Historical villages and art towns to suit all tastes
Chianti is an area that extends between the Tuscan provinces of Florence, Siena and Arezzo. In ancient times it was an Etruscan territory which had built its villages in relation to the richness of the earth and favourable climate.
Development during the Middle Ages was linked directly to the fortunes of the Tuscan cities of Florence and Siena, eternal rivals who fought to rule over the territory. These ongoing battles among the various noble families led to the construction of fortified castles to protect themselves, but also of mansions with huge wine-growing and olive cultivation estates.
Many of the castles and can be seen against the hills and, in some cases, even visited. To name just some of the towns in Chianti would be unfair to all the others!
Every little village, building or town in this area has a story to tell, offering picture postcard corners and panoramas. We’re going to give you a few suggestions but remember that the entire Chianti district is just waiting to be discovered!
Certaldo, protected by ancient walls
A small town nestling on the hills, birthplace of the great writer Boccaccio, whose home, just outside the centre, can still be seen and visited. Other places not to be missed are Palazzo Pretorio, once home to the Alberti Counts, and the Church of Saints Jacopo and Filippo, a delightful example of Tuscan Romanesque art. The whole of Certaldo is surrounded by medieval walls and has three characteristic gates: Porta al Sole, Porta Alberti and Porta del Rivellino
San Gimignano and its nine towers
Acknowledged as UNESCO World Heritage, this is one of the medieval villages in Chianti that you really mustn’t miss. Apart from some slight modernisation in the 19th century, the structure has remained unchanged since the 1200s. Even in the Middle Ages the town was famous for the cultivation of a precious spice which was very rare in Italy: saffron (which can still be bought in the shops today). Don’t miss the impressive towers, of which only nine of the 72 present in the 13th century remain, the cathedral with the civil museum. And two beautiful medieval Romanesque churches, the parish of Santa Maria Assunta and the Church of Sant’Agostino.
Vinci, the birthplace of a genius
Famous as the birthplace of Leonardo Da Vinci, the town is a splendid example of medieval village, still surrounded by the original walls and rich in characteristic streets and beautiful views. Visitors to the town must see the house where Leonardo was born, with the museum and library, the various Romanesque churches, the main square and a beautiful walkway along the walls, as far as the Castle of the Guidi Counts.
Volterra, between the Etruscans and the Middle Ages
50 km from Montespertoli, Volterra is the town that is home to some of the most beautiful archaeological sites of Etruscan origin. The town was built by the Etruscans and many traces of their presence here are conserved in the archaeological park and museum. The old town is one of the most beautiful medieval villages that you can visit in Tuscany, Palazzo dei Priori and the beautiful cathedral will leave you open-mouthed.
Badia a Passignano: the enchanted monastery
In the municipality of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, set between the Chianti hills, stands a gigantic fortified monastic complex know as the Badia a Passignano. The monastery was founded by Benedictine monks in 1049 and can only be visited if you make a booking, but it really is worth it! The cloisters, refectory, kitchen, cells and church are exactly the same as they were in the Middle Ages and upon entry you’ll feel as though you’ve taken a trip back in time.
Volpaia and the fortified castle
As regards travelling thorough time, Volpaia is another place where everything seems to have stopped, in 1172 the year in which the little town was founded. It is in the municipality of Radda in Chianti, in the province of Siena, and it develops around a fortified castle which can still be visited today, in a strategic position right in the middle between Siena and Florence. This little village has retained all its medieval charm and magic.
Monteriggioni on the Via Francigena
One of the most popular towns, if not by name at least by sight, thanks to appearances in famous videogames and films (such as The Gladiator and The English Patient). It was originally a castle, built by the people of Siena in around the year 1200, in a strategic position on the Via Francigena, overlooking the Valle d’Elsa. For years it was fought over between the two Tuscan cities of Florence and Siena and was the site of a famous siege mentioned by Dante in his Divine Comedy. If you pass his way, we suggest you visit the weapons museum and the beautiful Romanesque churches.
Firenze cradle of the Renaissance
Florence is a magical city, where art and history meet. It has been visited by some of the greatest artists in history, such as Dante, Michelangelo, Giotto, Donatello, Brunelleschi and Leonardo da Vinci, all of whom have left traces of their passage: the fabulous Cathedral, Giotto’s bell tower, the Baptistery and all the works kept in the various museums, especially the Galleria degli Uffizi. The old part of Florence is not to be missed: with its characteristic streets, the Ponte Vecchio and the beautiful squares, it is place where time seems to have stood still, with a treasure hidden in every single corner.