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Meandering around Colle di Val d’Elsa

  • Meandering around Colle di Val d’Elsa

    Colle di Val d’Elsa is not a classic Tuscan hilltown. Unlike many postcard-pretty Tuscan towns, this one has a long-established industrial tradition. From medieval times onwards, Colle diverted the River Elsa into canals to power its flour mills and paper mills. Paper-making brought prosperity in the 16th century, with iron-working and crystal gradually supplanting it in the 17th century. As a result, this is a commercial town that doesn’t depend on tourism. Even in the upper town, the shops are filled with fine glassware made in the factories down in the valley. From the lower town, admire the impressive modern fountain on Piazza Arnolfo de Cambio before heading to the well-preserved upper town. Apart from the Crystal Museum (see below), the lower town is devoid of interest. Built into the moated bastions, La Porta Volterrana is the medieval gateway leading to the far lovelier upper town, with its curious tunnelled alleys. The sinuous main street is lined by a stately procession of 16th-century mansions, only broken by a viaduct from which there are splendid views of the surrounding landscape. In this well-preserved medieval core, pass severe-looking mansions that were once the homes of the ruling families. Take in the medieval mood, delightful Duomo and city museum before pondering a specific crystalware trail (see below). If you’re more in the mood for a foray into ancient Tuscany, a small archaeological museum in the Palazzo Pretorio displays finds from the Val d’Elsa territory, ranging from Etruscan bronze mirrors to huge Hellenistic vases.

    Museo Archeologico Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli
    Piazza Duomo 42
    Colle di Val d'Elsa
    Tel.: (+39) 0577 922954

    Tourist office
    Colle Val d'Elsa: Pro-Loco (Upper Town)
    Via del Castello 33 / b
    Colle Alta
    Tel.: (+39) 0577 922791

    Punto Citta (Lower Town)
    Piazza Arnolfo di Cambio 9
    Colle Bassa
    Tel.: (+39) 0577 921334

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