Many factors have contributed to the various functional features of the piazzas in modern Italian cities. One of the most important thing is the location of the piazza corresponding to the age of the surrounding objects. Piazzas in old parts of the city may have different functions from those in new sections. Another factor is the modern implemented transportation system. Many piazzas, in both, the old and the new section, lie astride bus routes and serve as useful commuter-transfer points, which considerably influence the piazza's functions. Finally, expanding ownership and use of automobiles in Italian cities affect both the piazza’s function and design.
These circumstances interact to create six types of piazzas in modern Italian cities: relic, monumental, neighborhood market, mercantile, neighborhood park, and vehicular. Relic piazzas are fewer in number and the smallest in dimension. They are also seemingly the oldest ones. Relic piazzas are sometimes crowded with pedestrians and are slightly used as social meeting places. They are places to pass within. They are important because they show the morphology of the medieval city and they are named after prominent historical figures or important events.
© Photo: Zyance
One example of this relic small piazzas is the Piazza della Cisterna in San Gimignano. This unusual triangular shaped piazza, with a slight slope, is connected straightly with the Piazza Duomo, through an open passage. This piazza is paved with brick since the 13th century and is formed by medieval towers and houses.
A little bit about San Gimignano. This is small hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, and it is surrounded by a medieval wall. It is also known as the Town of fine towers, probably because of its well-preserved towers. This is a reason why this town is considered to be forming "an unforgettable skyline".
© Photo: C.J. Peters
Back to the piazza. Its name comes from the underground cistern (Cisterna) built in 1287 and it is located at the intersection of two main streets: la via Francigena and la via Pisa. The piazza is mainly used as an open market space, as well as a stage for festivals and tournaments. Its today's look is being preserved since the thirteenth century.
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