Contrada fountains

I’ve mentioned the seventeen contrade of Siena before, but just in case: these are neighborhoods within the city, but the people of Siena are tied to the contrada of their birth, and have an extended family in the contrada regardless of where they live. Well, each year the contrada baptizes new members who were born into the contrada since the previous year’s baptisms, or who as adults have chosen to join the contrada. They do this in an outdoor fountain, and every contrada has its own designated one.

Over the past week, I set out with a friend from school to find all seventeen fountains. We succeeded, and saw damned near the whole city in the process… and it almost killed me.

The fountains are spread out all over the city of Siena, which as it turns out is bigger than I realized; it’s almost exactly twice the size of Manhattan, for instance. Thus far my time in Siena has been largely dominated by the route from my apartment to my school, so this was an amazing opportunity to see more (if not most) of the town.

It almost killed me, though, because Siena is incredibly hilly town. So, our excursions (plus, because we had to split the adventure into two separate afternoons) had us hiking up and down hills all over town, in approximately 100-degree temperatures. Between the heat and the excursion, it’s a miracle that I didn’t collapse… but eventually, damn it, we checked off all seventeen fountains.

And here they are, in alphabetical order:

Aquila (the Eagle)
Bruco (the Caterpillar — they took an existing fountain and added a caterpillar in the back)
Chiocciola (the Snail, being ridden by a chubby baby for some reason)
Civetta (the Little Owl — I’m not sure how water comes out, but this is their fountain!)
Drago (the Dragon — there’s no dragon on the fountain, but the ball is painted in their colors)
Giraffa (the Giraffe — a very modern fountain style, yes)
Istrice (the Porcupine)
Leocorno (the Unicorn — there were two on either side of the fountain, actually)
Lupa (the She-Wolf)
Nicchio (the Seashell, with an unaltered traditional fountain)
Oca (the Goose — they took a big existing fountain and claimed it without changing anything)
Onda (the Wave — represented by dolphins)
Pantera (the Panther)
Selva (the Forest — complete with a rhino as their totem animal)
Tartuca (the tortoise, also ridden by a chubby baby, as a middle finger to Chiocciola)
Torre (the Tower, never mind the elephant)
Valdimontone (the Valley of the Ram — I don’t know either, and the fountain is an unaltered historic one with no specific contrada symbols)

It’s worth noting that while some of these are large public fountains, built to awe and amaze the people of Siena, others are relatively small and tucked away. Finding those is half of the adventure, but I’m very glad that I made the time to go find them.

This was absolutely a phenomenal adventure, and I can’t imagine a better way to explore this beautiful city. Wear sunscreen, go when it’s not terribly hot if possible, and bring lots of water… but absolutely make time to do this, especially if you can do so early on in your visit to Siena. It’s made the days since lots more interesting as I pass familiar streets and can knowingly point out where a fountain is hiding around the corner.

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