THE “CIRCOLO DEGLI UNITI” IN SIENA: THE OLDEST PRIVATE CLUB IN THE WORLD

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Circolo degli Uniti : one of the most exclusive members club in the world that opens its doors to The Italian Eye

The Circolo degli Uniti in Siena or, more simply, ‘The Uniti’, as its members refer to it, is one of the most unachievable members club in the world. Even if during the 40’s the restoration of the statute took off the requirement of being 4 quarters of nobility, among the names on the members showcase, is barely impossible to find somebody, if not noble, at least well-bread. The only requirement that’s still fundamental to be admitted to the 100 members group (maximum number of members allowed) is to have a strong link with the city of Siena.

The Circle of  Uniti, documents and archives in hand, is the oldest members club in Europe. Even if British have always boasted of members club paternity, with Pall Mall that holds some of the most snobbish gentlemen club of Europe, when in 1657 in Siena was born the ‘Società dei signori del casino’ (former name of the club), Pall Mall wasn’t even a distant idea. In that year, 21 noblemen from Siena decided to establish a circle aimed to entertain themselves and their guests with parties and events. This is how the Circle was born.

THE HISTORY

The year 1739 is a milestone in The Uniti’s history. In fact Leopold III, archduke of Tuscany, gave The Uniti a new head office, the marvelous Loggia della Mercanzia Palace that overlooks Piazza del Campo (the main square of Siena) where the circle is still located. The loggia in front of the palace (Palace of loggia, exactly), built in an hybrid Gothic-Renaissance style during the fifteen century, is one of the most stunning monument of the entire city, but to walk under its archways is still a privilege reserved to circle’s members and to their guests.

Inside the circle you breathe a kind of holy atmosphere. Walking through the corridors it’s natural to beat gently the soles of shoes, as if the noise could disrupt the peace in which the circle is wrapped. The paintings or pictures of European Royalty that trampled the floors of the club (and often honorary members of it) watch you from the high walls. All the windows of the palace overlook Piazza del Campo, the square where the Palio race is held twice a year, and from its all-building-long balcony there’s the best view on the race. The Palio itself is the reason why The Uniti don’t have twinnings excepts for really few clubs in Europe, very uncommon thing for a gentlemen club. Indeed every club wanted, along with the twinning, their members to be allowed to watch the Palio from the Uniti clubhouse, but The Uniti, with an uber-chic attitude, always declined because they wanted to be larger and more comfortable in these two days that have a liturgical importance for Siena.

THE HERITAGE

As every respectable gentlemen club, only men are allowed to become members, even if women can enter the clubhouse if escorted by a member. An impassable rule says that the daughter of a member cannot enter the circle anymore if she gets married with a non-member. This rule is only one of the many example for what the best word to summarize the concept of The Uniti Club would definitely be ‘tradition’.  Many members are descendent of the 21 founders of the circle and, over the century, the entire history of Siena has passed by the various rooms of the Uniti club. And entering the club you can’t not breath this historical importance. A member tell us:

To be member in this club doesn’t’ mean to be socially high, aristocratic or other things like this. It means to be united in the safeguard of the traditions of the city. To love Siena, its history and to prevent its tradition to be destroyed is our main purpose’

The Position of the clubhouse itself seems already to have a symbolic value. As a matter of fact from the windows of the Uniti circle you see the City Hall where the town council of Siena exercise its political power. As if The Uniti, immovable institution, supervised on politics that, contrariwise, cyclically changes. And looking at Siena, perfectly preserved both esthetically and culturally, it’s natural to say that The Uniti supervised well.

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