The Terzo of Camollia – main streets
With its ancient churches and magnificent palazzi, the Terzo di Camollia district (whose main streets are Via Banchi di Sopra, Via dei Montanini and Via Camollia), reflects well both the patrician character of old Siena and its more humble nature, since quarters such as Ovile and Fontebranda have been inhabited by generation upon generation of dyers and wool-weavers.
Those wishing to explore this district should begin at the 19th century Piazza Indipendenza, with the Medieval Palazzo Ballati, the Accademia dei Rozzi (1531) and the Teatro dei Rozzi. On the left hand side of the square there is Via Diacceto, which leads into the Santa Caterina quarter and in turn to Fontebranda through Via Galluzza – a particularly beautiful Medieval street that begins with a series of eight supporting archways. This quarter of town takes its name from the Medieval fountain that still exists in the lower section of this street, the Fonte Branda. Perhaps the best known of Siena’s old fountains, it was originally built in 1081 and later redesigned by Giovanni di Stefano in 1246.
Off from the Fonte Branda there is Via di Santa Caterina, with the church also named after the well known Senese saint that is the oratory of the Nobile Contrada dell’Oca. A little further on is the Sanctuary and House of St Catherine. From here to the left begins Via della Sapienza, which leads into Piazza San Domenico and the great Basilica of San Domenico that looks out over the Fontebranda valley. The street takes its name from the university’s Casa della Sapienza, which until the 19th century was housed in the palazzo that now contains the Biblioteca Comunale town library.
From Via della Sapienza the itinerary continues down Via delle Terme, with the Church of San Pellegrino. Vicolo della Rosa cuts through Via dei Termini and eventually ends up in Piazza Tolomei, the heart of Via Banchi di Sopra – the ‘high street’ of Siena. In the piazza there is Palazzo Tolomei, which is the oldest standing private building in the city. Via dei Banchi di Sopra corresponds to the central section of the old Via Francigena – the pilgrim route to Rome that runs through Siena - and, along with Via dei Banchi di Sotto, is without doubt Siena’s most elegant Medieval street. A number of magnificent buildings stand on either side, including Palazzo Gori-Pannilini, which houses the Grand Hotel Continental, the 16th century Palazzo Bichi Ruspoli, the elegant Renaissance Palazzo Spannocchi, Palazzo Tantucci (1548), and the 14th century Palazzo Salimbeni at the far end of the square.
From Piazza Salimbeni the itinerary continues down Via dei Montanini, where immediately on the left is the Romanesque Church of Sant’Andrea, containing a number of Senese School paintings. A number of patrician town houses line the street a little further on, including the 15th century Palazzo Ottieni della Ciaia and the 14th century Palazzo Turamini (later Grisaldi del Taja). The street eventually runs past the Church of Santa Maria delle Nevi, built in 1471. Along Via dei Montanini there is Via di Camollia, one of the oldest urban sections of the Via Francigena and the heart of the area of town controlled by the Contrada dell’Istrice. The Church of San Pietro alla Magione on this street was originally built as a hospice for pilgrims by the Templars. Opposite the church is the house that once belonged to the architect and painter Baldassarre Peruzzi. To the right is the Medieval Church of Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio, the oratory of the Contrada Sovrana dell’Istrice. A little further on, the street ends in the imposing Porta Camollia, which dates originally from the 13th century but which was rebuilt in 1604.