The history of Monteriggioni has ancient origins. The medieval, walled town was built on a hill by the Sienese in the thirteenth century, in order to protect their front line from their historical rivals, the Florentines, who were seeking to expand their territories.
The importance of this hamlet resides in both its architectural and cultural peculiarities. Considered one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Italy, Monteriggioni boasts magnificent exterior walls with fourteen towers on square bases and buildings inside.
Fun fact, Dante Alighieri mentioned Monteriggioni in the Inferno section of his Divine Commedy. He wrote:
"però che, come su la cerchia tonda Montereggion di torri si corona, così la proda che 'l pozzo circonda torreggiavan di mezza la persona li orribili giganti, cui minaccia Giove del cielo ancora quando tuona."
Dante Alighieri, Inferno canto XXXI, lines 40-45
"As with circling round Of turrets, Monteriggioni crowns his walls; E’en thus the shore, encompassing the abyss, Was turreted with giants, half their length Uprearing, horrible, whom Jove from heaven Yet threatens, when his muttering thunder rolls."
[Translated by Henry Francis Cary]
The town of Monteriggioni presents itself as if time had never passed: the city is perfectly preserved and is characterized by ten-meter-high fortified walls that were built according to the curves of the hills. The fourteen towers we still see today were used in Middle Ages to patrol the area, overlooking the Cassia road and two doors, the Porta di San Giovanni that opens in the direction of Florence to the north and the Porta Franca to the south. Porta Franca owes its name to the Via Francigena because Monteriggioni was (and still is) a major stop on this pilgrim trail from Cantebury to Rome.
Once you arrive in Monteriggioni, you can enter through the Franca or San Giovanni Door. As you enter, you are already in the heart of the village. The main square is called Piazza Roma (Rome Square) and it features the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, in Romanesque and Gothic style. In ancient times, this was a vegetable garden that provided essential food items during enemy attacks, when the castle's population came under siege.
In Monteriggioni you can visit the museum with replicas of medieval and Renaissance arms and armatures and walk along the walls, where you can admire the beautiful surrounding countrysides of Chianti and the Val d'Elsa. In Monteriggioni you'll find wine shops, shops of medieval weapons and jewelry, hotels and restaurants serving traditional Tuscan cuisine and wine produced in the area.
Every year in July Monteriggioni hosts the medieval feast Monteriggioni di Torri si Corona, or Monteriggioni is Crowned by Towers, a quote from the Divina Commedia by Dante we already mentioned. The medieval fair covers two consecutive weekends and represents the perfect chance to go back to Middle Ages!
In the streets you will find craftsmen, people wearing medieval costumes, knights, dancers, minstrels, musicians, and so on. It is a great atmosphere! Get more information in our article "Monteriggioni Medieval Festival".
- The famous video games "Assassins Creed II" and "Assassins Creed Brotherhood" were set in Monteriggioni.
- The beauty of this place has attracted many of Hollywood's film directors, one of which chose the town as a setting for the film "The Gladiator".
Monteriggioni is located in the area of Siena, 14km from Siena and 54km from Florence.
- You can get there by car (in that case, take the Via Cassia SS2 and exit at Monteriggioni). You'll find a free parking lot at the bottom of the hill, but you have to walk quite a bit to the town. If you don't want to do this you should continue up the hill to find a pay parking lot.
- The nearest train station is in Castellina Scalo, a few kilometres away from Monteriggioni on the Empoli-Siena trainline.
Cover image credit: Kinzica Sorrenti