th century, the façade of the building has a gentle curve to it to match the shape of the Piazza del Campo. The interior of the palace houses a number of interesting frescos, which adorn the walls of nearly every room in the palace.

Torre del Mangia
Torre del Mangia | Source

Standing guard to the palace is the Torre del Mangia, the bell tower, which rises some 290 feet above the Piazza del Campo. Completed in 1348, the bell tower is the third tallest tower from medieval Italy. The clock on the lower portion of the tower was added in 1360 and the tower contains three bells. The largest of these bells is known as the Sunto, or the big bronze bell, and was added in 1666. An interesting tidbit on the tower is that it was built to the exact same height as the Duomo of Siena. This was meant to symbolize the equality of power between the church and state.

From the courtyard of the Palazzo Pubblico
From the courtyard of the Palazzo Pubblico | Source

Opposite from the Palazzo Pubblico in the piazza is the Fonte Gaia or Fountain of Joy, which was the first fountain of the Piazza del Campo. Completed in 1343 and then rebuilt in 1419, the fountain required extensive plumbing and an underground system of pipes, which brought water from 25 kilometers away. It took eight long years to complete the bottini aqueduct system, which supplied water to the center of Siena.

The fountain is an interesting piece of artwork with its wolf statues surrounding the pool and the wall panels showing various scenes from Genesis. It is fascinating to watch as the pigeons have learned to drink from the water that sprouts from the mouths of the wolf statues.

Smart pigeons
Smart pigeons | Source
Smart pigeons
Smart pigeons | Source

If you happen to find yourself visiting Siena in early July or mid August, then you are in for a treat. Twice each year, on July 2 and August 15, the community holds the Palio di Siena, which is a horse race around the Piazza del Campo. The race consists of ten horses and riders who represent the different wards of the city and they all dress in the colors of their ward as they race three times around the piazza.

The July 2nd race is called the Palio di Provenzano, which honors the Madonna of Provenzano. The August 16 event is called the Palio dell’Assunta and honors the Assumption of Mary. Both events are preceded with a gala pageant and draw spectators and tourists from all over the world. The event traces its origins back to the 14th century when public games and contests were first held in the city center, but it wasn’t until 1656 that the first Palio took place. For a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience, plan your visit to Siena around the Palio di Siena.

Palio: A rectangular hand-painted banner or piece of silk prepared by an artist that is presented to the winner of a race or contest.

The Palio di Siena
The Palio di Siena | Source

As with most piazzas across Italy the Il Campo is no different in that it makes for a great spot to unwind and people watch. We were fortunate to have visited Siena on two occasions and on both visits we found ourselves simply sitting on the red brick pavement with a slice of local pizza and a beverage while visitors from all over the world crisscrossed the square in every direction.

They say that all roads in Siena lead to the Piazza del Campo, which is not true, but in fact there are actually eleven streets that radiate out from the square to all parts of Siena so you will have no trouble locating the piazza. While here if you prefer to dine a little more elegantly than simply sitting on the pavement there are a number of trattoria’s and restaurants on the perimeter of the square where one can sit and grab a bite to eat.

Piazza del Campo at night
Piazza del Campo at night | Source

I hope you enjoyed this visit to Siena's historic Piazza del Campo. It's the perfect spot to unwind for a moment while you take in the beautiful architecture of the ancient buildings that surround the campo. Siena is certainly a must stop on any trip to Tuscany. Enjoy your visit and ciao for now.

A
Piazza del Campo, Siena:
Piazza del Campo, 53100 Siena, Italy

get directions

A
Siena, Italy:
53100 Siena Province of Siena, Italy

get directions

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Bill De Giulio

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      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        2 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Mary. Thank you. Just a great place to sit and soak in all that Siena has to offer. Definitely one of my favorite spots in Italy. We've been fortunate to visit twice and would go back in a heartbeat.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 

        2 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        My husband loves this place and talks of this patio all the time. I love it, too, for the groups of people just talking, maybe updating or just enjoying the camaraderie.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Glimmer Twin. Hope you enjoyed your vacation to Vermont. It's a beautiful state. Glad you enjoyed Siena, it's a special place and the campo is a wonderful place to just sit and soak in the atmosphere. Thanks so much for the share, etc. Welcome back :)

      • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

        Claudia Mitchell 

        5 years ago

        Well I just returned from vacation in Vermont and while it is beautiful, it is nowhere near as beautiful as this area (in my opinion). Love you photo from the courtyard. Shared around and now I am dreaming of my next vacation.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Carter. Great to see you, how are things down under? Writing about Italy is like therapy for me, it keeps it all fresh in my mind. Please do write some Hubs on Italy :) I would love to read about your travels and experiences in Italy.

        Thanks so much for the vote, share , etc... Have a great week.

      • carter06 profile image

        Mary 

        5 years ago from Cronulla NSW

        So missing this spectacular country Bill and so glad you continue to write about it so we can get our fix:) Think I'll have to write about it myself so I can get the feel of it again..great hub, great photos..voted UABI & sharing everywhere..cheers

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Mary. Looking back on our trips thankfully I took plenty of photos. Some of these trips were pre-HubPages. Whenever I go anyway today I am always taking pictures with the intent of writing a Hub.

        Thanks so much for all the votes, shares, etc. Are you surviving the heat? Today is a little better but the last week was brutal.

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 

        5 years ago from New York

        Your travel hubs are so brilliantly done. Take this one, the photos alone are so beautiful you can almost skip reading the hub. I said ALMOST because if you do you will miss out on so much information and such great descriptions!

        Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful, interesting, and shared.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Alicia. Thank you. I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit these amazing places. The only thing I enjoy more than the trips themselves is sharing them with people. As always, I am very appreciative of your visits, comments, shares, etc.... Have a great day.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Mike. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed Siena, it is an amazing place. Have a great day.

      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 

        5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I'll add Siena to the long list of Italian sites that I want to visit after reading your hubs, Bill! It's so wonderful to learn about the country by reading your articles and looking at your photos. I'll share this hub.

      • Mike Robbers profile image

        Mike Robbers 

        5 years ago from London

        An excellent travel hub to Siena, Bill. Your pictures are - as always - amazing. Thanks for taking us on another tour!

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Jaye. Thank you for visiting Siena with me. I'm glad you enjoyed the tour. Thanks so much for the read, comments and vote. Have a wonderful day. Bill

      • JayeWisdom profile image

        Jaye Denman 

        5 years ago from Deep South, USA

        I did enjoy my vicarious "trip" to Siena and the Piazza del Campo. I experienced the wonders of Tuscany through your expressive writing and the glorious photos. Thanks!

        Voted Up++++

        Jaye

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Stephanie. Thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed the visit to Siena. Thanks so much for the visit and nice comments, very much appreciated, as well as the vote, etc... Ciao, Bill

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi FlourishAnyway. Thank you. When you get to Italy you'll wonder why you didn't go sooner :) Hopefully I'll get to Paris and the rest of France in the next few years and I'm counting on you for all of my info. I love what you've written so far so keep them coming. Thank you for the vote, share, etc. Hope you had a wonderful weekend.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hi Bill. Thank you. Every time I think I'm out of material for Italy I just think back to all the really neat places we've been and just like that I have a few new hubs to write. Hope you had a great weekend.

      • bdegiulio profile imageAUTHOR

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Thank you Joe. I really do appreciate your support and nice comments. Siena is a fascinating place and the Piazza del Campo is unlike any other piazza that we've come across in Italy. I do love the aerial photos of the piazza. Thanks for all the votes, shares, etc. Hope you had a great weekend.

      • Hawaiian Scribe profile image

        Stephanie Launiu 

        5 years ago from Hawai'i

        Another fantastic hub! You bring Italy to life! Voted up, awesome, beautiful, interesting. Aloha, Stephanie

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        5 years ago from USA

        What a beautiful addition to your Italy library, Bill. You are becoming quite a resource on the subject. I like how you define terms out to the side. I especially enjoyed the photo of the courtyard looking up and the pigeons (smart indeed). I've got Italy on my list of travel destinations because of you! Thanks! Voted up and shared!

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        5 years ago from Olympia, WA

        Your book continues to grow, Bill, and those of us who follow you get to watch it grow with a smile on our faces. Well done my travel guru!

        Have a great Sunday!

        bill

      • hawaiianodysseus profile image

        Hawaiian Odysseus 

        5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

        This is a brilliant piece, Bill, and as is the case with all of the "visit Italy" niche hubs that you write, I come away from each pleasurable reading experience learning new things. For example, travertine is a new word for me. When I looked it up, I went, "Ah! I've seen that before! Now I know what to call it!" LOL! Learning also encompasses visual experiences, and your photographs certainly facilitated the learning. My first impression of the Piazza del Campo, aerial view, was that its geometrical pattern resembles that of a giant fan. Italian architecture is breathtaking! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful and memorable article, Bill. Voted up and then some, and sharing! Aloha, my friend!

        Joe

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