Skip to main content


Memorial plaque for baritone Ettore Bastianini in the contrada pantera in Siena
The memorial plaque for Ettore Bastianini in the contrada pantera in Siena

Forget Daniel Craig aka James Bond escaping onto Siena's piazza del Campo during Palio. The life of Siena born baritone Ettore Bastianini would make for a much more exciting script for a big Hollywood production. The opera star was born in Siena in 1922 as an illegitimate child. As a teenager he started working for a baker who loved to sing whilst kneading the dough. It didn't take long before Ettore sang along and his beautiful voice was discovered and his education fostered by the Ammanati, one of Siena's artistic families of the time. 

Starting his career as a rather successful bass singer, Ettore decided to retrain for a year so as to become a baritone. In spite of a difficult start in the new register, it didn't take long before Bastianini took the world, sharing the stage  with singers like Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano at the New York met or Milan's Scala (for an example in the history making Luchino Visconti production of Verdi's Traviata at the Scala). 

Ettore Bastianini singing Rossini in 1965 towards the end
of  his life, when already tragically ill with throat cancer

Ettore Bastianini's life sounds like a fairy tale. The boy whose father wasn't known (not an easy fate in Italy in the last century), became yes, world famous, but also the capitano (captain) of the contrada della Pantera (Siena's city district with the symbol of a panther). 

Bastianini was head of contrada Pantera from 1959 until his death and won the July Palio in 1963. His joy was such that he decided to buy the winning horse, and to call it Ettore. The horse continued to run the Palio and actually won the race again in July 1965 for l'Aquila, the enemy contrada of la Pantera!

Palio di Provenzano, July 1963

Bastianini was born on the 22st of September 1922 and died in January 1967 from cancer, which had started off as a primary tumor in his throat (a fact the singer hid from the public for years so as not to compromise his career). Siena remembers the 90th anniversary of Bastianini's birth and the 45th anniversary of his premature death with a series of events this week.

Guided visits to Palazzo Chigi Saracini can be booked, where 12 of  Bastianini's opera costumes are on show. The elaborate costumes have been bought by Bastianini after his performances and are now owned by the contrada Pantera. The tour will move on to the museum of the contrada, which exhibits important documents of Bastianini's personal and professional life. The baritone donated the house the museum is located in to the contrada della Pantera, as a meeting place for the city district's inhabitants. 

Guided visits at Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd of September 2012 at 11am, 12am, 3pm and 4pm. Tickets 7€ (5€ for residents of Siena, students and pensioners). Info and reservation +39 0577 28 63 00. Email:
Museum of the Contrada della Pantera, via San Quirico 26. Free access to the museum from 11am to 1pm and from 3pm - 5pm. 

On Saturday the home of the Unione Corale Senese (Siena's classical choir where Bastianini started off his career) will host a conference dedicated to the singer's birthday followed by a concert accompanied by pianist Elina Yanchenko.  22nd of September, 6pm via Pendola, 41. 

Popular posts from this blog


Even if you came to Siena for art not shopping - it will be hard to resist all the leather bags, Italian shoes and designer sunglasses on via Montanini, Banchi di Sopra and Via di Città - the main roads making up Siena's corso or high street.  Pilgrims, merchants and the clergy travelling to Rome already did their shopping and money changing on these roads 800 years ago, so just follow in their footsteps for a break from the best museums  in town.  CLOTHES - ITALIAN FASHION A GOGO Many of the brand names and stores won't be new to you. Most of them can be found in every bigger Italian town, and some of them all over the world.  BENETTON: a must. No other Benetton store is looking anything like the one in Siena. Think  Renaissance building and frescoed ceilings .  TEZENIS, INTIMISSIMI, CALZEDONIA, YAMAMAY are Italy's main underwear chains for reduced budgets. If you travel with a teenager don't miss out on Tezenis (I'm far beyond


Planning to dine in style or just thinking of a panino on piazza del Campo? There is great food in Siena for every budget. Try the Tuscan delicacies prepared  with fresh local  ingredients by nice people in great locations and splash out on the wine list. SIENA'S BEST RESTAURANTS - Tuscan fine dine Tre Cristi Siena's oldest restaurant is also one of its best. Founded in 1830, restaurant Tre Cristi has kept its beautifully frescoed interiors but applies a light contemporary approach to ( otherwise often heavy)  Tuscan cooking. Some of the best seafood in town, Tre Cristi is also happy to cater to vegetarians .  Closed on Sundays. Vicolo Provenzano 1/7. Phone: +39 0577 280608 Email: Osteria Le Logge Even though Le Logge holds on to the osteria in its name, the restaurant off piazza del Campo in Siena's former ghetto is far from simple. Its elgeant location and refined makes of it one of  the most famous restaurants in Siena (Gianni Nannini is


Siena sports some of the most photographed sights in the world and you won't need a map to find them. But apart of piazza del Campo and the famous cathedral you'll be able to hunt down  countless lesser known  churches, museums and sunset spots which are off  the main tourist track. BEST PANORAMA VIEWS OF SIENA A nice sight in its own right, the walls of Siena's Medici fortress are also a great location for panorama shots which include the  San Domenico church, the cathedral and a big slice of Siena. For a close-up of the same panorama walk on to the rear side of  the  San Domenico  church, which is  de dicated to  Saint Catherine . Even without a fancy wide angle you'll be able to pack the cathedral its never finished extension and Torre del Mangia into one pick.