The historic hamlet of Montaione in the heart of Tuscany
Montaione is a delightful medieval village located in the Province of Florence between the Val d’Elsa and Volterra. The town is located in a beautiful hilly position, at an altitude of 342 meters above sea level, in a landscape of all respect. The area is very beautiful and characterized by rolling hills planted with vines and olive trees, chestnut and oak woods that contribute to creating views of great impact. The location from a tourist point of view is excellent since Montaione is not far from the main art cities of Tuscany such as Florence, Siena, Volterra and San Gimignano.
Many archaeological finds scattered in the territory of Montaione document the existence of numerous colonies from the Etruscan and Roman periods. The first documentary mention dates back to 1113 when the toponym “Montaione” appears in a deed of donation. The parish church of San Regolo dates back to 1118 while we have news of the castle of Montaione starting from 1224.
We also know that in 1256 the hamletenjoyed the status of autonomous municipality. This town was under the influence of San Miniato and Florence, but when in 1368 Florence besieged its rival, Montaione decided to make an act of submission and, starting from 1370, the whole area became part of the Florentine dominions.
In the following centuries Montaione was involved in the wars between Florence and Pisa first and then against the emperor Charles V. Between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the art of glassmaking developed forcefully, which had been practiced since the thirteenth century. Between the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the territory of Montaione underwent various variations with the creation of new municipalities and territorial subdivisions.
Today, a large part of Montaione’s economy is based on tourism, with a varied offer based on the combination of the beauties of the place, the typical products of the numerous farms scattered throughout the area and crafts.
What to see in Montaione
The historical nucleus of Montaione has a more or less oval shape which is common to several other Tuscan centers of medieval origin. The hamlet develops from between three main streets and a central square overlooked by the Church of San Regolo. Unfortunately, the Second World War caused various damages and the village lost its historic access gates, Porta Fiorentina and Porta Pisana, and part of the walls. Despite this, the village has retained its charm and has a lot to offer visitors. To see there are some churches and convents also in the surroundings, the Palazzo Pretorio with the Civic Museum and more. The city is also known for the truffle, celebrated every year with a festival, and the artisan shops.
The Palazzo Pretorio has been the seat of the civil power of Montaione since the mid-thirteenth century. Over the centuries, some noble Tuscan families have succeeded in governing the village. Each of them had their coat of arms stamped on the facade of the building. Even today, we can admire all these coats of arms, which were made of stone or ceramic.
The palace was also chosen as the seat of the podest and the judiciary. After the unification of Italy it was used as a post office and telegraph office and as a school. Finally, in 1971, the offices and the school gave way to the municipal library and the historical archive. Today inside the Palazzo Pretorio there are also the Tourist Information Office and the Civic Museum.
The Civic Museum of Montaione is essentially an archaeological museum that reconstructs the history of the village and its territory, through the findings of the area. The museum itinerary develops along a series of rooms in which archaeological and paleontological finds are exhibited, covering an extremely long time span, even millions of years.
The most ancient find is a fossil whale found in Castelfalfi, which has been attributed a dating between 4.5 and 3.9 million years ago. No, it is not a mistake, it is a matter of millions of years! Continuing, we come into contact with the remains of the Etruscan period with the finds from the necropolis of Castelfalfi, Santo Stefano, Poggio all’Aglione and Poggio Carlotta. The Etruscan section documents a period ranging from the 9th to the 2nd century BC.
Upstairs the finds from Santo Stefano and Bellafonte are exhibited. The remains of a Roman aqueduct come from the locality “il muraccio”.
Chiesa di San Regolo
The church of San Regolo is the most important in Montaione. The church is remembered since the Middle Ages but over time it has undergone several changes. Among the most evident interventions are those concerning the facade which is characterized by two buttresses added during the eighteenth century. The interior was instead redone in the seventeenth century. Here you can admire some interesting paintings such as the Madonna with Child and Saints by Francesco Rosselli and the Guardian Angel by Orazio Fidani. The most important works, however, are a very revered wooden crucifix that dates back to the fourteenth century and the Madonna del Consiglio, a beautiful table with a gold background attributed to Guido di Graziano.
Places to visit around Montaione
Just under seven kilometers of provincial road separate Montaione from the small village of San Vivaldo. For centuries a place of pilgrimage, San Vivaldo is known for the Franciscan Convent and for the Sacro Monte which is commonly called the Jerusalem of San Vivaldo.
It is an isolated place, surrounded by green trees, where you can breathe a particular atmosphere. The birth of this place of worship dates back to the early fourteenth century when a Franciscan monk chose this place to retire to lead the life of a hermit. Subsequently, a hermitage was built here and, at the end of the fifteenth century, the convent was also built. The Little Jerusalem dates back to 1500. It was the Franciscan friar Tommaso da Firenze who promoted its construction. The idea was to give everyone the opportunity to make a pilgrimage even without having to go to Jerusalem. In addition to the difficulty of the journey, it must be remembered that at that time the city of Jerusalem was under the control of the Turks.
The Jerusalem of San Vivaldo complex is made up of 18 chapels (originally there were 25), which are arranged in such a way as to reproduce the places of Jerusalem at the end of the fifteenth century. Inside there are valuable sculptures made by the Della Robbia school that depict scenes from the life and Passion of Christ.
To complete the visit to San Vivaldo, you can also visit the church adjacent to the convent where some works are kept including a Madonna and Saints by Raffaellino del Garbo and a Nativity by Benedetto Buglioni.
Castelfalfi is one of the many castles in the area. Probably founded in the Lombard period, the castle is documented at least from the year 754. In 1139 the castle passed to the bishop of Volterra; in 1320 it passed to San Miniato and then to Florence. In the Renaissance period it was renovated and converted into a villa. Today Castelfalfi hosts a luxury residence but retains its beauty intact. Both the fortress and the church of San Floriano are worth visiting.
Other halmets around Montaione
Starting from Montaione, you can quickly reach all the centers of Val d’Elsa starting from Gambassi Terme, Castelfiorentino and Certaldo. Volterra, which is about 40 minutes by car, and San Gimignano (about half an hour by car) are also not far away.