Siena and the Three Elements of a Successful City

This past weekend, my roommates and I travelled to Siena. After last week’s class on the three elements of a successful city that Jane Jacobs highlighted, I wanted to analyze a new city with this criteria.

Right off the bat I could tell that there was no issue when it came to having people continuously using the sidewalks. Residents and tourists were traversing every open meter of the road at all times. I was also able to immediately discern which areas were for public eyes, and which were for private eyes. As a city with a lot of tourists, there needs to be a clear delineation between private and public. The piazza’s were accommodating for everyone, but there were shops and restaurants on the outskirts.

When I tried to identify the presence of “eyes on the street”, however, I found a bit of difficulty. Sure, there were tons of people on the streets and in the piazza’s, however, most of them were tourists. Therefore, were they really keeping a close eye on the actions and behaviors of others? Were they looking out for the city in the same way a resident would? Sure, someone gestured to me when I needed to move out of the way for a car, and someone else picked up some trash that they saw on the ground, but aren’t those behaviors more universally accepted as opposed to Siena-centric?

Tourists absolutely play a role in how cities function, and the coexistence between residents and tourists is important for the success and perseverance of a city. However, I did notice that the areas that were most often looked upon by tourist eyes were the most well-kept. For instance, the city center of Siena was very clean and very active, however, when my roommates and I walked back to the bus station, pedestrians were replaced by cars, sidewalks got thinner and the roads got bigger. It became less about what was around us, and more about getting to our destination faster. Is this where most of the residents of Siena live? I don’t think so, I think many live in the city center, however, it would be interesting to get the statistics.

All in all, I would say that Siena is a successful city because although maybe hard to discern, it does have the three elements. It also is successful because it achieves the aesthetic beauty that makes it so popular. Due to this new perspective I have on cities, my perceptions of Siena and of the trip were different than my roommates. I appreciated the new lens that I have begun to gain through this class.

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