The Piazza del Campo is Siena‘s central square and some of the city’s most important buildings and museums are therefore located on its outskirts. It is also here that the famous Palio is held.
Piazza del Campo Siena
History and Description
The ground below the Piazza del Campo used to be muddy and very fragile, which caused multiple problems in the course of the centuries.
In Roman times it was refurbished, although at that time it was still on the outskirts of the city. (The central part of Siena was then where the Castelvecchio is today, and what would later become the Piazza del Campo was still a market place close to the main streets leading into the city.)
The oldest known official use of the name Piazza del Campo is in a document dating back to 1169. At that time this still included today’s Piazza del Mercato (behind the Palazzo Comunale, however.
The first mention of two separate squares was in 1193. Probably a wall had been constructed between the two squares, against which stores and other buildings were later built.
Markets and other festivals were held in the square until 1270. After the so-called “Government of the Ventiquattro” fell, the notion of a space that was not in the hands of the church or the aristocracy began to take shape. The Palazzo Pubblico (another name for the Palazzo Comunale) was built and the Piazza del Campo became the central point of the city.
When the building was finished, the new “Government of the Nine” took up residence there. This was in 1310 and from then on the square became more and more important and impressive.
In 1327 tiles were laid, a task that was not fully completed until 1349. The central area is divided into 9 sections, as a tribute to the Governo del Nove (“Government of the 9”). At this time, construction of several of the magnificent palazzi lining the square also started.
Despite some renovations to individual palaces, the overall appearance has hardly changed in all this time. (A project by Baldassare Peruzzi, who wanted to adorn all the buildings around the square with loggias, was eventually abandoned).
What to see in Piazza del Campo
One of the most striking sights in Piazza del Campo is the Fonte Gaia, a fountain that receives its water from the hills north of Siena. However, the fountain is only a copy of (the second version of) the original.
The Palazzo Petroni, characterized by its beautiful triforums, and the Palazzo Piccolomini Salamoneschi are brick buildings.
On the street corner between Via del Porrione and Via Rinaldini, called the Curva San Martino, stands the Palazzo Ragnoni. Behind this palace are the remains of several buildings that were later incorporated into the Palazzo Piccolomini.
Other interesting buildings on this side of the Piazza del Campo are the Palazzo Chigi-Zondadari (formerly Palazzo Mezolombardi-Rinaldini), the Palazzo Tornainpuglia-Sansedoni and the Palazzo Vincenti.
Most of these buildings date back to the 14th century, but were given a facelift between 1760 and 1767 so that they appear to have a unique, neo-Gothic facade.
The Palazzo della Mercanzia, between the Vicolo di San Pietro and the Vicolo di San Paolo, has undergone similar changes, but the following buildings, Palazzo Saracini and Palazzo Scotti (between the Vicolo San Paolo and the Costarella dei Barbieri), and the Palazzo Accarigi and the Palazzo Alessi still show very clear features of their medieval origins, including the typical Guelph battlements and the two- and three-light windows.
The Palazzo Mattasala-Lambertini is located after the Chiasso del Bargello and the Via del Casato di Sotto.
The Cappella di Piazza is located in front of the Palazzo Pubblico and protrudes into the square a bit.
The Piazza del Campo is also the theater of one of Italy’s most famous events, the so-called Palio, an originally medieval horse race held twice a year in which the city’s neighborhoods compete against each other.