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It is a general opinion that the Garden was founded in 1588, together with the establishment of the chair of the Semplici reader in Siena, and that it was located at the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. Starting from the end of the 1500s, in fact, we find the teaching practice always better documented for future doctors, who had to know the plants and their therapeutic virtues well.
In the eighteenth century, although the part relating to the apothecary continued to be important, scientific interest shifted to plants coming from other climates and therefore a wider view of the plant world emerged.
The reading of the Semplici, suppressed in 1756, is replaced by the teaching of Natural History, entrusted to Giuseppe Baldassarri in 1759, and the Garden is provided with "... uncommon plants ...".
In 1784, with the reform of the Siena Study, the Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo entrusted Biagio Bartalini with the task of transforming the ancient Orto dei Semplici into the University's Botanical Garden. In a short time the Garden hosts over a thousand new plants, many of which come from abroad, and also supplies plants to doctors, surgeons, apothecaries and so on. The Giuli, who succeeded Bartalini, increases foreign plants from 200 to 300 and manages to publish the first Sienese Index Seminum with 900 species.
The old desire to transport the Garden elsewhere, in a less narrow space, is realized only in 1856 with Giuseppe Campani, who manages to transfer it to its current location.
800 and 900
In his 45 years of work Attilio Tassi (1861-1905) makes the new garden flourish by introducing a large number of plants, buying new plots of land and building a warm greenhouse. Instead, Biagio Longo is responsible for the construction of the Institute of Botany (1910-1912), an isolated two-story villa located in the upper part of the Garden. Arturo Nannizzi, director of the Garden from 1934 to 1950, had a department - the so-called school - set up on the shelf below the new building and the Accademia dei Fisiocritici to collect the medicinal plants.
With the direction of Rodolfo Pichi Sermolli (1951-1957) the publication of the Index Seminum is resumed, after 15 years of suspension.
In the sixties, with Elena Maugini first and Giacomino Sarfatti later, the Garden undergoes radical transformations. The University of Siena requires the establishment of the Faculty of Mathematical, Physical and Natural Sciences and the Garden, as well as the Institute of Botany on which it depended, are passed from Pharmacy to the Faculty institution.
The area available to the Garden is doubled, a new complex is built that incorporates the house where the Institute of Botany is located, makes a cold greenhouse disappear, causes a new arrangement of access and the division into two parts of the "school" .
In 1984 the Institute of Botany and the annexed Botanical Garden joined the Department of Environmental Biology.
Currently the Botanical Garden occupies almost the entire left side of the valley of S. Agostino, which opens to the south between Porta Tufi and Porta S. Marco. Located within the walls of Siena, between 280 and 350 m of altitude, it covers 2 and a half hectares of land, mostly on a steep slope.
The First Sector, the so-called "school", is placed on artificial terraces and is made up of rectangular flower beds bordered by bricks and marked with letters. Following a certain logic, we tend to present the species of a family and, in the neighboring flowerbeds, families that are systematically close. The educational purpose of the "school" is in fact to gather herbaceous and low shrub angiosperms according to a systematic order (in this case according to the Engler system).
In the Second Sector there is a department dedicated to gymnosperms, integrated in the summer with Cycadaceae, Podocarpaceae and Araucariaceae grown in pots. In the peripheral flowerbeds, as if to form a frame, exotic plants capable of resisting the rigors of winter are presented. Complying with the increasingly widespread need for a rediscovery of the world around us, in the central flowerbeds instead are mainly gathered indigenous plants, typical of vegetable formations in central-southern Tuscany. Old specimens of exotic species, such as Gleditsia triacanthos, have maintained, for various reasons including the historical value, their original position, even if the location did not correspond to the presented scheme. The last three flower beds in the valley, a sort of green barrier against the border ditch and the surrounding agricultural lands, are occupied by a grove of laurel, lentiline, manna ash, holm oak and old pines and cypresses.
About 500 square meters are made up of a warm greenhouse, a tepidarium, an experimental shutter and a lemon-house. In the hot greenhouse, built by Tassi at the end of the 1800s (for this reason it is also called the ancient greenhouse) the species of the tropical belt are ordered according to the families. In the tepidarium, used largely for the winter shelter of exotic species unable to withstand the rigors of winter, there is a ward of about 120 square meters where the succulent plants are grown in the open ground according to the country of origin.
The Third Sector, the so-called "farm", is an area of expansion of the Garden and currently, in the most upstream part on an artificial terrace, a certain number of exotic plants cultivated in pots are exposed in the summer period. It follows an area representing environments with poorly developed soils, rich in rocky outcrops of various kinds.
In the remaining part, trying to maintain the appearance that the valleys within the walls once had, cultivated fruit plants are being researched. Near the valley floor there is an ancient masonry source, fed by the so-called "bottini", tunnels dug by hand to capture and channel groundwater.
In addition, 3 rocky areas typical of Tuscany have been set up in the lower part of the garden, a fern and an orchard of typical ancient Tuscan cultivars.
An exhibition space for aquatic species is still under construction.
Botanical garden of Siena: Useful information
the Botanical Garden of the University of Siena is located in Via P.A. Mattioli 4 in Porta Tufi area and is easily reachable on foot (10 minutes from Piazza del Campo) or by TRAIN bus line 3.
The opening hours are 8.00 - 12.30; 14.30 - 17.30 on weekdays; 8.00 - 12.30 on Saturdays, while Sundays and holidays are closed. Admission is free and guided visits to groups and schools are possible.
In 2006, the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Botanical Garden of Siena is celebrated in its current location.
Numerous events will take place during the year.
More information is available on the portal of the botanical garden