According to legend, Siena was founded by Senius and Aschius, sons of Remus (brother of Romulus, founder of Rome). Following Remus’s murder at his brother’s hand, Senius and Aschius were forced to flee Rome, absconding with the Capitoline Wolf, the famous statue of the she-wolf suckling Remus and Romulus. The statue is today in the Musei Capitolini in Rome.
The city was not situated near any main roads during Roman times, which limited the prosperity it was able to achieve through trade, and also kept Christianity from reaching it until the 4th century CE. Once the Lombards invaded the area, however, they rerouted their main roads to protect their trade from Byzantine raids, which meant passing through Siena and thus making the city an important trade center.
The Republic of Siena was later founded in the 12th century, and in 1555 fell to Florence, who fought in the name of Spain. In 1559, Siena was ceded to the Medici. Three hundred years later, in 1859, they were the first city in Tuscany to vote in favor of joining the Kingdom of Italy.
This square is surrounded by three palazzi: the Palazzo Tantucci, the Palazzo Spannocchi, and the Palazzo Salimbeni. The eponymous palazzo is particularly notable for still housing the offices of one of the first banking houses of Europe, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, which is considered to be the oldest bank in the world.
Piazza del Campo
The square started as a marketplace in the thirteenth century, and served as a meeting place for three nearby settlements: the Castellare, the San Martino, and the Camollia. These three communities eventually joined together to form Siena. Regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares, it is the main public space in the city’s historic center. Twice a year, the horse race known as the Palio di Siena is held here.
The Fonte Gaia, or Joyous Fountain, was built in 1419 to replace an earlier fountain from 1342, and to bring fresh water into the city. It is decorated with bas reliefs of the Madonna surrounded by both Classical and Christian virtues. The originals, created by Jacopo della Quercia, are in the nearby Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala, and were replaced by copies created by Tito Sarrocchi in 1866.
Serving as the town hall of Siena, the Palazzo Pubblico was built in the 13th century. Its façade is slightly curved to adapt itself to the shape of the Piazza del Campo. Its campanile, the Torre del Mangia, was built in 1325-1344, with a crown designed by the painter Lippo Memmi. The tower was designed to be taller than its equivalent in Florence, and it was at the time the tallest structure in Italy.