The secret spring among the houses of Siena.
Along via del Casato di Sotto, just a few steps from Piazza del Campo, stands the small and evocative Fonte del Casato, avidly requested by the people of the area and built between 1352 and 1360. It’s one of the highest fountains built in the city at 318 metres above sea level. The petition for its construction dates back to 1352, when a fountain became essential to supply water to the houses. At the time, only aristocratic and upper middle-class homes had wells or cisterns for water supply, while the people had to go to public fountains.
However, the inconvenience of the steps leading up to the basin has always made it difficult for both people and animals to use it. Over the centuries it was even walled up, only to be reopened in the 1970s.
Consider that even during the Guelph siege of 1555, it was not included in the list of Sienese sources.
The fountain was once nicknamed ‘Serene’, apparently referring to the many suicides that took place there. The most desperate people often threw themselves off the highest part or drowned themselves in its waters. To frighten the population, it was said that the men and women who died there were only seeking serenity, a beautiful feeling that, unfortunately, they were unable to find in life.
The spring was then blessed several times by bishops and priests, so much so that for a time it was thought to be sacred. The sick also went there to drink the waters or to spend the last days of their lives when the illness had become incurable, but hope remained. It’s worth mentioning that it was during the terrible Black Death when presumably many Sienese went there to die hoping to find some serenity.
Like many other places in Siena, the Fonte del Casato is also linked to a gruesome legend. It’s said that the Lupo del Casato (neighbourhood wolf) used to roam here, a wealthy and distinguished man who had tried everything, without success, to cure himself of his lycanthropy. He went down Via del Casato like a madman and howled at the moon. The inhabitants of the street were familiar with this and quickly locked their doors and windows. The story goes that one day the wolf-man had a fight with another one of his kind over who should go down first to the fountain in a spasmodic search for water. The traces of their brutal duel were found the next morning by the washerwomen: the steps leading up to the basin were stained with the werewolves’ blood and strewn with shreds of flesh.
Where: Vicolo Fonte, 6
When: always visible wonder