Poggibonsi, a turbulent history and a big unfinished fortress
Poggibonsi is a town of the Val d’Elsa located in an area inhabited since ancient times. Lying on the border between the territories of Florence and Siena not far from the via Francigena, Poggibonsi always had a great strategic importance and because of this has been at the center of contention between the two cities. The consequences of these wars were harsh for the town; in 1115 its castle was razed to the ground and the entire city was destroyed by Florence in 1270.
After the destruction the town was rebuilt in the valley and, in the second half of the 15th century, Lorenzo il Magnifico commissioned to Giuliano da Sangallo the construction of the new fortress of Poggio Imperiale. After the conquer of Siena (1555), the project of the fortress was abandoned and the building was never completed. Although incomplete, the fortress of Poggibonsi makes a fine show with its imposing ramparts.
Today Poggibonsi is an important industrial centre and one of the most populous town in the province of Siena from where we can easily get to many other big tourist centres as Siena, San Gimignano, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Firenze and Volterra.
What to do in Poggibonsi
From the train station, near which you will also find some parking lots, you can quickly get to the main monuments of the city centre. The first one we meet is the chiesa di San Lorenzo. Built in 14th century but extensively renovated after the Second World War, preserves inside a wooden cross (14th century) attributed to Giovanni di Agostino, a San Nicola da Tolentino (15th century) by Neri di Bicci and a Resurrection of Christ (about 1499) by Francesco Botticini.
Going a little further on you reach the central piazza Cavour where are the palazzo Pretorio, house of the Museo di paleontologia “Francesco Costantino Marmocchi” (museum of paleontology), and the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta. This church, renovated in 19th century, has a crenellated bell tower that was part of a previous church. Inside there are some interesting art-works as the baptismal font (1341) and a Resurrection by Francesco Botticini.
The Poggio Imperiale
Leaving the city centre, we move to the hill of Poggio Imperiale. This is the area where was located the city of “Podium Bonizi” destroyed by Florence in 1270, whose ruins were partially excavated and exposed through the Parco Archeologico di Poggibonsi. The archaeological park offers many attractions and activities as the excavations, the archeodromo, the fortress and the museum.
The Fortezza Medicea of Poggibonsi
The grandiose project of the fortress was to create a wall all around the hill and the construction of the real castle (the Cassero Mediceo). This complex is very interesting because were put into practice those new architectural arrangements needed to adapt to the ever-widening use of firearms.
The Cassero Mediceo is located in the eastern area of the hill and has a plant based on irregular Pentagon with mighty corner bastions. As we said, the project was never completed and at the time of its abandonment there weren’t a number of facilities such as accommodations for soldiers.
The fortress walls were equipped with four main gates: Porta del Giglio (facing Florence), Porta di Calcinaria (facing Siena), Porta di San Francesco and Porta della Fonte. The porta di San Francesco is the only one completed, behind this gate there is the Tower of San Francesco dating back to the period before the florentine conquest.
Fonte delle Fate
Down the hill a short distance from Porta della Fonte, there is one of the main remains of the ancient hamlet of Poggio Bonizio: the Fonte delle Fate. Surrounded by a beautiful park, this ancient public fountain is characterized by a large portico with six double arches.
What to see around Poggibonsi
A short walk, about 500 metres, lead us from the Fonte delle Fate to the Convento di San Lucchese that was before camaldolese and then of the Franciscans. Its church preserves many artworks made by artists as Bartolo di Fredi, Cennino Cennini, Giovanni della Robbia and Memmo di Filippuccio.