Hidden treasures

The curious name of the Torre del Mangia in Siena

Historical Curiosities

The curious name of the Torre del Mangia in Siena

One of the undisputed symbols of Siena is Torre del Mangia: built in white marble and red 'Terra di Siena' bricks, with its 102 metres it is in the third place for height amongst the ancient Italian towers after Torre degli Asinelli in Bologna and Torrazzo di Cremona. From the top of the tower you can admire a breath-taking view of the city and the surrounding countryside... but be careful: get ready to go up more than 400 steps!

It is no coincidence that, although they rise on a ground which varies in altitude, the municipal bell tower and the Campanile of the Duomo of Siena reach the same height. This parity wants to symbolize the achieved balance between heavenly power and earthly power, without either of them prevailing over the other.

But let’s come to perhaps the most curious side of Torre del Mangia: the story of its name. Throughout Tuscany, it is customary to find funny names that highlight the virtues and the flaws of a person... and this is true also for Giovanni di Balduccio, one of the first bell-ringers of the Tower, nicknamed 'Mangiaguadagni' or simply ‘Mangia’ (‘eater’) because he used to fritter away his money, and also because he had vices mainly related to eating. Naturally, his body bore the consequences of such vices - indeed, they made his job particularly tiring: climbing and descending over and over again the four hundred steps of the narrow bell tower must have been quite challenging! It seems that to overcome this obstacle Balduccio organized races among the local children to play the bell every now and again!

In 1360, after 13 years, ‘Mangia’ was released from his job to leave place for an automaton with human features! Yes, you have understood it right: initially made of wood, then of brass and then of travertine, the automaton was finally replaced by a hammer... which, for Siena inhabitants, continued to be called ‘Mangia’ in memory of that funny man who rang the bell for years. The remains of the automaton are currently stored in Cortile del Podestà, located next to the Tower and decorated by ancient coats of arms. 

So here is a short interesting story on Siena! If you want to visit the city or attend the famous Palio race, check out our page of our Siena tour page: you will definitely find something that is right for you!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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