Le FONTI di SIENA
Fountains Throughout Siena
Remarkable to Small and
In just about every part of Siena, there are le fonti, "fountains" -- big or small, massive or elegant, charming or historical -- to sit by and admire. As Siena had no nearby fresh water source, acquecducts and complex irrigation systems were made in and around the city. Many fountains were built on what was once the outskirts of Siena; these were multi-purpose basins of water, for cooking, drinking and agricultural use, with roofs protecting water from pollution. These fountains became the gateways to the city, and the city's water was highly regarded and protected.
Aside from Siena's most historical fountains or most impressive, such as Fonte Gaia at Piazza Del Campo, each contrada has a fountain which celebrates its symbol for that part of the city, and serves as the site for the outdoor baptisms each year. From the fountain of the contrada del Brucco, with its large caterpillar in the background, to the fountain of Onda, with the dive of a graceful dolphin, Siena's contrada fountains serve as community meeting places. During the Spring and Summer, these fountains are often surrounded by groups of men talking, or children playing and laughing. The fountains of each contrada should be noted, as each one is different, and speaks of the character of that part of Siena.
Fonte Gaia is considered to be "the queen of Sienese fountains" both for for its central position, Piazza del Campo, also as a work of art. At 321 meters above sea level, Fonte Gaia is situated at the highest elevation of all the fountains. It brings water from the northern part of the city, along a ridge uninterrupted by valleys. The panels of the fountain,completed by Jacopo della Quercia between 1409 and 1419, are considered to be fine examples of Italian sculpture for that period. The originals of Jacopo della Quercia can be seen in the loggia of the Palazzo Comunale. Today, "Ci vediamo alla fontana," is often said, and everyone knows that it means the meeting point is in front of the town's most famous and easy to spot fountain.
Cited by Dante in Canto 30 of the Inferno, Fontebranda is the oldest and perhaps most impressive of the Sienese fountains. This fountain is associated with the birth and early life of Saint Catherine, and she is for this reason is known as the Saint of Fontebranda. Today, Fontebranda is a site for outdoor concerts and dance performances during the summer.
The present Fonte d'Ovile was built in 1260 to replace an earlier fountain. It began to decline in importance already by the end of the century with the construction of the Fonte Nuova, but is indeed worth visiting and admiring.
The Fonte del Casato is probably the most peculiar of the fountains of Siena because it is built in a central zone of the city, and is not easy to find. It has is Siena's hidden fountain, but when you accidentally discover it while wandering through Siena's charming streets, it is a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
Fonte Nuova d'Ovile was build 1296 until 1303 in the Gothic style; it is striking for its distinct arches, and was built as the outlet for the bottino of the same name in order to bring water to Vallerozzi for industrial and agricultural uses.
A day of finding, admiring and photographing Siena's diverse fountains can be a relaxing way to experience this fascinating town.