Undoubtedly one of the best public squares in the world, Piazza del Campo is a sloping scalloped-shape area that stands as the heart of Siena, Italy. Its elegant beauty sweeps you off your feet, as it had captured the hearts of many for several centuries now. And it still is a plaza to fall in love with.
The city of Siena is nestled at the foot of three hills. The Piazza del Campo sits right smack at the point where the three hills (the San Martino, the Castellare and the Camollia) meet, thus symbolically uniting these hills. It harks back to the 13th century and is made of marble and red brick. These bricks are arranged into a sunburst pattern which is divided into nine distinct sections, each representing the members of the Government of Nine during the Medieval times. It also has eleven narrow streets that flow into the rest of the city.
The Piazza slopes downwards to the Palazzo Pubblico, which is the Siena's city hall. The Town Hall was where the Government of Nine ruled the city from 1287 to 1310. Today, it is the home of the Museo Civico, which holds a great collection of artwork by Sienese painters such as Ambrogio Lorenzetti and Simone Martini. Nearby, you will find the Torre del Mangia, which is a 102-meter belltower that offers unparalleled views of the city and the Tuscan countryside. The tower is also the second-tallest medieval tower in Italy.
The replica of the Gaia fountain (Fountian of Joy) can also be found here. The original Fonte Gaia was a 15th century piece created by renowned Sienese sculptor Jacopo della Quercia. The people blamed it for the outbreak as it was considered a pagan influence. It was actually very beautiful – made of white marble with 13 reliefs featuring biblical virtues and events. Other attractions at the Piazza include the Chapel of the Virgin, which was built after the end of the Black Death in 1348. Nearby you will see the Palazzi Signorili – the mansions of Siena's wealthiest – the Saracini, the Sansedoni and the Piccolomini.
Il Campo, as the plaza is fondly called, is also the site for the famous Palio di Siena, the most popular horse race in Tuscany and even Italy. This is held two times every year – on July 2 and on August 16. During these days, thousands from around the world flock to the expansive plaza to witness the furious horse race and to cheer for their favorite horse and rider. This is also where most of the city's big events were held – festivals, bullfights, and even executions.
Il Campo (The Field), as it is more fondly called, is the place where the locals meet, congregate and celebrate. Its atmosphere lends itself into am enormous open air living-room, where people can relax, talk to friends while having an ice cream or play and listen to music. No benches are required as you can just as easily sit on the floor. There are cafes that surround this plaza which are great places for sitting and drinking a cup of coffee even as you observe the ebb and flow of activity.