Tuscany is one of the richest regions in medieval villages: many cities and small towns that deserve to be visited for their history, their monuments and their typical products! With this article we want to tell you about five medieval villages to visit in Tuscany that are easily accessible from San Miniato.
San Gimignano is located in the province of Siena and is one of the most beautiful and well-known medieval villages in Tuscany. With its 14 towers that mark its characteristic profile, it was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1990. Like most Tuscan cities, its territory was already inhabited in Etruscan times thanks to its strategic position overlooking the high Val d’Elsa area and near to the historical centre there are the remains of a Lombard village called Castelvecchio.
San Gimignano was located on a route of the Via Francigena and its name, Sce Gemiane, is reported by the bishop Sigerico on his journey from Rome to England: although the direction of the Via Francigena was then changed, the village continued to be an important centre in continuous expansion, both political and commercial.
During the thirteenth century the city boasted an important economic position and all this allowed the creation of an urban center of excellence that expressed its financial supremacy thanks to the construction of tower houses: in the fourteenth century there were about 72. For the particular feature of its historic center the medieval village is considered one of the best examples in Europe of urban organization of the municipal age.
Although over the centuries San Gimignano having to face many problems, such as internal struggles and diseases that decimated the population, in the city there was the presence of numerous Sienese and Florentine artists who embellished churches, monasteries and houses, giving us today some of the most famous artworks in Tuscany.
Today it’s one of the most visited Tuscany medieval villages by tourists from all over the world who come to admire its monuments, among which the Cathedral of San Gimignano and the church of Sant’Agostino, the Town Hall, Piazza della Cisterna and the characteristic alleys that distinguish it, and then stop to buy typical products such as Vernaccia di San Gimignano or Saffron.
Another famous Tuscany medieval village is certainly Volterra, a wonderful Etruscan town in the province of Pisa. The historic center still contains historical finds of significant importance such as the Porta all’Arco, Porta Diana, most of the ancient walls and the acropolis of Etruscan origin, Roman ruins that include a theater and medieval monuments such as the Cathedral, the Medici Fortress and the Palazzo dei Priori.
The Volterra area was already inhabited during the early Iron Age and subsequently became one of the twelve main cities of the Etruscan confederation, which led to the construction of large defensive walls (about 7300 meters) which can still be admired today.
Subsequently its events were intertwined with those of the Roman Empire, but after the dark period caused by the end of the latter, the city had a remarkable revival, obtaining the seat of diocese and episcopal power. With the advent of the municipalities, there was the construction of the Palazzo dei Priori (the oldest municipal building in Tuscany), of numerous tower houses and medieval walls still in existence.
During the Renaissance period Volterra was at the center of numerous battles to gain independence from the city of Florence, which however was definitively lost in 1472 with its total submission. In the centuries the medieval village followed the events related to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
To date the medieval village of Volterra is known for its beautiful historical finds and its monuments that make it a wonderful historical center full of history, where tourists also follow one another to buy wonderful alabaster objects!
Better known for being the birthplace of the famous writer and poet Boccaccio and for the Mercantia festival, Certaldo is a small medieval village in the province of Florence.
Like most of the Tuscan villages, it has deep Etruscan-Roman origins, as reported by the many archaeological finds scattered throughout the surrounding area such as tombs, tools and ceramics.
The first news of the village, however, is around 1164 when Certaldo is mentioned in a document by the emperor Federico Barbarossa and the first settlements are to be attributed to the period of the early Middle Ages, when the Mastio (the main tower of the medieval village) was built: from here the Via Francigena was controlled and today is incorporated in the beautiful Palazzo Pretorio.
Certaldo subsequently linked to the Florentine events as happened to most of the Tuscany medieval villages.
To date, its characteristic appearance attracts many visitors, who strolling through its characteristic alleys, visit its monuments, stopping in the many small coffee bar and restaurants that overlook the small streets.
Cerreto guidi is a small medieval village located in the province of Florence and close to the main centers such as San Miniato, Vinci and Empoli.
It has medieval origins as it had an excellent dominant position and at the beginning it was called Cerreto in Greti: the current name derives from the fact that the feudal family of the Counts Guidi had took the power over the city until it was ceded to Florence to settle the debts by Count Guido Salvatico. Despite this, it kept its name and was equipped with a city wall that is no longer visible today, except in some parts of the district.
Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first Grand Duke in history, had a sumptuous Villa built which became a princely holiday resort, but also was used for the administration of the annuities of the great landed properties that the Grand Duke possessed and as a resting place during journeys between Florence and Pisa or Livorno. Thanks to this, the importance of Cerreto was strengthened as it became a real Florentine cultural outpost.
Many tourists decide to spend a few hours in its alleys and visit the beautiful Medici Villa and other buildings, but it’s during the Christmas period that Cerreto has its maximum splendor: in those days it is possible to take a walk in the historical center and admire the “Via dei Presepi”, small and large works of art created by citizens that every year attracts many visitors from Tuscany.
In Tuscany, on the slopes of Monte Albano, there is a small medieval village called Vinci, famous for being the birthplace of the famous genius Leonardo da Vinci.
The village developed in the medieval period around the Castle of Guidi Counts (a noble family who dominated for a long time in Tuscany) which was subsequently ceded to the Florentine domain to repay the gambling debts of a family member.
In the historic center, which seen from above resembles a large ship with two main masts, we can find the Leonardian Museum divided into two locations (Palazzina Uzielli and Torre dei Conti Guidi), the church of Santa Croce where Leonardo da Vinci was baptized, the Leonardo library, a beautiful square overlooking the surrounding landscape and a large wooden reproduction of the Vitruvian man.
Above the hills of Vinci it’s possible to reach, both by car and by walking a beautiful panoramic road called “Green Road”, the locality of Anchiano, where Leonardo’s birthplace is located and where you can relax at the shade of the its olive groves!