If you’re going to visit Siena, make sure to spend some time in Piazza del Campo, the city’s beating heart and symbol and one of the reason that made Siena’s centre a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Piazza del Campo (commonly known as Il Campo) is the main square in Siena and one of the most famous and largest medieval squares in Europe. It’s widely known for being the location of the Palio di Siena, the colorful and exciting horse race that takes place twice a year.
Starting from its shell shape and sloping ground paved with red bricks, the Piazza del Campo’s architectural features are quite impressive and unique, as well as bearing witness to the city’s history and development.
The origins of the piazza itself are ancient - it was first mentioned in 1169 as “Campus Sancti Pauli”.
Formerly a marketplace, the Piazza del Campo sits on the intersection of the three main roads that lead to Siena.
As you can see in some aerial photo, the Piazza del Campo is divided into nine sectors marked by travertine lines. Each sector represents one of the Nove Signori (Nine Lords, or Noveschi) that ruled Siena from the end of 13th century to the mid-14th century, a time remembered as a period of great cultural and political achievements.
A quick list of things to do and see in Piazza del Campo, Siena
- We suggest that you take some time to simply stand in the middle of the Piazza del Campo to experience it - you’ll feel History and Art unravel around you.
- Or you can find a spot to sit outside one of the many cafes surrounding Piazza del Campo and just soak up the place atmosphere while sipping a cappuccino or a glass of Chianti wine...
- If you’re feeling up for a bit of an adventure, climb the Torre del Mangia, one of the most famous towers in Tuscany. It may take some effort, but the breathtaking view of Siena and the surrounding countryside will reward you.
- The Mangia Tower belongs to the Palazzo Pubblico, formerly the seat of the Government of the Nine Lords and an elegant example of Italian Medieval architecture with Gothic elements. It houses the famous fresco cycle The Allegory of Good and bad Government painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti between 1338 and 1339.
- The Palio di Siena takes place on 2 July and 16 August each year in a very electric atmosphere. It’s a compelling and passionate horse race with medieval origins in which Siena’s 17 contrade (city quarters) challenge each other. (PS: Plan well ahead if you wish to see the race: tickets must be booked in advance!)
Piazza del Campo is just one reason for including Siena in your Tuscan holidays. Have a look at our Siena & Chianti tour.