Piazza del campo durante il palio

The first warm sun of spring, but it’s still cold in the shade.
I sit down on the warm bricks, lean back with my hands and stretch my legs. I can’t eat the ciaccino yet, it’s too hot. The swallows fly all around while the pigeons approach you to pick up some crumbs. The light reflected on the red bricks is the warm, welcoming light of the color of ocher.

I close my eyes and take a deep breath. The fresh air enters my lungs as well as the smell of heat on the stone that seems to be that of an ancient tale. I reopen my eyes and I can not help but exclaim: beautiful Piazza del Campo!

The Sienese do not need to qualify it, they simply call it “Piazza” because this has always been the heart of the civil and social life of the Sienese people.

Famous for the Palio, of course, but maybe it’s my nostalgic streak as an archaeologist, that every time I find myself there I can’t help but think of how it must have looked in the beginning, when it was called Campus Forumsan uncultivated and unbuilt space where the market was held.

So I try to imagine the chatter of the people and the shouting of the merchants, little boys running between the stalls trying to get away with stealing a loaf of bread.

Perhaps it was during the market that Provenzano Salvani hoped to scrape together a few coins to exonerate his friend, captured by King Charles of Anjou, from certain death, and for this gesture Dante “sent” him directly to Purgatory, without passing through Antipurgatory, even though he was a Ghibelline.

While, in the area closest to the Palace of the United Circle there was the Campus Sancti Pauli where, at the time, we could hear the vernacular (?) speeches of the representatives of the Sienese parliament or we could witness the swearing in of infantrymen and knights.

But the palace has not seen all this, because it was built only at the end of the thirteenth century. Built down there for a suggestive scenic effect.

The nine segments of the square lead visually to him to make its symbolic value clear to all. However, it must be said that he attended the numerous sermons of San Bernardino, which have entered literature as a testimony to the living language spoken at the time, for its very original onomatopoeic expressions and verses.

And surely St Catherine also passed through here, some decades before Bernardino, however. Who knows, perhaps she crossed the square at dawn on the very day she decided to stay by the side of the subversive Niccolò di Tuldo, all the way to the gallows in the Orto dei Pecci. Of him, she had listened for days and nights to fears and prayers.

Not to mention the sermons of Brandano, who is said to have predicted the sack of Rome, the fall of the Republic of Siena and is even thought to have predicted the invention of the automobile: “when carriages walk without horses it will be a world of troubles!”. His sermons were above all against the corrupt Church, and he certainly didn’t send them his way. as he easily called Pope Clement VII de’ Medici a “sodomite bastard” who obviously didn’t take it well!

Giovanni di Balduccio (or “di Duccio”), known as the “Mangiaguadagni”, passed by here every day on his way to work. He had to take care of the tolling of the bell. The Torre del Mangia takes its name from him.

To think of the happiness that the Sienese felt when they saw water gush out for the first time in Piazza del Campo, in the 1440s, after centuries of searching for water! And Dante even made fun of them for it. To their delight, the Sienese decided to call it Fonte Gaia. But they had to wait until the beginning of the fifteenth century beforeJacopo della Quercia made them one worthy of the wealth and importance of the Sienese Republic.

Bad things also happened in the Piazza. Who knows how many riots, brawls and executions to the death, such as that of the father and uncle of Ghino di Tacco, the Gentleman Brigand (the Robin Hood of the Val di Chiana). Here even some Jews were burned alive, accused by the fanatics of the “Viva Maria” of supporting ideologically and economically the French revolutionary ideas.

Revolts, festivals, the hunting of bulls, Le Pungna, Le Bufalate, Asinate and then … the Palio. But it’s a whole other story!

I saw it many times during my university studies in Siena and it was always a strong emotion. It’s a tight grip on your stomach, all fomented by the tension of the Sienese that you feel right under your skin. In an instant, and you don’t even know why, you find yourself being the most ardent supporter of a contrada, holding it for her and screaming like a madman for the duration of the race: 75 seconds of pure delirium! The Palio is always unique and unrepeatable as is the moment when the mossiere opens the envelope with the order of the contrade at the canape. Despite thousands of people in the square and on the stages … absolute silence!

Then the race, the winner and the shouts, the flag-waving, the parades and Piazza del Campo empties. By now it’s evening and you’re sitting there, seduced and abandoned (but with a nice frozen bar). In the distance you hear the contrada singing. Stretch your legs, and enjoy the fresh air of the summer evening, even among the smells of tuff and barn! The square is illuminated by the lights of the and in front of you the Palazzo Pubblico illuminated instead by torches, as in the past, and sighs:

beautiful Piazza del Campo!

Foto di Massimo Pianigiani