The historic center of San Miniato develops on the crest of a hill along which cobbled streets runs, enclosed between historic buildings that follow one another without interruption, or almost.
Among those buildings there are, in fact, “slides” that gives access to paths that surround the town. These are the so-called Charcoal Alleys, places full of charm and custodians of a long history.
The charcoal burners are already described in the ancient municipal statutes of 1337 with precise indications of how one should take care of them.
It’s natural to ask why they were so important in the Middle Ages.
The answer is simple: the charcoal burners were ditches located at the base of the walls of the ancient castle and were burned, hence the name, to keep enemies away in case of siege. It was a defense system.
Over the centuries, of course, their original function has failed, simply transforming them into a public path that goes around the city, marking its border with the surrounding countryside. Until the middle of the last century, the Charcoal Alleys of San Miniato were used as shortcuts and all the terraced gardens behind the buildings had pedestrian access. Unfortunately, with the spread of cars they have been gradually abandoned, often becoming a place of unloading of waste of all kinds.
The Charcoal Alleys Association
In 2010 the association “Moti Carbonari – Ritrovare la strada” was born and in these ten years, thanks to the work of willing citizens, has recovered a long stretch of the charcoal alley, cleaning it from the weed bushes, debris and still providing for its maintenance.
This “biscondola” section, that is facing south, exposed to the sun and protected by the north wind, has become an extraordinary place for a pleasant walk of about eight hundred meters, where you can admire the remarkable panorama of the rolling hills and enjoy all year round of a pleasant microclimate.
The accesses currently available are the one from the Loggiati di San Domenico, through the gate located near the municipal library, and the one from via Carducci, located near the Church of “Nunziatina”.
Events among the Charcoal Alleys
During the year, the Charcoal Alleys of San Miniato also become an ideal place for popular events such as the World Day of Poetry (March 21) and the World Day Against Violence Against Women (November 25). In addition, extraordinary events are scheduled for 2020 to celebrate the association’s tenth anniversary.