Back to Top
Tourism in Certaldo
Blog
Tourism in Certaldo

Certaldo with its medieval Certaldo Alto is a town in the Val d'Elsa, in the center of Tuscany, in the province of Florence. It's a town rich in culture and unique museum sacred and profane art.

"Certaldo, as you may have heard of, is a castle of Val d'Elsa place in our countryside, which, although small, is already inhabited by noble and wealthy men" (sic)

(G. Boccaccio - Decameron VI, 10)

 

History

The 'Certaldo'  derives from the Latin "altus Cerretum" although other sources attribute this to the Germanic "cerrus aldo". The two names are, however, refer to a hill covered with oaks, a variety of oak is very common in this part of Tuscany.

Certaldo is situated on a hill in Val d 'Elsa, in the heart of Tuscany, between Florence and Siena and is surrounded by hills covered with vineyards, olive groves and rows of cypress trees.

Certaldo is divided into a lower part that developed from the eighteenth century, and from an ancient part, called the Castle. This is the part where  time has stood still.

The Castle of Certaldo looks like a fortified town surrounded by a wall, on which there are the ancient doors to enter with the names Porta Alberti, the Porta del Sole and the Porta al Rivellino. The "Rivellino" door with its imposing defense walls surroud the castle and  dominate the valley below with the street of  Via Francigena. The village is completely built of pink brick which give it a special atmosphere, a rare example of medieval architecture in Tuscany with hints of the Renaissance.

You can access the Castle of Certaldo passing through the charming old streets as the Costa Alberti and Costa Vecchia, or through the modern Via del Castello or taking the cable car from Piazza Boccaccio.

Certaldo is mentioned for the first time in a document dated 1164 when the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa granted the "Castrum Certaldi" and its territory to the Alberti Counts, who exercised their rule until the end of 1200. With its important strategic position, the village immediately was in the sights of  Florence. In 1260 Siena (Ghibellines) defeats Florence (Guelph) in the battle of Montaperti and Certaldo was ransacked. In 1292 the village fell under the direct rule of Florence, closing the era of the Alberti. The Palace of the Counts Alberti became the new home of the Vicar, to which justice and finace was administered.

The 1300 is the century of renowned writer and poet Giovanni Boccaccio, famous for 'Decameron', a collection of one hundred stories written in Italian vernacular. One of the stories, 'Fra Cipolla', is set in Certaldo.

The City of Certaldo has dedicated a statue to this great writer, placed in the square of the village below).

The village is famous for the production of the  "Red Onion of Certaldo" (DOP) a symbol present in the municipal coat of arms.

Between 1600 and 1700 the lower part of Certaldo began to develop and created numerous workshops. Whilst developing your new town, decay due to neglect creeped in the old town the the vicars control was lost.

1800 sees the final transfer of all administrative offices and parish control to the lower part of Certaldo, leaving Certaldo Alta as a simple historical reference.

 

Arts & Culture

Certaldo Alta is a unique town-museum. The village remained,  as if by magic, in the Middle Ages. You can admire the magnificent façade of the Praetorian Palace full of coats of arms, its prisons and beautiful frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli and Pier Francesco Fiorentino, The Lodge, the house of Giovanni Boccaccio, the splendid church of Saints Tommaso e Prospero (now deconsecrated), the palace Machiavelli with its tower, palaces Stiozzi Ridolfi and Giannozzi, the beautiful Via Boccaccio with the Augustinian monastery which includes the Church of Saints Jacopo and Filippo, in which lies the remains of the Blessed Giulia della Rena, still worshipped by the country and the ancient tomb of Giovanni Boccaccio and the convent with its garden and very special underground.

Its Interesting to visit the Museum of Sacred Art, inside the convent of the Augustinians. This, along with the Praetorian Palace and Boccaccio's House form the museum center of Certaldo. The museum is divided into seven different rooms that house the art gallery, jewelry, vestments, sculptures, paintings and other interesting objects and works concerning the life and religious activities of Certaldo in different historical periods.

Throughout the year, Certaldo Alta is home to permanent and seasonal exhibitions and artistic and cultural events, such as the famous Mercantia (International festival of street theater). In addition, visitors will find craft shops, traditional restaurants and small hotels of great charm by which you can enjoy views of incomparable beauty of the Tuscan countryside.

 

Places it's twinned with

The Tuscan town is twinned with Canterbury (England), Neuruppin (Germany), Kanramachi (Japan), Hagunia (Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic), Chinon (France), Sighetu Marmatiei (Romania), and Ripatransone Cossignano ( Marche region), Democratic Republic of Senegal.

 

The Legend

Certado Alta holds many legends, told by local elders who have lived most of their lives in Certaldo, witnessed firsthand hoeevr only disclosed verbally by protagonists and their ancestors.

In fact, according to some people, in the basement of Certaldo Alto there are a underground tunnels that run along the entire perimeter of the village and beyond, up to a hill just beyond the medieval village called "Poggio del Boccaccio".

The origin of these tunnels dug by hand would be very ancient, probably around the year 1000 and still contain many priceless objects such as furniture, garments, armor, everyday objects, books and even some personal effects of the poet Boccaccio.

According to the supporters of such theories, there are multiple access points situated in various locations in the village: water wells of some private homes, trapdoors hidden in basements, small openings in the ground and a sort of secret passage in Praetorian Palace.

The legend, or rather the stories told by the elderly, tell of theri youth and when they entered the tunnels had to turn back due to the lack of oxygen.

Some of the tunnels, its is said, lead to  "Poggio del Boccaccio"...Which is another mystery...as the hill adjacent to Certaldo Alto is very unusual. To the naked eye, you notice the strange pyramid shape thats very well defined and rises exactly at the same inclination on both sides. Even the top of the hill is strange: perfectly flat! It appears that it is not a natural hill but its hiding a very ancient pyramid which then over time it is slowly covered with soil and grass.

Mystery within the mystery...