To understand the beauty and special charm of Piazza del Campo - famous also because it’s where the Palio di Siena is run, on July 2 and August 16 of each year – you must know its history.
The shape in the form of a “shell”, as it is commonly called, comes from being a simple steep terrain, where all the streets of the ancient city converged. The need to organise the space as a place to host markets and public festivals, led the various governments of the Republic of Siena to predict its progressive evolution, so much that already at the end of the thirteenth century, they wrote some statutes that prescribed the obligation for buildings to open on the square only bifore or trifore (double or triple windows).
Then there was the idea to make the square an independent space from both the ecclesiastical and noble power, with the construction of the Palazzo Pubblico as the headquarters of the Government of the Nine of the Sienese Republic and the subsequent construction of the various noble palaces, which neatly follow the path of the Via Francigena.
From that moment, the gradual decoration and improvement of the square began, with the brick flooring placed in the shape of a knife that dates back to 1347. The external part of the square is in Serena stone and during the Palio. The external part of the square is in sandstone and during the Palio it is covered with tuff.
In 1419, Jacopo della Quercia sculpted Fonte Gaia, which is now kept in Santa Maria della Scala, replaced by a nineteenth century copy by Tito Sarrocchi. The fountain is in white marble surrounded by a wrought iron railing. According to tradition, the name “Gaia” (gay, happy) was given to remember the great joy of the Sienese when the water gushed for the first time in the square, in 1346, after almost ten years of excavation to create a “bottino”, which is a long, barrel-vaulted, underground aqueduct, which can still be visited today (by reservation).
At the lowest point, there is instead the so called “Gavinone” for the water outflow, now adorned by a sculpture in the shape of the bush by the Sienese artist Massimo Lippi.