Castelfiorentino in Val d’Elsa
Built on the remains of a Roman settlement, the village was first a feud of the Cadolingi and then of the Conti Alberti until, during the twelfth century, it became part of the possessions of the bishop of Florence. Because of its position a short distance from the borders with the territories of Pisa and Siena, Castelfiorentino quickly acquired a great strategic importance for the city of Florence. As evidence of this role we have the name Castelfiorentino which was attributed by the Florentines in 1149 (before the town was called Castelvecchio) and the presence of the Florence lily in the city banner.
Long involved in the Florentine wars, in 1260 the city hosted the signing of the peace between Florence and Siena after the battle of Montaperti. In 1521, however, the city was almost destroyed by the troops of the Spanish empire; from that moment the city experienced a long period of decadence that only came to an end in the eighteenth century with the Lorena family leading the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Finally, after the Second World War, Castelfiorentino was awarded the Silver Medal for civil valor for having distinguished itself in its resistance to the fascist regime.
Things to do Castelfiorentino
Today Castelfiorentino is a lively town that presents different points of interest, let’s see together which:
- Teatro del Popolo
- Museo Benozzo Gozzoli
- Chiesa di San Francesco
- Santuario di Santa Verdiana
- Collegiata dei Santi Lorenzo e Leonardo
- Pieve dei Santi Ippolito e Biagio
Teatro del Popolo
The visit to Castelfiorentino begins in the lower part of the city, in particular in the large square named after Antonio Gramsci, where we find the Teatro del Popolo. Built in the second half of the nineteenth century, this is the oldest theater in the whole Val d’Elsa as well as one of the main landmarks of the city.
Museo BEGO – Benozzo Gozzoli
The Benozzo Gozzoli Museum is located in a very modern building in via Testaferrata, a stone’s throw from the Castelfiorentino railway station. Inaugurated in 2009, the museum was created to preserve the frescoes and related preparatory drawings of two large frescoed tabernacles, the Tabernacle of the Madonna della Tosse and the Tabernacle of the Visitation, made by Benozzo Gozzoli between 1484 and 1491.
monday and friday 9.00-13.00
tuesday and thursday 16.00-19.00
saturday, sunday and holidays 10.00-12.00 and 16.00-19.00
regular 3 euro, reduced 2 euro
Cumulative ticket with the Museo d’Arte sacra di Santa Verdiana in Castelfiorentino: regular 4 euro, reduced 3 euro
Chiesa di San Francesco
In Castelfiorentino there are several interesting churches to visit; the first of these is the thirteenth-century Church of San Francesco, which houses several noteworthy works of art such as the Madonna with Child by Taddeo Gaddi and other works by Cenni di Francesco and Giovanni del Biondo, as well as various other frescoes dated between XV and XVIII century.
Santuario di Santa Verdiana
The majestic Sanctuary of Santa Verdiana (XVIII century) is a beautiful and rare example of Gothic style in Val d’Elsa. According to tradition, the complex was built over the hermitage in which Santa Verdiana spent the last years of her life; still today it is possible to access an underground cell that would be the one in which the saint retired to pray.
The exterior has an elegant two-colored facade enriched by a beautiful portico and some statues. The interior, with three naves, preserves frescoes by Alessandro Gherardini and Agostino Veracini and some paintings including The Virgin assumed among the saints Antonio abate and Verdiana by Jacopo Chimenti called L’Empoli and The Blessing of Saint Verdiana by Giovan Battista Guidoni.
Next to the church we also find the Museum of Santa Verdiana, a small museum of sacred art that preserves some important works such as the Madonna of Castelfiorentino attributed to Cimabue, the Madonna with Child among the saints Giovanni evangelista, Giovanni Battista, Zanobi and Jacopo by Taddeo Gaddi and other works coming from the churches of the municipal area.
Collegiata dei Santi Lorenzo e Leonardo
At this point, all that remains is to climb towards the oldest part of Castelfiorentino to reach Piazza del Popolo where the Palazzo del Comune and above all the Collegiate of Saints Lorenzo and Leonardo are located. The church (XII-XIII century) is considered one of the oldest brick buildings in the whole area and inside it preserves some paintings with the Stories of Saint Verdiana by Giovan Camillo Sagrestani, a Crucifix by Giovanni Pisano as well as some paintings by Annibale Gatti. The famous Madonna of Castelfiorentino, which is located in the Museum of Santa Verdiana, also comes from this church.
Pieve dei Santi Ippolito e Biagio
To complete our tour in Castelfiorentino we need to reach the top of the hill where the Pieve dei Santi Ippolito e Biagio stands. Born as an oratory of the castle, this church once depended on the Pieve di Sant’Ippolito in Elsa from which it later inherited its role and functions.
As well as the collegiate church, the parish is also in bricks. Inside you can admire some frescoes depicting Sant’Ippolito and San Pietro martyr and a wooden crucifix from the 14th century.
Finally, near the church we find a section of the first circle of walls of the castle with two defensive towers, an interesting testimony to the military nature that Castelfiorentino had in medieval times.
Places to visit near Castelfiorentino
In the area of Castelfiorentino there are several interesting places to visit. Among these we can mention the Pieve of Saints Peter and Paul in Coiano, a beautiful Romanesque building mentioned since the 11th century, the Castle of Oliveto, the Villa of Cambiano, once also belonged to Cosimo de ‘Medici, and the Castle of Cabbiavoli.
How to get to Castelfiorentino
By train: Castelfiorentino has its own train station regularly served by regional trains.
By car: if you come from the A1 highway you can exit at Firenze Signa and continue on the Florence-Pisa-Livorno to Empoli Ovest; from there you have to take the State Road 429 to destination.