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The unexpected Siena: discovering the underground and the “Bottini”

Today we want to take you in the secret undergrounds of the town, where Sienese people carved by hands a very long network of waterways, digging the sandstone to build galleries and use the waters coming from the surrounding hills to enrich the marvelous fountains you can see in every “Contrada” or square of the town. 

The word “Bottini” comes from a Latin word “Buctinus”, used for the first time in 1226. The galleries’ roof was barrel like shaped and no one knows why the architects of that age choose this way of building, but for sure, these paths were a real work of perfect engineering.

The carving system started from the water spring up to the surface, following the yellow stone, which allows water to pass through. On the other hand, the filtering system was guaranteed by the floor of the Bottini, made by faience debris.

The building system: man behind a work of art

The Bottini of Siena were built through the years. Excavating the stone was really hard and only one man at time could work there, using very rough tools. Water had to be pure that is why the carving man used the “Archipendolo” to calculate the inclination and let the water leave all the impurity, arriving to the well safe and clear.

The work was extremely hard and complicated. Miners worked together with the carpenters who had the task to make the galleries safe, avoiding any crush. People were mostly local even if some of them came from Massa and Carrara, the place of the marble caves. Since the workers hardly left the galleries, they were called “Guerchi”, a German word meaning “blind”.

These men lived really a poor life and that gave birth to some terrific legends about monsters inhabiting the place and causing illness and troubles to the workers.

Diana River

As a matter of fact this system is unique in the world: Siena, differently from other towns founded near a river, was far from any water flow. That is why the search of the legendary Diana River gave origin to the Bottini system.

Visiting the Bottini

You can visit the water network walking through the 25 kilometers that will let you jump back into the Medieval Siena. Do not be surprised or scared entering the passageways. They are 1,80 mt high and 0,90 cm large. You will walk into the waters and live a unique experience that will let you enjoy even more the over ground Siena. Tips To book a visit, go to the link http://prenotazioni.comune.siena.it/museo-acqua and fill the form. Remember that the visit is submitted to the weather conditions and to the water flow.

The form is in Italian only, so ask the staff of Athena Hotel for help. Also, remember to book your visit in advance since only little groups of people can be admitted (8-10).

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