Monteriggioni: Discovering Tuscany’s Medieval Gem
If you are a lover of medieval history, Tuscany is the place for you, and the town of Monteriggioni is especially so. A town of about 10,000 inhabitants in the province of Siena that is home to one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval castles in the world. In this article, we will answer all your questions about exploring this beautiful town, and you can use our table of contents to get to the information you are looking for.
Monteriggioni: Medieval Fortress and its History
The medieval village of Monteriggioni was established in 1213 by the city of Siena as a defensive measure against Florentine attacks. The famous castle, built by order of the podestà Guelfo da Porcari, was strategically placed on mount “Ala” to safeguard the via Francigena, Elsa, and Staggia valleys from Siena’s historical enemy. Today, Monteriggioni’s history stands as a testament to its past role in the protection of Siena’s borders.
Encircling the castle, the city’s defensive wall boasts a circular shape with a diameter of roughly 172 meters and a thickness of 2 meters. Originally, the fortification boasted 15 towers, though only 11 endure to this day. This formidable feat of medieval engineering serves as a testament to the strategic importance of Monteriggioni and its role in safeguarding the surrounding area.
The construction of the castle marked a new approach for Siena, as it had previously relied on purchasing existing buildings in the region. Despite this innovative move, the village faced multiple attacks over the years, demonstrating the need for a strong defense. In the mid-16th century, the fortress finally fell to enemy forces after valiantly holding out for decades.
In 1526, the Florentines besieged the city with 2,000 infantrymen and 500 cavalrymen, bombarding the walls. At the Battle of Camollia, the Sienese managed to defeat the Florentines’ allies, the Pontian army.
Monteriggioni’s long-standing resistance came to an end on April 27, 1554, when it was betrayed by captain Bernardino Zeti, who ceded the fortress to the “Marchese di Marignani” without any conflict. At the time, Siena was allied with the French, while the Florentines fought alongside Charles V in the “Italian War of 1551-1559,” also known as the Habsburg-Valois War. This treacherous act ultimately led to the fall of Monteriggioni and its submission to Florentine rule.
A year later, in 1555, the Republic of Siena was finally defeated. Cosimo I dei Medici consequently imposed his power and transferred the people of Monteriggioni to Florence. The Medici then ceded the township to the “Golia” family, and ownership passed in later years to various noble families.
In the early 20th century, between 1920 and 1930, the walls of Monteriggioni underwent a significant renovation project that included the reconstruction of towers that had been destroyed in previous centuries. This restoration work helped to preserve the historical and architectural significance of the fortress for future generations to appreciate.
Do people still live in Monteriggioni?
The town of Monteriggioni has about 10,000 inhabitants, and even the castle is still inhabited by a few dozen people. In particular, this houses for visitors several rooms and hotels for tourists and medieval history enthusiasts.
Visiting the Castle is free while it costs to climb the walls (about 3 to 4 euros depending on the type of ticket; a family package is also available).
Experience Monteriggioni’s Medieval Festival
As in other towns in Tuscany, Monteriggioni has its medieval festival, certainly one of the oldest in all of Italy. It consists of six days-two weekends in July-in which the medieval atmosphere is recreated inside the entire castle.
The event is now in its 30th year and each day traces important dates in the castle’s history: from its birth to the siege of 1554. Access is open to all but there is a fee and tickets can be booked online.
Monteriggioni’s Medieval Charm in Film, Games, and Art
Over the centuries, Monteriggioni Castle has also been a source of inspiration for several literary figures. Certainly, the best known, especially in Italy, is Dante, who mentioned it in his major work, the Divine Comedy, in Canto XXXI of the Inferno. But not only he was impressed by the castle.
About video games, suffice it to say that in Assassin’s Creed II and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the “Villa Auditore,” or the home of the main character in the series, Ezio Auditore, is located in Monteriggioni.
The village has also inspired several directors and films: the most important one is definitely “Dear Goddamned Friends” directed by Mario Monicelli and starring actors Paolo Villaggio, Massimo Ceccherini, and Paolo Hendel, which was presented at the 44th Berlin International Film Festival.
How to get to Monteriggioni by car or bus
Getting to the town is easy, especially if you have a car at your disposal. In fact, Monteriggioni is located on the Florence-Siena highway, with the exit bearing its name. Starting from Florence it will take about an hour, while from Siena it will take about 15 to 20 minutes (about 18km. Starting from Siena it is also possible to use the Via Cassia and avoid the highway).
Within the village it is not possible to transit by car, however, there are several paid parking lots outside it.
If you want to use the bus, you have to take line 130 from Siena, which also stops at San Gimignano and Poggibonsi. While line 131 from Florence goes directly to the village without making changes. In about a quarter of an hour on foot, you will reach the town.