Hidden treasures

The secret river of Siena: an unresolved mystery

Mysteries & Legends

The secret river of Siena: an unresolved mystery

Siena, like many cities of ancient origins, guards some interesting mysteries. For example, did you know that a secret river flows beneath its buildings and picturesque alleys? You might be wondering why this would be a secret. Well, the answer is simply that no one has ever seen it! And yet a lot has been written about it and many have searched for it. But let's take one thing at a time. Siena stood far away from water sources, so to obtain a source of water it had to drill underground, apparently rather rich in resources. The first vein of water was discovered in 1176 by some friars who built a well, called the 'Well of Diana'. In fact, the secret river of Siena is called Diana. Between the 1300s and the 1400s everyone worked hard to build the wells called 'bottini'. In short, the underground water was there... but there was no evidence of the existence of a proper underground river. And yet, strange things seem to have happened to the 'guerchi', the workers who were in charge of the construction of the bottini. It seems that they were often disturbed by strange creatures and goblins, while in the darkness of the tunnels they also saw some strange flashes of light. Some of the workers never re-emerged from the tunnels and their bodies were never found either. If you want, you can still go down in the bottini to take a look. It even seems that still today, in some specific areas of Siena, especially at night, you can hear the gush of a river.

This happens above all in the area of Porta San Marco and Porta Ovile. The elderly inhabitants swear to have heard, at times, the wild flow of Diana, the secret river of Siena. Think about it, even Dante mentioned it in the 13th Canto del Purgatorio. Sapia, a Siena noblewoman, rails against her fellow citizens, saying: ‘Tu li vedrai tra quella gente vana che spera in Talamone, e perderagli più di speranza ch'a trovar la Diana; ma più vi perderanno li ammiragli’. Dante seems to equate the search of Diana with the purchase of the castle of Talamone, thus underlining the fact that Siena’s people were badly spending their resources chasing hopes as vain as the outlet on the sea represented by Talamone or the search for Diana, the mysterious underground river.

In short, they tried for all the 1300s and 1400s and even around the year 1970... but no trace of this river has ever been found. In Siena near Porta San Marco there is even a street called Via della Diana. And Siena, thanks to the bottini, could enjoy a very efficient aqueduct. Beyond this, no tangible proof that proves the existence of the river. So? Do you want to try and find it? Then why not book our exclusive private tour 'Your Own Siena' and ask our guides to accompany you in search of clues to the imaginary river. Let us know! It would be great if we at Toscanainside.com could be the first ones to give the first news of the discovery of the river. Have fun!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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