Monteriggioni: Tuscany's Fortress in the Sky
Most visitors to the Tuscany region of Italy will instinctively gravitate to the beautiful communities of San Gimignano and Siena. If you are traveling the road between these two tuscan gems you may have seen this fortress like village perched perfectly on a hill just off of the Via Cassia Nord (SR2). Located approximately fifteen kilometers to the northwest of Siena this quaint medieval community is often bypassed and overlooked as visitors rush to Siena and San Gimignano.
On my first visit to Tuscany we did as most others often do. We looked, we saw, and we keep on driving on our way to Siena. We did however; take note of what we thought must surely be a fortress perfectly preserved and situated to keep a watchful eye over the surrounding terrain.
- Driving in Italy ~ What You Need to Know
We’ve all heard the horror stories about driving in Italy. The aggressive drivers, the narrow winding roads, and of course the confusing traffic signs that are only compounded by the language barrier. Well, it doesn't have to be this difficult.
Amazingly, one year later we found ourselves on the very same road and this time we made the right decision to exit and head on up the hill to see for ourselves.
Visiting Monteriggioni is a very different experience from visiting some it’s more touristy sister communities. Instead of searching for parking and fighting the crowds one only needs to pull into the dirt parking lot and follow the path up to one of the two entrances that take you into this fortress.
Fortress Wall and Tower
Upon entering the walls of Monteriggioni one cannot help but be in awe of the fourteen towers that grace this extremely well preserved fortress. Built in the early thirteenth century, these walls have withstood hundred of year’s of war and the elements.
The exterior walls of Monteriggioni along with its buildings are considered to be some of the best preserved in all of Italy and draw architects and historians to this peaceful community. The somewhat circular wall follows the natural shape of the landscape and measures 570 meters in length. Visitors can climb atop the wall in a couple of places for a dramatic view of the surrounding tuscan countryside and the interior of the village.
Once inside Monteriggioni you will immediately notice its simplicity. There is but one main road that connects the two gateways; Porta Romea (also known as Porta Franca) and Porta San Giovanni.
The main square is Piazza Roma and here sits the Church of Santa Maria. This Romanesque church dates back to the 13th century and dominates the Piazza Roma. There is also a small museum here in the main square that features various armor and arms from Monteriggioni’s rich history. For a unique experience try on some of the armor and feel what it was like to be a knight in shining armor.
Church of Santa Maria
- Common Italian Words and Phrases for Travelers
When traveling in Italy it can be a frustrating experience not knowing the language. For most of us learning a new language, while it sounds like a great idea, is just not practical.
There are really no other big attractions here in Monteriggioni, but that is part of its charm and attraction. There are a number of restaurants, wine shops and wine tasting rooms here that make for a great stroll around the Piazza Roma. Probably the best thing one can do here after sampling the local wine is to find a nice cool shady spot and blend in with the locals. All it will take is a few well placed Italian phrases and before you know it you’ll be conversing with the residents and who knows where that will take you.
If you’re looking for a break from the crowds that frequent some of the other more popular tuscan villages why not plan on spending a few hours off the beaten path in Monteriggioni. It’s rich history and beautifully preserved fortress wall and buildings will help you to visualize exactly how things must have been centuries ago.
Ciao for now.
© 2012 Bill De Giulio