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Medieval mooch around Monteriggioni

  • Medieval mooch around Monteriggioni

    Monteriggioni, with its formidable ring of walls and towers, dominates the surrounding hills. Monteriggioni was built in 1213 to guard the northern borders of Sienese territory. In 1554 a major betrayal cost the town its freedom and it fell into Florentine hands, presaging the final loss of the Republic of Siena to Florence in 1555. Fortifications like this played an important role in medieval Tuscany. These walled hilltop towns, often known as borghi, are emblematic of the Tuscan cityscape. Like Montepulciano and Buonconvento, Monteriggioni provides proof that preserving walls helps preserve a distinct identity.

    The slopes leading upto the medieval borgo are swathed in olive trees, vineyards and even poppies, a bucolic view changing with the seasons. Porta Franca, the Siena-facing main gateway, guards the entrance to the borgo and once had a fearsome drawbridge. Instead, the Porta di Ponte arched gateway faces Florence and displays a quotation by Dante about Monteriggioni’s mighty walls. Monteriggioni in Arme, the Museum of Arms, is the place to put yourself in the shoes of a legendary knight of old. It’s not surprising that the town inspired the popular Assassin’s Creed video game. The museum displays reproductions of medieval and Renaissance armour and weaponry and also introduces you to siege engines and siege techniques. Walking the battlements gives you a true sense of what it must have been like to be a medieval knight or a night-watchman doing the rounds. Once on the ramparts, you can take in expansive views of the poppy-strewn countryside stretching towards the Chianti region and the Val d’Elsa. The ramparts are currently being restored but can still be partially explored. This is a place for what Italians call il dolce far niente, the sweet art of doing nothing at all. Before heading off to lunch, visit the stone-arched parish church, typical of the medieval air that swathes Monteriggioni. Even if wine may be on your mind, look out for signs of water. The abundance of wells and fountains in the tiny town squares reminds us of the importance of water during sieges.

    Address: Monteriggioni tourist office
    Piazza Roma 23
    Tel: 0577 304834

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