Good bye Umbria, hello Tuscany. I’m in the beautiful city of Siena. Siena’s most famous landmarks are in Piazza Del Campo, just a five minute walk from my hotel.
The Piazza del Campo has been the heart of the old city since the mid-14th century and it was a Roman market place before that. It’s hard to take a photo that does it justice and shows its size.
The piazza is scalloped-shaped and the paving slopes down from the Gaia Fountain to the town hall, the Palazzo Comunale, to create an amphitheatre.
The whole piazza is surrounded by buildings, mostly restaurants and bars, so it is always full of people, noisy and busy.
The busiest two days of the year are on 2 July and 16 August when Il Palio takes place. The Palio is a horse race with origins dating back to the middle ages. Here’s what happens; riders from 10 of the towns district race bare-back for the honour of winning a silk banner, the palio and also the honour of their district. Spectators fill the centre of the piazza and the riders and horses race around the perimeter three times. It’s almost no-holds barred. The only rule, reins may not be interfered with. If a riderless horse comes in first then it is the winner, no jockey needed. Of course, before the actual horse race there is the pageant. Each district has its own colours and animal symbol and members of the district parade around the Campo dressed in medieval garb dressed in their respective colours and waving huge flags.
Special street lamps are put up for the spectacle. All is ready in the Onda district, while in the snail district, there’s still work to be done on the lighting.
The streets are being decorated in readiness for the Palio. Flags are flying and special street lamps are being put in place. The Palio is HUGE!
I’m enjoying Siena. The weather is still gorgeous and sunny and it’s the right size for a four day stay. There’s plenty to see and it’s it near to other places of interest, like San Gimignano. More about that in the next post.