Monteriggioni, a small medieval town famous for its walls
“però che, come in su la cerchia tonda
Monteriggion di torri si corona,
così la proda che ‘l pozzo circonda
torregiavan di mezza la persona
li orribili giganti, cui minaccia
Giove del cielo ancora quando tona”
(Dante Alighieri, Inferno canto XXXI, vv. 40-45)
With these words, Dante was talked about Monteriggioni, recalling its round shape city walls and the lofty towers like giants.
And even today, what distinguishes this small settlement is precisely its walls and defensive towers.
The history of Monteriggioni
The site was founded in 1203 by the Sienese who intended to erect an outpost against Florence on Northwest border. Located on top of a hill, between the functions of the castle there were the control of the Val d’Elsa and of the via Francigena.
In the years 1213-1219, Monteriggioni was equipped with walls. Between 1244 and 1254 Florence and Siena struggled for its control. Given that during the clashes with the Florentines the walls were heavily damaged, the Sienese were forced to rebuild it in the Decade Between 1260 and 1270.
Monteriggioni was protagonist of new battles even in later centuries until, in 1554, was taken over by the Marquis of Marignano, which in the following year finally defeated the Republic of Siena. After these events the Castle and the surrounding territory came under the rule of Cosimo I de ‘ Medici.
The main reason for interest in Monteriggioni are its walls. It is a walled and oval-shaped, 570 metres long, that follows the shape of the Hill on which is perched the settlement. The walls are interspersed by 14 towers with a square base placed at regular intervals. The village is spread along a single axis that connects the two city gates: Porta Franca (or Romea), located on the South-East in the direction of Siena, and Porta San Giovanni in the direction of Florence.
Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta
The Church of Santa Maria Assunta overlooks the main square of Monteriggioni, piazza Roma. Built in the first half of the thirteenth century, the church has Romanesque-Gothic forms. Inside are preserved a painting by Lippo Vanni, a wooden crucifix, two tabernacles from the 15th century, the bell given to the church by the Republic of Siena in 1298 and a wooden choir from the 16th century.
“Monteriggioni in Arme” Museum
The “Monteriggioni in Arme” museum collects a series of reproductions of medieval and Renaissance weapons and armors. The pieces that make up the museum collection are presented in thematic rooms focused on specific moments in the history of Monteriggioni. A particularity of this museum, much appreciated both by young and old people, is the possibility of trying some armor and holding some weapon.
What to see around Monteriggioni
Monteriggioni is located in the beautiful Val d’Elsa in the province of Siena; in this area of Tuscany there are many historic villages, churches, parish churches and castles to visit.
The most interesting in the municipal area of Monteriggioni are:
Abbazia dei Santi Salvatore e Cirino
The magnificent Abbey of Saints Salvatore and Cirino which is located in Abbadia a Isola, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places to see in the immediate vicinity of Monteriggioni (the complex is located just 3 kilometers away). Built starting from the year 1001 the abbey church is a beautiful Romanesque monument which is divided into three naves. Inside you can admire some valuable works such as the baptismal font (XV century), the fresco Madonna and Child Enthroned with Cherubs, angels and saints by Taddeo di Bartolo and the altarpiece Madonna with Child and Saints Benedict, Cirino, Donato and Giustina made by di Sano di Pietro in 1476.
Pieve di Santa Maria a Castello
Another special place to see near Monteriggioni is the Pieve di Santa Maria a Castello. Documented since 971, this church is an important example of early medieval Tuscan architecture. Very interesting is the presence of an octagonal baptistery located on the side of the church, a real rarity!
Eremo di San Leonardo al Lago
The hermitage of San Leonardo al Lago has been documented since the beginning of the twelfth century even if its structures were rebuilt between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, creating a Romanesque-Gothic complex. Inside you can admire several valuable works, especially frescoes, such as the Crucifixion made around 1445 by Giovanni di Paolo del Grazia.
Monteriggioni is located a few kilometers from Siena and the centers of Chianti and the Sienese Val d’Elsa; among these I recommend you visit San Gimignano, Radicondoli, Colle di Val d’Elsa and Poggibonsi.
The Medieval Festival of Monteriggioni
Visiting Monteriggioni seems to have really returned to the Middle Ages and every year there is a perfect opportunity to savor this special atmosphere: the Medieval Festival. The festival usually takes place between June and July (in 2020 it is between 9 and 19 July) and is made of events, concerts and banquets in full medieval style. On this occasion you can admire craftsmen grappling with the works of the past such as that of the gunsmith or that of the ceramist, jugglers, acrobats, knights and many other characters who seem to have come out of a chivalrous novel or a movie.
How to reach Monteriggioni
By car: take the Florence-Siena motorway junction to the Monteriggioni exit, from there continue on SR2 Cassia to the destination.
By bus: from Siena, line 130 Siena Mobilità