The city of the Palio preserves one of the most precious resources on the planet
through a dense network of source and underground aqueduct.
Consisting of major and minor springs, the medieval water network
of Siena is still fully working today
Due to its hilly position and to the lack of important waterways, the city of Siena has always been taking advantage of alternative water supply systems.
The deep well located in the centre of the courtyard of San Lorenzo a Linari, proves it: it was probably dug in the 11th century, when the complex was a fortress and therefore in need of being self-sustaining in case of enemy attacks.
The beautiful village, designed by architect Baldassarre Peruzzi and enriched with important elements during the 18th century, is today a “hotel diffuso”, located on the top of a hill overlooking the Piana di Rosia, a valley featuring an important aquifer carrying the water up to Siena.
It is a well-known fact that necessity is the mother of invention: given that in the noble houses there were wells, in the city people built the bottini (name that derives from “buctinus“, probably for the barrel-shaped vault of the sources), a network of underground aqueducts that feed still today the historical sources of the city, early mentioned in the 13th century.
Among the major springs, one of the most famous is Fonte Gaia, located in Piazza del Campo square in the heart of Siena.
The name is a tribute to the 14th-century residents’ celebration for the implementation of water system in the district; during the 15th century the marble fountain was built, a fine sculptural work to emphasise the importance of the spring.
In addition to the seven major springs, some of which are outside the city, Siena is rich in several minor fountains, found in many places in the historic city.
Overlaying history and art here is the value of an element unique to Siena: the sense of belonging to the contrade, that spirit that underlies the challenge that is renewed each year with the Palio.
A curiosity that few may know about is the ritual of Contrada’s christening.
The idea came in 1932 to Silvio Gigli: to edify a small fountain in each contrada where new-borns could be secularly baptized, to seal this belonging for life.
This was how in some cases already existing minor sources were “converted” to official sources of Contrada’s christening.
Contrada’s christening takes place once a year, on the occasion of the celebration of the contrada’ s patron saint.
The little ones have their foreheads bathed with water from the baptismal fountain and are given a handkerchief, a square of cloth with the colours and symbols of the contrada that will accompany them throughout their lives.