Val d'Elsa
Val d'Elsa

Things to do in Certaldo, the house of Boccaccio

Certaldo, a castle in the Val d’Elsa

Certaldo is one of the most beautiful and evocative medieval villages in all of Tuscany. Famous for being the birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio, this enchanting art city of the Val d’Elsa stands out for its atmosphere and the quality of its tourist offer to the point of having earned the “Bandiera Arancione“, the prestigious recognition of the Italian Touring Club .

A tourist destination of great interest, Certaldo has a lower part, more modern, and a high part (“Certaldo Alto“) which represents the historical core of the medieval hamlet; the two areas of the city are connected by a funicular that is accessed from Piazza Boccaccio, the main square of the lower part.

Inhabited since the Etruscan period, Certaldo developed as a castle from the early Middle Ages, and then acquired its final shape around the eleventh century. The first document that officially cites the castle of Certaldum dates back to 1164 when it was granted in fief by the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa to the Alberti counts.

The castle, which was part of a series of fortifications with which the Alberts controlled the Val d’Elsa, stood in an ideal position, on the top of a hill, to control the Via Francigena. From the second half of the 12th century Certaldo was involved in the war between the Alberti and the Republic of Florence, which in 1200 managed to annex the village to its territories.

Things to do in Certaldo: visit Certaldo Alto
View of Certaldo Alto

Guide to visit Certaldo

The medieval village of Certaldo has been preserved very well, let’s see together what are the main monuments to visit inside its walls:

  • Museo del Chiodo
  • Casa di Boccaccio
  • Chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo
  • Museo d’Arte Sacra
  • Palazzo Pretorio
  • Chiesa dei Santi Tommaso e Prospero

If you get to Certaldo Alto with the funicular, you will arrive near one of the three city gates, Porta Alberti and Palazzo Stiozzi Ridolfi, one of the most characteristic buildings of the village; on the right is the beautiful Palazzo Scoto da Semifonte, that today is a hotel. As you will notice these and also others among the most important buildings of the center have military characteristics such as towers and battlements.

Palazzo Scoto da Semifonte
Palazzo Scoto da Semifonte (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)

Well, now you just have to take via Boccaccio and start to discover the treasures of Certaldo!

Museo del Chiodo

Just beyond Piazza Santissima Annunziata, we find Palazzo Giannozzi on the right; here we find the first museum we will see today: the Museo del Chiodo. It is a unusual collection of nails and various tools related to the tradition of craftsmanship and in particular of the woodworking. Inside there are also anecdotes, stories and drawings that provide further insights to better understand the tradition of these jobs.

Opening hours:
November – March: every day (closed on tuesday) 9.30-13.30 and 14.30-16.30
April – October: every day 9.30-13.30 and 14.30-19.00

Ticket: 1 euro

Casa Boccaccio

Giovanni Boccaccio’s House is located on the main street just beyond the Museo del Chiodo. Partially rebuilt in the twentieth century, it is now the headquarters of the Giovanni Boccaccio National Institute and houses a museum dedicated to the great author plus an important library that preserves several documents and many texts including several editions, in various languages, of the Decameron, the immortal masterpiece of Boccaccio. Since 2007 you can also climb the tower of the house from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the surrounding area.

Opening hours:
November – March: every day (closed on tuesday) 9.30-13.30 and 14.30-16.30
April – October: every day 9.30-13.30 and 14.30-19.00

Ticket for the Certaldo museum system:
Casa Boccaccio and Palazzo Pretorio: regular 4 euros, reduced 3 euros
Casa Boccaccio, Palazzo Pretorio and Museo d’Arte Sacra: regular 6 euros, reduced 4 euros

Boccaccio's House in Certaldo
Boccaccio’s House (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)

Chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo

In the background you will already see the Palazzo Pretorio, but before reaching it I suggest you stop in Piazza dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo. Here we find one in front of the other the Palazzo Machiavelli and the Chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo; the Museo d’Arte Sacra si also in this square.

The Romanesque Chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo presents a very sober appearance with brick walls. The first thing to mention is undoubtedly the sepulcher of Boccaccio, marked by the marble floor slab created by Mario Moschi on the basis of a famous fresco by Andrea del Castagno. The church also preserves several valuable works such as the thirteenth century Crucifix of Petrognano, the Madonna with Child and the saints Jacopo and Pietro, with donor of Memmo di Filippuccio and some terracotta works attributed to Benedetto Buglioni and the Della Robbia workshop.

Chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo in Certaldo
Chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)

Museo d’Arte Sacra

Set up in a former Augustinian convent of the fifteenth century, the Museum of Sacred Art in Certaldo was set up in 2001 to collect works from churches located in the territory of the ecclesiastical vicariate of Certaldo. The exhibition is divided into seven rooms where paintings, sculptures, jewelery and sacred vestments are collected; it is a very important collection with works ranging from the Middle Ages up to the eighteenth century.

Ugolino di Nerio, Madonna col Bambino e Santi
Ugolino di Nerio, Madonna and Child with Saints

Palazzo Pretorio

Finally we arrive at the end of via Boccaccio where we find what is considered the most representative monument of Certaldo: the Palazzo Pretorio. Former home of the Counts Alberti, the palace dates back to the twelfth century and is characterized by a series of beautiful coats of arms on the facade. The tour of the building includes the visit of different rooms of the building including the prisons, the chapel and the audience hall. Inside you can admire some important works such as a Crucifixion of 1478, the Madonna with Child and a Pietà by Pier Francesco Fiorentino. Curiously, one of the palace’s outdoor spaces was transformed by artist Hidetoshi Nagasawa into a garden with a Japanese teahouse.

Palazzo Pretorio in Certaldo
Palazzo Pretorio in Certaldo (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)

Opening hours:
November – March: every day (closed on tuesday) 9.30-13.30 and 14.30-16.30
April – October: every day 9.30-13.30 and 14.30-19.00

Ticket for the Certaldo museum system:
Palazzo Pretorio and Casa Boccaccio: regular 4 euros, reduced 3 euros
Palazzo Pretorio, Casa Boccaccio and Museo d’Arte Sacra: regular 6 euros, reduced 4 euros

Japanese teahouse
Japanese teahouse (Photo by g.sighele / CC BY)

Chiesa dei Santi Tommaso e Prospero

The former Chiesa dei Santi Tommaso e Prospero, the oldest of the castle, is located right next to the Palazzo Pretorio. Dating back to the beginning of the twelfth century, the church is often home to cultural initiatives and inside it preserves some frescoes including the Tabernacolo dei Giustiziati created by Benozzo Gozzoli with some collaborators.

Chiesa dei Santi Tommaso e Prospero
Chiesa dei Santi Tommaso e Prospero (Photo by Davide Papalini / CC BY)

Places to visit near Certaldo

Certaldo is located in the heart of the Florentine Val d’Elsa. From here you can easily reach San Miniato, San Gimignano, Poggibonsi and Colle di Val d’Elsa.

How to get to Certaldo

By train: Certaldo has its own railway station, on the Florence-Pisa line, regularly served by regional trains.

By car: from the Florence-Siena motorway junction, take the exit for Tavarnelle; from Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, follow the signs for Certaldo on SP49 and SP79.

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