In the summer of 2020 I spent a day exploring the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city of Sienna, located in the heart of Tuscany. I am always amazed at just how well preserved Italian cities are and Siena is no exception. Perched atop a hill 322 metres above sea level, the whole city is built around the Piazza del Campo and was devised as a work of art that blends into the surrounding landscape.
One aspect of the city that has been preserved since medieval times is the retention of a ward-centric culture, with each ward (contrada) represented by an emblem featuring an animal or mascot. It’s very easy to understand which contrada you are in, with the emblems displayed high on the walls and in restaurant windows and this culture appears to be as important for the locals today as it was in the past. We even saw a few people wearing scarves of the contrada colours, really adding to the wonderful atmosphere of this city.
We meandered through a myriad of small medieval streets, heading towards the Piazza del Campo, the main public space of Siena famous for its bi-annual bareback horse race the Palio, disputed by ten riders from each of the contradas. The soundscape was rich, so I decided to record a sound walk, starting at the Siena Cathedral and finishing at the Piazza del Campo.
I have been lucky enough to have visited many cities in Italy and have enjoyed all of them. But there was something special about Siena, really captured in the overall atmosphere of the city. I hope to have the opportunity one day to go back and soak up the atmosphere during the Palio, which must be electric.