The medieval hamlet of Malmantile

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Malmantile, a beautiful village with medieval walls near Florence

Malmantile is a pretty medieval village characterized by beautiful walls, located in the municipality of Lastra a Signa, in the province of Florence. Located in a beautiful hilly position about 15 kilometers from Florence, this fortified village had an important defensive function in medieval times. At that time Malmantile was in fact one of the main military outposts on the road between Florence and its rival Pisa.

“Risiede Malmantil sovra un poggetto:
e chiunque verso lui volta le ciglia,
dice che i fondatori ebber concetto
di fabbricar l’ottava meraviglia”
(Lorenzo Lippi, Il Malmantile racquistato, vv. 64)


The exact date on which the center of Malmantile was founded is not known, but we do know of its strategic importance and that its imposing walls date back to the first half of the fifteenth century.

At the origin of the toponym Malmantile, which means “bad tablecloth” in the sense of “bad welcome”, there is instead a rather curious story. Jacopo da Varagine tells us about it in his Leggenda Aurea. During his trip to Florence, the bishop of Milan Sant’Ambrogio met with the Florentine bishop San Zenobi. The two saints then stayed in a farmhouse in the area where, however, they received a bad reception that made them curse that inhospitable place. The story ends with the destruction of the farmhouse which, struck by the curse of the two saints, sank into a crevasse.

Malmantile (Photo by Vignaccia76 / CC BY)

What to see in Malmantile

The medieval village of Malmantile has the most interesting monument in its defensive walls. In addition to the walls, it is worth visiting the church of San Pietro in Selva which is located outside the circuit walls as well as the church of Santi Jacopo e Filippo in Lecceto. Along the Via di San Vito, in the countryside surrounding the village, there is an eighteenth-century tabernacle which was built on the site where San Zenobius and Sant’Ambrogio would have met.

Medieval walls of Malmantile

The walls of Malmantile were built between 1400 and 1424 under the supervision of Filippo Brunelleschi, the great architect who, among the many works, also signed that of the dome of the Florence cathedral. The wall circuit has the shape of an almost perfect rectangle, with the long side measuring 125 meters and the short side measuring 70. Between the two short sides are the two access gates to the village, Porta Fiorentina and Porta Pisana, which characterized by a large round arch protected by an outpost equipped with loopholes that were used to hit any attackers. The walls were also equipped with towers: four are located at the corners and two in the center of the long sides.

Chiesa di San Pietro in Selva

The Church of San Pietro in Selva has been documented since the thirteenth century even if observing it it immediately becomes clear that it has been extensively rebuilt recently. In fact, in 1955 this church was almost completely rebuilt even if it still retains some period works of great interest.

On the facade are the remains of fourteenth-century frescoes depicting San Cristoforo, two holy bishops and the stigmata of San Francesco. while inside are preserved a fourteenth-century crucifix and a Madonna with Child which has been attributed to the Master of the Johnson Nativity.

Medieval festival of Malmantile

The medieval festival of Malmantile is one of the most popular of its kind in the province of Florence and usually takes place between the end of May and the beginning of June. During the festival, the village is enlivened by numerous costumed figures. Among ladies, knights, archers, heralds and poets it really seems to be back in the Middle Ages.

How to get to Malmantile

Malmantile is not very easy to reach by public transport; if you leave from Florence you will first have to reach Lastra a Signa, by train or by bus, and then take a bus to reach the village.

To get to Malmantile by car from Florence you have to take the Firenze-Pisa-Livorno highway to the Lastra a Signa exit. From the center of Lastra a Signa, follow the signs for Malmantile, the town is about 4 km from Lastra a Signa. From Pisa, the Fi-Pi-Li exit to be used is that of Ginestra Fiorentina.

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