I know I'm not the first person to write a tip on the Piazza and I'm not sure I can add anything more to make this a worthwhile tip to read than what you may have already read from the other VTers. First of all, if you go to Siena, you have to go to the Piazza del Campo. It is larger than life! You can look at all the photos you possibly can but to actually see it in person is fantastic. The feel of what a large open space that it is, it's incredible!
For more information on the piazza and some of it's history, you can look at the link below.
This fountain - a pool with water pouring into it from a pipe - looks a very useful Piazza addition for the pigeons....but people always like a water feature so heres a rather elegant one for people to come and admire or sit near and listen to the relaxing sound of trickling water. (there are toilets handy lol)
This huge main square in the centre of Siena's is probably most famed for its Palio - a crazy horse race that is run twice a year and brings crowds of thousands
A popular area for sitting and relaxing, socialising with friends or enjoying coffee at one of the cafes - apart from attending church at the Cathedral, this is the main place to come in Siena's old town.
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.
The watchtower built in 1348 is named after its original keeper who is said to have eaten all the profits of the builder. It costs 6 euros to climb up the tower for a fantastic view over Siena and the surrounding countryside
For most of us, the Palazzo Pubblico (City Hall) and its adjacent Torre del Mangia are little more than a spectacular backdrop to Siena's grand meeting place - the Piazza del Campo.
These iconic landmarks are well worthy of attention on their own merits. Construction of the palace began in 1297, its purpose being to serve as the seat of government for the Sienese Republic. Its architectural style is at times described as Italian medieval, and at other times as Gothic. So - which is it? Maybe Italian medieval with Gothic influences? We did not tour the palace, but have read that the highlight is the number of frescoes, all of which are secular and devoted to the effects of good and bad government.
The campanile (Torre del Mangia) was built between 1325 and 1344, intentionally designed to be taller than any in Siena's rival state, Florence. In fact, it was the tallest building in all of the Italian peninsula at the time. A mechanical clock was added later in the same century.
By all means, take time to look at each of the sculptures surround the pool of the Fountain of Joy. If you have a detailed guidebook, check it for some quirky additions to the biblical scenes. For instance, Rick Steves' enormously popular "Italy" guidebook suggests looking for the snake-handler woman and two naked guys about to tossed in. Of course you can always allow yourself to be entertained by the pigeons scuffling with each other to drink the water from the mouths of wolves.
Il Campo strikes you as an unusual location for a world-famous horse race which pits city neighborhoods against each other. It may be large for a piazza or town square, but is definitely small for a race track. It is irregular in shape, and the terrain is far from level. If I had not seen numerous videos and films of Siena's "Palio," I would never have believed it could take place here, let alone be packed with thousands of frenzied spectators.
It was far more peaceful on the cool, drizzly day of our early October visit. Even so there were quite a number of visitors, for Il Campo is Siena's main meeting place, and most of the city's landmarks are nearby.
Surrounding the piazza are a number of bars, restaurants, gelaterias, the city hall and tower (Palazzo Pubblico and Torre del Mangia), and the intriguing Fountain of Joy (Fonte Gaia). In the course of time, I will post "Things to Do Tips" for each.
A masterpiece of Sienese Gothic architecture, il Palazzo Pubblico is one of the symbols of Siena. It was constructed between 1297 and 1344 as the seat of the government of the Republic of Siena. The building had a fourth floor added in the 17th century, but otherwise has conserved its original look. As is often seen in Siena, the lower floor is made of stone, while the upper floors are of red brick, and triple mullioned Gothic windows pierce the façade. The building dominates Piazza del Campo, particularly with its magnificent sky scraping 100-metre tower, la Torre del Mangia, the highest mediaeval tower in Italy. Nowadays, il Palazzo Pubblico houses a museum, il Museo Civico, with some of Siena's most impressive works of art, not to mention the display of the palace itself. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was unable to visit the interior of the museum (surely next time!), but was able to access the open courtyard in the centre.
For more photos, check out the travelogue: "Palazzo Pubblico."
Shaped like an irregular half circle (or sometimes described as a shell), Piazza del Campo is the beating heart of the city of Siena. It had been the location of several marketplaces for many centuries earlier, but in 1349, the city of Siena began the grand plan of creating this magnificent space by merging a couple of campi and destroying surrounding buildings as a symbol of the greatness of the city. The newly opened space was paved in red bricks and turned into la Piazza del Campo that it is today. The ground paving was divided into nine triangles that converge at the drain known as il gavinone, with each triangle representing one of the nine Noveschi who ruled Siena at the time. Dominating il Campo is the Palazzo Pubblico and its sky-scraping Torre della Mangia, and within it is the famous white marble fountain, known as Fonte Gaia, by Jacopo della Quercia. Nowadays, il Campo is most famous for keeping up the Mediaeval horserace tradition of il Palio di Siena.
Commissioned by the prominent Sansedoni family in the 14th century, their namesake palazzo is the second most dominant structure surrounding Piazza del Campo. It was built in red brick with the typical Sienese Gothic windows decorating its façade. Its irregular shape follows the curvature of the piazza and it is topped by a long red brick tower. The palazzo was heavily renovated in the 18th century, which is when many of its interior frescoes were painted. it is nowadays occupied by the Fondazione Monte dei Paschi di Siena (the Foundation belonging to the Sienese bank)
An imposing palace near Piazza del Campo, Palazzo Piccolimini was built in 1469 by the family of Pope Pius II. It was designed by the architect Bernardo Rossellino and in a Florentine-Renaissance style, rarely seen in Siena. Since 1858, part of the palazzo has housed the rich archives of Siena. (Note this palace should not be confused with the nearby, similar-looking Palazzo Piccolomini delle Papesse, designed by the same architect for Caterina Piccolomini, the sister of Pope Pius II. Her palace is distinguishable by the rugged lower façade).