Very Special Plans for This Summer: Piazza del Campo in Siena

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Very Special Plans for This Summer: Piazza del Campo in Siena

There are many piazzas out there. Some of them are better known then others, but this one is truly special. Besides its iconic design, it offers a spectacular and unique experience twice a year. Piazza del Campo in Siena is a shell-shaped square that counts about 1000 years of history. It is considered as one of the most remarkable urban open spaces ever conceived by the Italian school of architecture.

The characteristic concave form of the Piazza del Campo was initially given by nothing more but the necessity to collect rainwater running down from the surrounding hills in ancient times. Soon after, however, the open space at the center of small Siena gained the function of financial and commercial centers. Interestingly, these two activities located one next to another were strictly divided. Some claim that there was even a wall separating the two. Only in the 12th century the two sectors were finally reunited, providing the whole square space to the market task.

What is particularly interesting about Siena’s Piazza del Campo is twice a year it hosts the traditional horserace known as Palio. Indeed, it was a long time ago, back in the 16th century, under the Medici, when Piazza del Campo changed its function again, turning into the stage for the spectacular world famous festival.

Each time, Siena’s Palio, the culmination of the ongoing rivalry and competition between teams from the different quarters of the town, gathers together about 30 000 spectators. On July 2 and August 16,  it is not easy to wade toward the piazza but if you can do it you won’t forget it. Sienese say these two dates are far more important than Christmas day. Well, if locals say so, that means it is something we all just must see!


Maria Novozhilova

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