The heart of Siena is Piazza del Campo, and the heart of this famous square is Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy). Dating from the 15th century, the fountain is lined with replicas of the original bas-relief panels by Jacopo della Quercia, considered a precursor to Michelangelo, and is one of the top attractions in this Tuscan town.
Fonte Gaia’s original panels are housed in the museum at the Ospedale di St. Maria della Scala in Piazza Duomo, and the fountain’s waters splash around 19th-century copies (minus two female nude depictions considered too risqué at the time). That doesn’t diminish the charm of this white marble fountain, however, and it is a popular gathering place in Piazza del Campo and a highlight of any walking tour of Siena.
Join a small-group or private tour of this UNESCO-listed town and see Fonte Gaia along with other Siena landmarks such as the medieval Palazzo Pubblico, Torre del Mangia tower, and Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena). Siena is a popular stop on day trips to the Chianti region of Tuscany from Florence and Rome, which often include stops in Pisa or in the pretty village of San Gimignano.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Siena has one of the most picturesque medieval centers in Tuscany, so be sure to bring your camera.
- Piazza del Campo is accessible to wheelchair users.
- The piazza is pedestrian only, an ideal spot to let kids run off a bit of steam.
- Fonte Gaia is surrounded by fencing to protect its delicate marble.
- Tours of Siena and the villages of Tuscany require a fair bit of walking. Choose comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.
How to Get There
Fonte Gaia is located in Piazza del Campo in the heart of Siena. You can walk or take a city bus from the train station, but the most convenient way to visit is by joining a small-group or private tour that includes transportation so you can also explore nearby Tuscan villages.
When to Get There
Home to one of the most famous and popular medieval festivals in Italy, Piazza del Campo is either a destination to visit or to avoid during the biannual Palio, held in July and August. The square and fountain offer little shade, so are best explored in early morning or late afternoon in summer, or in spring or fall when the temperatures are milder.
Siena’s Palio Festivities
The Palio di Siena is a bareback horse race held in Piazza del Campo around Fonte Gaia each year in July and August. One of the most raucous historical festivals in Italy, the Palio features 10 horses and riders representing 10 of the 17 contrade, or historical town districts, racing around the circumference of the piazza, which is filled with throngs of revellers for the occasion. The festival also includes pageants, banquets, and religious events.