The oldest fountain in Siena
Fontebranda is Siena’s most famous medieval fountain, located in Terzo di Camollia area, within the Nobile Contrada dell’Oca (neighbourhood of the goose), just a few dozen metres from the Fontebranda Gate.
Fed by a medieval network of underground aqueducts, Fontebranda is the largest and oldest fountain in the city.
It was built in the 13th century with three Gothic arches. It served as a wash-house but it was also used by the tanners who had slaughterhouses in this area.
The fountain receives water from the ‘Bottini’, the ancient Sienese underground aqueduct system extending over 25 kilometres. It originally had three basins: in the first there was “new water”, so drinking water; the second (fed by the overflow of the first) is where the animals would drink; while the water of the third was used for washing clothes. The water coming out of the last basin was then used by tanners, in dying workshops and by millers to power the mills along its course.
It was mentioned by Dante in the in the 30th canto (vv.76-78) of the Divine Comedy as well as Boccaccio in the Decameron.
Saint Catherine of Siena was born and lived near the fountain, which is why she is also known as the Saint of Fontebranda. Not by chance, the Sanctuary of St Catherine of Siena is nearby.
The fountain is named after the neighbourhood Fontebranda in the Contrada dell’Oca, which still today uses these waters for a sort of initiation dip for the young members of the neighbourhood.