Val d’Elsa, from south to north between hamlets and castles
The Val d’Elsa is a beautiful region characterized by low hills that extends between the province of Siena and that of Florence; from Radicondoli in the south to Empoli and San Miniato in the north. Along the river Elsa there are many castles and historic hamlets, some of which are among the most famous in all of Tuscany.
Best places to visit in Val d’Elsa: main hamlets and points of interest
- Casole d’Elsa
- Colle di Val d’Elsa
- San Gimignano
- Gambassi Terme
- San Miniato
Radicondoli is a medieval village located in an area between the Val d’Elsa and the Colline Metallifere (metalliferous hills) rich in sources of geothermal energy. Among the things to see in the village there are the remains of the medieval fortifications, the Collegiata dei Santi Simone e Giuda and the Museum “Le Energie del territorio“, focused on the topics related to the production of clean energy. Just outside the town, the Pieve di San Giovanni Battista also deserves a visit.
Casole d’Elsa is a pleasant hilltop village born as a medieval castle ruled by the bishops of Volterra before and by the Republic of Siena after. Walking through the village the main monuments to admire are the Rocca Senese, now home to the Municipality of Casole d’Elsa, and the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, a church of medieval origin that preserves some interesting art works. Is aso interesting the Museo archeologico e della Collegiata where are exhibited both archaeological finds and works of sacred art.
Monteriggioni is a true tuscan gem. Born as a Sienese castle in the early fourteenth century, the village is still characterized by its walls and towers that impose themselves on the surrounding landscape from the top of a hill. Celebrated several times by the cinema and television, Monteriggioni is one of the main tourist destinations in the province of Siena.
Colle di Val d’Elsa
Divided into Colle Alta and Colle Bassa, Colle di Val d’Elsa is a beautiful medieval town located on the road between Florence and Siena. In Colle di Val d’Elsa there are some museums to visit such as the Museo del Cristallo, the Museo Archeologico and the Museo San Pietro which is the result of the fusion between the Museo Civico e Diocesano d’Arte sacra with the Collezione del Conservatorio di San Pietro, the Collezione Romano Bilenchi and the Collezione di Walter Fusi. Do not miss to visit the mighty Porta Nova which is located in the west of Colle Alta.
Who does not know San Gimignano? Rhetorical question, everyone knows it. San Gimignano is now a tourist destination famous all over the world for its extraordinary historical and artistic heritage and its beautiful medieval towers. What is there to see besides the towers? There are many places to visit, museums, churches, squares and historic buildings to no end; in addition there are also the remains of a fortress, the Rocca di Montestaffoli. In short, if you want to visit the city in depth, it will take more than one day.
The visit to Poggibonsi runs between the historic center and the so-called Poggio Imperiale. The main things to see in the center of Poggibonsi are the Chiesa di San Lorenzo, the palazzo Pretorio, home to the paleontology museum, and the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta. On the hill of Poggio Imperiale there are the Fortezza Medicea and the Parco Archeologico di Poggibonsi which includes the excavations of the ancient city of “Podium Bonizi” which was destroyed in 1270 by Florence. It’s very interesting to visit the Fonte delle Fate, a beautiful public fountain that dates back to the times of the destroyed city.
Gambassi Terme is both a nice medieval village and a popular spa resort. Located not far from the famous via Francigena, Gambassi is historically an important center for the production of glass. In the city you can visit the pMostra permanente sul vetro preindustriale where you can learn a lot about the history and techniques of glass processing. As regards the thermal baths, in Gambassi there are the Terme della Via Francigena which exploit a water particularly suitable for treating diseases of the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. Finally, do not miss the beautiful Romanesque church of Santa Maria Assunta in Chianni.
It’s time to move now to the Florentine part of the Elsa valley to reach the birthplace of the great italian poet Boccaccio. Certaldo, or rather Certaldo Alto, was one of the castles with which the Counts Alberti controlled the Val d’Elsa and the Via Francigena. The village is beautiful, it is no coincidence that it was awarded the Bandiera Arancione by the Italian Touring Club. Among the main things to see we mention the Palazzo Pretorio, the House of Giovanni Boccaccio and the Museo d’Arte Sacra.
Going up the Florentine Val d’Elsa we find Castelfiorentino, a lively town with a turbulent past due to its strategic position on the border between the territory of Florence and those of Siena and Pisa. The city is rich in museums and monuments, especially churches; among the most interesting we mention the Museo Benozzo Gozzoli which houses two large 15th century frescoes and the beautiful Santuario di Santa Verdiana, a rare example of Gothic style in Val d’Elsa.
Finally we get to the province of Pisa to talk about San Miniato. Located in a hilly position a short distance from the confluence of the Arno and Elsa, San Miniato is characterized by its peculiar sprawling system that follows the course of the ridges. This hamlet preserves a conspicuous heritage and has many points of interest including the Torre di Federico II, once part of a fortress, the Duomo and the so-called Via Angelica along which there are three richly frescoed oratories.