Piazza del Campo. Travel Theme: Meeting Places.

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A Piazza is the quintessential meeting place. It is interesting to reflect upon the role of the Piazza in Italian history;  meeting place, site of political unrest, market place, home to festivals and sagre as well as musical and theatrical events, the piazza plays a central role in the communal life of all Italians today. It is a stage, a living theatre.

IMG_1446Piazza del Campo in Siena is my favorite meeting place. Watch as old be-suited gentlemen meet for a coffee, a smoke or to pick up the La Repubblica newspaper at 7 am.  See the noisy teenagers gather after school at around 1.30 pm; at 5pm, another wave of older college students descend on ‘Il Campo’. They lie about in the setting sun or chat in huddled groups.  Locals converge after dinner for passeggiata on the way home. In winter, they stroll in long fur edged coats and fine shoes, appearing to glide across the uneven bricks, reminding me of the wealthy citizens depicted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, famous painter of Sienese life in the 14th century.

The best time to visit Siena is out of season when Piazza del Campo becomes moody and mysterious under the winter sky.  Avoid the  summer months, especially during the Palio, as well as Easter, unless you fancy hordes of people.

See Ailsa’s Where’s My Backpack for other meeting places around the world.

30 thoughts on “Piazza del Campo. Travel Theme: Meeting Places.”

  1. After suffering the crowds of New York due to peak season, I will definitely take your advice and visit this Piazza during the off-season. It certainly looks like a great place to get sit with a coffee and people-watch xx

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  2. A perfect choice, Francesca! It’s such a luxurious expanse, amid the density of the city. I loved how the sweep of the contoured paving, like a wave, or a fan unfurling, seemed to make it fluid – not a not static space. I must say, though, I wouldn’t mind being there for the exuberance of Palio, or Easter, to see it as it might have been during the Renaissance.

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  3. I agree regarding the Palio- exciting. But during the Renaissance, the population was so small, and there weren’t any tourists. The plague visited this area twice, wiping out a considerable proportion of the population too. I have been there once during Easter. It was awful and nearly spoilt all my memories of this beautiful town. Bus loads arrive non stop- from every part of europe and Italy itself. Every trattoria is over stretched and teh food becomes common place. The piazza itself is a sea of people. Easter is a week long event in Italy and so it can be the busiest time of the year. It is safe to visit from October through to about March, to keep Renaissance fantasies alive.

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    1. Our urban spaces are becoming more communal and used in places like Brunswick and Richmond. I think this trend is slowly emerging. But then, our shire councils often require permits for all sorts of things- imagine setting up a big communal risotto feast in one of our small parks, or a band, or a political protest, without the council going haywire.

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  4. Great post. I love the Piazza del Campo, but the last time I was there it was spoiled by too many tourists rushing from one place to the other. They missed the whole point of the piazza – a relaxed place to gather, chat, have a drink, see and be seen (particularly during the evening passeggiata). There are also places like this in every Greek town – called plateias – essential urban spaces where the community comes together, though the architecture of Siena is much more spectacular!

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    1. Tourists can really spoil a good Piazza ( of course that excludes you and me,haha.). I agree, Some busloads of folk just run about and tick off the boxes, join the queue in the tower, eat a bad touristy pizza, then run back to the bus, believing that they have visited Siena. Siena takes months to unfold- walking the back streets and getting lost, visiting all the local churches which are often more inspiring than the famous ones. listening to the youth of the ‘Contrade’ meet in rooms to plan events or socialise, going to ‘Il Forno’ for a daily hit of foccaccia dripping with oil and salt, straight from the oven, wandering through the market….. Oh how much I love Siena, let me count the ways.

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      1. One never includes one’s self in the category of tourist. A fallacy, but a nice one. I hate rushing from one place to another. And, I love Siena. Worked on an excavation just south of there early in the 1980s. Loved the whole experience.

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  5. Their wives are probably happy to see the back of them! They do also gather and chat- at markets and so on. Women tend to be a busier and more productive lot, speaking as one of them.

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  6. I love Italian Piazza’s. I especially love the how they functioned quite differently in ren/med times depending on whether they were they civic piazza eg Piazza Pubblico or the religious one e.g. Duomo in Siena and again Duomo vs Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze 🙂 And agree about the difference between winter and summer. I have a picture on my blog of me at Palazzo Pubblico where it is basically just me under a dark sky in the middle of winter which is such a contrast between when I was there in summer the year before. Love your blog 🙂

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  7. And yet another trip down memory lane for me! We stayed in Tuscany for a week (Gaiole in Chianti) and Siena was the closest town/city. One of my favourite photos is Mr Tiffin and my brother walking down the steep cobbles, heading towards the piazza, chatting to each other. Really enjoying these pieces Francesca.

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  8. I must admit that the first part of this post, regarding the role of the piazza in Italian history, is something I translated from an Italian history. I spent a lot of time in Siena as a student and living there for a time, came to love the Piazza in all its different moods. Thanks for dropping by.

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