The Fonte Gaia is many things. A remarkable piece of art, a refreshing fountain,a landing spot for assorted birds, and definitely a popular place for tourists to take a few pictures.
Work on the first fountainl was begun around 1334. It took about eight years of construction before the first water reached the PIazza del Campo. The Fonte Gaia itself was built some 70 years later and served as the end point for an elaborate system of aqueducts that not only fed the fountains but also provided water to the nearby fields, it was considered a marvelous achievement for the time. The fountains have had at least two major rebuilds over the years. Most of the original marble panels and sculptures from the earlier versions of the fountain are today found in Siena museums.
The best time to observe and take a few photos of the fountain is early in the morning. At that time it seems like neither the birds and tourists have not began their daily journey to the Campo.
When entering the Piazza Del Mercato for the first time it is not clear if it is a parking lot or market. So much paved surface! However the high amount of pavement actually lends itself well to the fact that this piazza holds a wide array of food markets, antique shows, craft sales, and a variety of other functions. A Wednesday morning public food market is held every week in the Piazza and is very popular for locals and tourists alike.
The piazza is just a short walk from the Piazza Del Campo. We visited it on a Sunday morning when relatively few people were outside. While there was an absence of people there was an amazing assemblage of classic Fiats parked underneath the cover of the market. Fiats of all sizes, vintages and colors. The regional Fiat club was holding a get together at the nearby Trattoria Pireri and their cars were on display for all who wanted to catch an up close look.
The Piazza Del Mercato also affords some great views of the surrounding hills. So definitely worth taking a walk to its edges for a few photo shots.
This square houses a famous statute of Romulus and Remus suckling from a she wolf. According to local legend Remus's son survived after Romulus killed Remus and founded Siena. Also in the square is the 16th century Chiesa del Cristforo, also known as Santo Spirito.
Besides the exhibits and frescoes inside Palazzo Pubblico, the old hospital was my most favourite museum in Siena. Like Palazzo Pubblico it is more of a “suggestive” museum than one crammed with exhibits. Many of the old and newer frescoes have been restored and more work is in progress. Although today only a portion of it is open to the public, the whole complex is huge. I didn’t realise this before I looked up the website and saw the aerial intro photo and drawing. And only during my visit I actually learned that it was one of the first hospitals in Europe, founded approximately 9th century and in operation until end of last century. Some old signs still demonstrate this, like a marble sign “Clinica Oculista” (eye clinic). When it was founded it was a place for pilgrims (the duomo is just across the street), for the poor and for abandoned children. Pilgrims, because Siena is along the route of Via Francigena. And taking care of abandoned children and poor people because this was what hospitals once had been, when the rich had their private doctors anyhow. A lot of signs of these past time tasks are visible today, especially in the Sala del Pellegrinaio (hall of the pilgrims). This huge hall has frescoes which show the history of this hospital, from the early dream to the daily work, such as healing ill people, giving out food and taking care of abandoned children. Old photographs make visible how this room was used as a hospital room with approx. 50 beds. I also liked the Sagrestia Vecchia (old sacristy) of with religious frescoes of 1444. I think it was because a lot of the paintings are gone, many only half restored. This gives room to imagination and lets one appreciate the artists of the past. Yes, maybe this is indeed what I feel in rooms like that: art is not restored to the fullest but like footprints of the artists. But the most striking part of the old hospital for me was the Oratorio di Santa Caterina della Notte one floor below, a small complex with chapel and additional small rooms. These rooms have a very special atmosphere. Already in the small aisle just in front of the chapel is a skull and gave me the impression of an old pathology. Inside, the chapel seems to have been restored in a way that you would believe the monks are just out for a lunch break and will be back soon. Rosaries and wooden belts hang on the wall, a candelabra stands somewhere with almost burnt down candles, prayer books lie on the benches.
I found the old hospital fascinating. Especially since while walking through it I realised that ignorant me didn’t gave a thought about what hospitals originally meant and how they have developed from the past idea and what our forefathers already knew about medicine and healing, long before they evolved as gods in white. Take time to walk through the rooms. And look. Many things of the old hospital are still there, like the already mentioned sign of the eye clinic or like old door handles with the symbol of this hospital (photo 2, the symbol, not the door handle). Oh, and I should say that the huge window of the former entrance hall give a good opportunity to take reflection photos of the duomo (see photo 4).
Not being a native English speaker, I only realised now (writing about the old hospital and the impressions it left on me), that the English term "hospitality" seems to derive from the old idea of a hospital offering a place to stay and food for the ones who come for a visit. These days pilgrims, today guests.
Thank you, dear Francesca (one of my teachers) to inspire me to visit this old hospital! I am so glad I did.
October 16 – March 16: daily, 10:30 – 16:30,
March 17 – October 15: daily, 10:30 – 18:30.
6 Euro (as of November 2010). Free entrance for children under 11, for inhabitants of Siena and for disabled people.
Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (So please do not copy my text or photos without my permission.)
Just wandering around is fun around the side streets but we also went in the cathedral, 4 euro.
The main square Il Campo is huge and impressive.
Via di citta is the main commercial street which is nice to walk along but nothing special.
A visit to san gimignano, just 30mins away on a scenic drive is worth the visit out of siena.
The neo-classical facade of St. Christopher Church belies its antiquity. It was built in the 11th-12 centuries, but suffered severe damage during the earthquake of 1798. As a result of reconstruction, the church was down-sized slightly, and the neo-classical facade added,
We did not enter the church.
Sallustio Antonio Bandini (1677-1760) was the founder of the Library of Siena. This monument to Bandini, a work of Tito Sarrocchi, stands in the Piazza dei Salimbeni in front of the Banca Monte dei Paschi, the oldest surviving bank in the world.
Known as le Due Porte (the Two Gates), this archway was once a gate in the first non-extant city walls. It was originally a double arched gateway, but over time, as the gate was incorporated into the construction of adjacent buildings, one of the two arches was walled in, becoming a blind arch in the process. Le Due Porte is one of many archways around the city of Siena, some of which were also city gates, but others are mere passages (see attached photos no. 4 and 5).
Located on Via di Città at Piazza di Postierla, this lone mediaeval tower known as Torre dei Forteguerri was part of the first fortified wall of Siena. The exact date of the construction of the first wall is unknown, but is thought to fall around or earlier than the 9th century AD. As Siena grew in size and importance, a second larger wall was built around the city in the 12th century, making the original wall obsolete and it was slowly dismantled over the centuries. All that remains are a few towers scattered around Siena (see second and third attached photos), including Torre dei Forteguerri, all of which have been incorporated into the construction of adjacent buildings.
Located on the edge of the historic centre of Siena, la Fortezza Medicea is a defensive castle. Apart from a few sculptures on its red brick walls, the fortress seems like nothing more than just a wall, but from above, the citadel has the shape of a four-pointed star. It was built in 1561 on the orders of the Duke of Florence, Cosimo I de' Medici, hence its name, primarily to suppress any hopes of independence by Siena after he had recaptured the city from Spanish hands. Spain had actually occupied the city for a short period a few years earlier and built the first castle on the same site, but it was destroyed by the Sienese after their liberation. Nowadays, the interior of the castle is a landscaped park used for special events.
Loggia del Papa, work of architect and sculptor Antonio Federighi, was comissioned by Pope Pio II in honour of his family. Great humanist Pope Pio II belonged to family Piccolomini, one of the most significant medieval family of Siena. His real name was Enea Silvio Piccolomini.
This fine Renaissance structure was built in 1462, it has three arches with a travertine on which is written: "Pius II Pont Max Gentiligvs svis Piccolomineis" (Pope Pio II to his family Piccolomini).
San Martino is 12th century church, adjacent to Loggia del Papa. The original structure was enlarged and renovated in the 16th century, while the facade is from 1613. The church was completed, to its present appearence, in 1738.
In its interiors the church preseves some very valuable paintings, one of them is masterwork by Guido Reni called "The circumcision of Jesus".
Built in 1425 by Pietro Salimbeni Benassai, who held the title of il Capitano del Popolo, this imposing palace was the residence and headquarters of the administrative body that represented the people of the Republic of Siena, known as i Priori. In the typical Sienese fashion, the lower half of the building is of stone, while the upper half is red brick, and Gothic cusped arches decorate both levels of the building. The coats of arms of the families who resided and governed in this building are painted within the corbelled arches of the decorative machicolations on the upper façade, including famous Siena families such as the Piccolomini, the Bandinelli, and the Salimbeni. Il Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo is located on its namesake street, steps from Piazza del Duomo.
This small Renaissance church has a very elegant Neoclassical façade. It was commissioned by the Bishop of Pienza and designed by the architect Francesco di Giorgio in 1471. It is dedicated to Our Lady of the Snows, who supposedly made it snow in Siena in the summer! Unfortunately, the church's beautiful stonework is badly eroded, but this only adds to its charms. I was not able to visit the interior because it was closed, but it is said to consist of a simple single nave and to contain a masterpiece, Madonna delle Nevi, by the artist Matteo di Giovanni.
One of the oldest universities in Italy, l'Università degli Studi di Siena was founded in 1240. It is housed in many buildings scattered around Siena, but one prominent building is located in the centre on via Banchi di Sotto (see attached photos). It has a central courtyard with a bronze statue at its centre by Rafaello Romanelli. It was created in 1893 as a "monument to soldiers fallen in the battle of Curtatone and Montanara." Below the statue is the latin phrase: "EXORIARE ALIQUIS NOSTRIS EX OSSIBUS ULTOR," which translates to "may you arise an avenger from our bones," from Virgil's Aeneid.
The least ornate of the three palazzi that border Piazza Salimbeni is also the newest among them. It was built in 1570 by the Sienese architect Bartolomeo di Bastiano Neroni for Mariano Tantucci in a Renaissance style. The palazzo nowadays also houses the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank.
We stayed at the hotel around Chrismas. The usual rates of about 190 Euro where reduced to 80 Euro....more
The hotel cleaning staff broke the keyboard to my laptop. The manager John Luigi called me a liar,...more
When looking for a hotel in Siena, I read a couple reviews of the Hotel Santa Caterina saying that...more