In Siena’s old town, nature and the city intertwine in unexpected ways…
Not only pietra serena stone, alleys, and walls, Siena is also proud of its vast green valleys, a priceless asset to be cherished and highlighted.
The valleys make up the green heart of the city, magical places hidden within the city walls and preserved thanks to the historical choice to leave the valleys that crept from the suburbs toward the centre. In these spaces, no construction ever took place over the centuries, not even during the building boom of the 1950s and 1960s, when many families from the countryside moved to the city.
As the Sienese scholar Roberto Cresti writes, ‘the green valleys are an asset of enormous landscape and natural value, accounting for a significant slice of the walled city’s surface area, amounting to almost 20%: of 165 hectares, more than 32 are devoted to greenery’.
Within the city walls, we find Valle di Follonica, Valle di Porta Giustizia, Conca del Bruco, Valle della Pania, Valle dell’Orto Botanico, Valle di San Marco-Laterina, Valle del Fosso di Sant’Ansano, and Valle del Rastrello. Of these valleys located within the city walls, the largest is the one now known as ‘Orto dei Pecci’, which dominates the space below Piazza del Campo. with its nearly 11 hectares. There is a restaurant here, a reconstruction of a medieval town with farm animals, and also modern artworks scattered around the beautiful lawn. Other valleys, such as that of Follonica or Pania, are instead used by the Contrade to set up parties and banquets.
For centuries, many of the green areas were cultivated and cared for by private citizens who grew their own gardens there, helping to shape the landcsape. Even today, you may catch a glimpse of a few rows of vegetables or olive trees.
The bond, even sentimental, of the Sienese with these green areas is very strong still today. There aren’t many places where one can enjoy a slice of nature right inside the city walls.
Where: Scattered wonders within the city walls of Siena
When: Open spaces