Piazza del Campo is the heart of Siena, its historical soul. It is famous all over the world for its beauty, architectural integrity and unique shell shape. It is a Unesco World Heritage site since 1995, along with all of Siena’s historic center.
In the past, Piazza del Campo was a green area, used to host open-air markets; today, it is the meeting point for the Sienesi, and also the place where the famous Palio takes place twice a year.
Some of the city’s most important monuments overlook the piazza; let’s look at some of them.
Palazzo Comunale: it’s the palace built by the government of the Republic of Siena between 1298 and 1310 as the seat of the ‘Council of Nine,’ the elected officials that governed the city. Brick was used for its construction and its white elements are in marble. Today, it still serves as the Town Hall.
Torre del Mangia: it was the bell tower of the Palazzo Comunale, so called from the nickname ‘mangiaguadagni’ given to its first caretaker, Giovanni di Balduccio, known for being a glutton and therefore squandering his earnings on food (mangia-guadagni = eat earnings away). Built between 1325 and 1348, the Torre del Mangia is among Italy’s tallest ancient towers: at 102 meters high, it symbolically guards and protects the city. The four corners are perfectly oriented in the North-South and East-West direction.
Cappella di Piazza: it’s a marble tabernacle at the foot of the Torre del Mangia, protruding from the Palazzo Comunale. It was built in 1352 to thank the Virgin Mary for saving the city from the plague that struck in 1348.
Fonte Gaia: inaugurated in 1386 amid the citizens’ general rejoicing because it was Siena’s first public fountain (hence the name ‘Gaia' - cheerful), it was decorated between 1409 and 1419 with statues and reliefs by sculptor Jacopo della Quercia, blending Gothic tradition and Renaissance innovations. The ones on display today are copies.