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Certaldo Alta
Photo ©Fotoscana

Certaldo: Boccaccio's magical birthplace

The medieval gem in the Val d'Elsa

Map for 43.547657,11.041546

The medieval village of Certaldo stands out for its striking orange and red-hued walls, along with its towers that peek out from rooftops, getting mixed up with church belltowers. It’s one of the most evocative, striking towns in the Tuscan countryside, known and loved among tourists not only for its architectural and aesthetic particularities, but also for being the birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio. We’ve got some great suggestions for a Boccaccio-themed itinerary, taking you through places that have a special connection to the master, right as we celebrate the 700th anniversary of his birth.  Follow the path of Boccaccio and you’ll experience some of the most important sights, monuments, and tastes of the high medieval town—they won’t disappoint.

Let’s start with the area where Certaldo’s located: the Val d’Elsa, halfway between Florence and Siena. It’s only 12 kilometers from San Gimignano and is easily accessible from most Tuscan towns, either by car, taking the Florence-Siena highway, or by taking public transportation that drops you off just at the base of the town. Open your eyes and you’ll feel like you’ve entered a magical kingdom. Visiting Certaldo for the first time truly gives you this sort of sensation. This is partially due to its atmospheric traces of the past, its narrow streets, striking views, and the serenity that seeps into the streets from the homes. It envelops you in a world apart from urban cities, away from life’s daily hustle and bustle, taking you back to a simple, tranquil way of life, a way of life that’s beautiful—just like the old buildings and houses from Boccaccio’s village.  

Palazzo Pretorio - Certaldo
Certaldo - Palazzo Pretorio 

Your jaw will drop when you see Palazzo Pretorio (1117-1164) and its facade, which boasts numerous emblems and crests in marble and precious stone, along with important examples of Della Robbian ceramics. In addition to being a can’t-miss place on our list for those reasons, the Palazzo hosts numerous theatrical performances and exhibitions all year long. Getting back to Boccaccio, you should visit the Casa Museo, which is dedicated to the great short story writer. It’s located right in the street that takes its name from the 14th century Tuscan writer. Scholars believe Boccaccio was born here in 1313, and that he then lived and died in the same house. Today in the museum, you can view furniture, decorations and explanatory panels that document the master’s life and work. One of the museum’s most noteworthy sections is the Boccaccian library, a treasure trove of illustrated editions of the Decameron.

Casa del Boccaccio

Remaining within the historic center of Certaldo Alto, you’ll find the Church of Saints Michael and Jacob, home to Giovanni Boccaccio’s remains. There is also a marble bust depicting the short story writer, a work by sculptor Giovan Francesco Rustici. If you’re lucky enough to be in Certaldo in July, Certaldo will be even more charming than usual: the Mercantia takes place. This is a street arts festival that livens up the town streets with performances, scenes, sets and sounds that make a big impression and cover every corner of Certaldo. Go and you won’t regret it.

Mercantia, Certaldo Alto
To visit the Mercantia website, click here.
Explore the area
Val D'Elsa
The strategic importance of the Val d'Elsa lies in its paths and roads. It is both the passageway to the sea and a sacred path, an artery that brings “the Tuscan touch” from Florence to Siena. ...
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