Discover the mythical place where the city of Siena was founded according to tradition.
There are many legends circulating about the history of Siena, but at least one of them seems to be confirmed by history. We are talking about the legend of the city’s founding location: Castelvecchio.
Right here, between Via San Pietro and Via di Stalloreggi, numerous elements point to it being the original nucleus of the city: the archaeological finds, the strategic position at the highest point of the city allowing it to watch over the entire surrounding area, its shape that still today resembles a more or less quadrilateral castle, the layout of the roads that surround the area and encircle the ancient castle.
Despite the many changes that have taken place in the urban fabric of the city over the centuries, the castle is still there with its internal streets – Via di Castelvecchio, Vicolo di Castelvecchio and Via San Quirico – the elevated courtyard still perfectly preserved and the remains of the towers,such as the one known as Torre Voltaia, which stands behind Piazza del Conte.
According to tradition, this was the seat of the magistrates of the Roman colony first, then the Longobard lord and then the Frankish count; but that’s not all, the first Bishops of Siena also resided in Castelvecchio.
This historical reconstruction at the core of Siena is linked to a legend. The territory of Castelvecchio is said to have been the landing place of the twins Senio and Ascanio (or Aschio), sons of Remus, who fled after their father was killed by Romulus, the fabled founder of Rome.
Their uncle wanted to reserve them the same treatment as Remus, but the twins, riding two steeds, “one very white and one very black, equipped for battle”, escaped and arrived near Siena, on the banks of the Tressa torrent. Here, they built a temple dedicated to Apollo on the nearby mountain where they kept the shrine of the Capitoline She-wolf stolen from their uncle.
Here they joined the woodsmen and herdsmen who lived in the area, who elected them as community leaders and helped them build ‘a strong castle’, the early nucleus of Siena, called Castelsenio. The name Castlesenio come from the Latin word ‘senio’ meaning ancient’, later changed to Castelvecchio (old castle).
Although this reconstruction is the result of the creation of an ad hoc mythology by Agostino Patrizi in the second half of the 15th century to honour Siena’s origins, even today its fascination hovers within the ancient walls of Castelvecchio.
Where: Via di Castelvecchio and Vicolo di Castelvecchio
When: always visible wonder