Via di Città (formerly Via Galgaria), Siena’s Most Elegant Street
Just as Siena is built on three hills of tufaceous rock, it’s urban layout is divided by three main streets. The city’s main crossroads was once known as the triventum, along the Via Francigena, with the Croce del Travaglio marking the intersection between Banchi di Sotto, Banchi di Sopra and Via di Città.
The most elegant and stately of the three streets, Via di Città è was formerly known as Via Galgaria on account of the abundance of shoemakers that worked along it. It leads to the top of one of the three hills on which Siena stands, to a quarter that developed particularly during the late Middle Ages. As the street rises, gently curving, the visitor can admire some of the most beautiful views over the city, towards the Costarella dei Barbieri, the Torre del Mangia or the Chiasso del Bargello.
Among the fine patrician town houses that line Via di Città there is the 14th century Palazzo Patrizi, seat of the Accademia degli Intronati that was founded in 1525. A little further on is Palazzo Marescotti, which passed to the Piccolomini-Mandoli in the 16th century and successively to the Saracini in the 18th century. In 1877 the building became Palazzo Chigi-Saracini and today it houses the Accademia Musicale Chigiana. Palazzo Piccolomini, known as the Palazzo delle Papesse, is a little further up to the right – a marvellous example of Florentine Renaissance architecture that now houses a contemporary arts centre. Almost immediately after, as a marked contrast, Palazzo Marsili was built in 1444 and is in the typical style of this period, even with its later gothic additions.
Via di Città leads to a crossing known as the Quattro Cantoni, right in the heart of the Contrada dell’Aquila area of town and the meeting point of the main streets in the Terzo di Città district. In the 15th and 16th century this square was where Siena society met, until the Loggia della Mercanzia began to be used and was consequently dubbed ‘Casin dé Nobili’.
From this point there is a fine view of the Duomo, at the other end of the broad Via del Capitano del Popolo, dominated by the imposing Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo.