Built, destroyed and rebuilt, the Medici fortress has lived through both military and civil events from the 16th century to the present day.
The Medici Fortress of Siena, also known as Fort of Saint Barbara, is close to the city’s historic centre, near the neighbourhood of San Prospero and the Artemio Franchi stadium. The fortress was built on a pre-existing structure. In the mid-16th century, by order of King Charles V of Habsburg, the Spanish army erected a fortress called the ‘Cittadella’ to subjugate the Sienese to imperial rule. In 1552, the people of Siena managed to drive out the Spanish army and destroy the Cittadella, the symbol of enemy power.
A few years later, by order of Cosimo I dè Medici, the fortress was rebuilt with to silence the rebellious spirit of the Sienese who didn’t want to bow to the Medici rule. The works begun in 1561 and were completed in 1563.
The Medici Fortress has a quadrangular plan, with four pentagonal bastions. The bastions of La Madonna, San Domenico, San Filippo, San Francesco are positioned towards the cardinal points and display the coats of arms of the Medici family. Imposing and majestic, the building boasts an external perimeter of 1,500 metres. It was formerly accessed from the La Lizza gardens via a drawbridge, which has now disappeared.
From the 18th century, its purpose started changing radically. From being a stronghold and military site par excellence, the Fortress started being used for cultural activities. The vast amphitheatre is ideal for outdoor performances, while the building at the entrance hosts the courses of the prestigious Siena Jazz music school, while the San Francesco bastion houses the ‘Enoteca Italiana di Siena’, the oldest Italian wine promoting organisation established over 80 years ago.
From a fortified stronghold, the Fortress and its gardens below have become a green citadel of love, sports and relaxation. Strolling along the avenues that line the walls, you can see many locals and visitors jogging or exercising with the free equipment. For many generations of Sienese, the Medici Fortress has been and still is a place full of memories, the place of the first kisses of an adolescent love affairs.
Opening hours: Always open to the public