The Piazza del Campo in Siena is a wonderful place to visit. The feeling you get from the history all around you is incredible. The piazza slopes from the restaurants and shops down to the city hall building and the bell tower. The locals sit on the piazza and enjoy the nice weather and the scenery. Tourists are (of course) in abundance and they enjoy the wine, food and shops as we did. It is a relaxing place to be. I wanted to spend more time going to each of the restaurants and trying out their menus. But alas, time didn't permit.
Il Campo is the site of the very famous horse race each year. Twice a year, a horse race is held in the square. The race is known as The Palio di Siena. It is a competition (and rivalry) between the seventeen contrade (or city wards). The race is a 75 second culmination of alliances, animosities, rituals and clandestine meetings. The seventeen Contrades are: Aquila (Eagle), Bruco (Caterpillar), Chiocciola (Snail), Civetta (Little Owl), Drago (Dragon), Giraffa (Giraffe), Istrice (Crested porcupine), Leocorno (Unicorn), Lupa (Female Wolf), Nicchio (Seashell), Oca (Goose), Onda (Wave), Pantera (Black Panther), Selva (Forest), Tartuca (Tortoise), Torre (Tower) and Valdimontone (literally, "Valley of the Ram" - often shortened to Montone). The horse race is run as a matter of pride for the contrade. The race is won by the horse and not by the jockey. Since there are NO RULES, many jockeys are unseated from their mounts and the horses continue the race without them. The track is prepared using a thick layer of dirt for the horses to run on. The race consists of three laps around the square. It's a wild, all-out race that is over in the blink of an eye.
We just LOVED Siena! Strolling the streets and walking around the piazza was wonderful. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a tourist town more. I know that i will return to Siena in the future and stay for weeks instead of only days. Siena would make a great base for exploring the small hill towns that are all over the area of Tuscany.