The village of Monteriggioni, not far from Siena, is one of the most beautiful fortified villages of Italy. His fame is such that each year 90,000 people choose to make a stop here. The Sienese built it at the beginning of 1200 along the Via Francigena as an extreme defense to the attacks of the ancient enemy Florence, and in fact its walls turned out to be a great bulwark of the Republic of Siena.
Monteriggioni in 1554 fell by treachery because the head of the garrison, Captain John Zeti, agreed secretly with the Florentines, surrendering the fort to the Florentine army without fighting, in exchange for the safety of his family and military honors. The betrayal was so sensational that a legend says that there is a secret tunnel, starting from the well of Piazza Roma ending in Siena, and that in this very long tunnel the spirit of the captain, worn down by remorse for the unforgivable betrayal, is still wandering in search of peace. The same inhabitants say that on full moon nights you can hear some horses trotting and the Captain Zeti’s complaints.
Even today, the hamlet appears in the shape of a crown, with the 14 towers dotting the walls, in all its majesty. It is no coincidence that the great Dante Alighieri mentions it in the Divine Comedy
per che come in su la cerchia tonda
Monteriggioni di torri si corona,
cos [‘n] la proda che ‘l pozzo circonda
torreggiavan di mezza la persona
li orribili giganti, cui minaccia
Giove del cielo ancora quando tona
(Dante – Inferno canto XXXI, 40-45)
Entering from the medieval gate, you reach the large Piazza Roma where you can find the Romanesque church of Santa Maria Assunta, the museum of medieval armor (a small, but nice museum offering the possibility of a rare experience: touching, weighing, wielding weapons and wearing armor) and the tourist office. On the square there are also restaurants offering local cuisine, shops of local products and handicrafts.
The best way to look at a single glance the whole Monteriggioni, is walking along the medieval walls surrounding the city: you can get on some parts of the walls and walk the perimeter of 570 meters.
From the top of the defensive walls you can admire the lovely surrounding countryside towards Chianti and the Val d’Elsa and enjoy an unusual view of the town.
Not to be missed if you are in the neighborhood of this small village in the first half of July, “Monteriggioni di torri si corona “: one of the most important medieval feasts in Italy and abroad. On those days it seem to go back in time, in mid-1200. For the occasion, the residents dress in period costumes and interpret a character. In the castle you can admire some medieval factories or laboratories, such as a mint coins, the water mill or the shop where they produced the paper.
Another peculiarity of these place: from July to September, the Italian Academy of the High Flight Knights revives the prestigious art of falconry, demonstrating the ancient techniques of flying and hunting with splendid specimens of birds of prey. The show takes place on the southern walkway of the walls.
Moreover the lovers of trekking, mountain biking and horseback riding can find the itineraries of Montagnola Senese, a hilly area in the south-west of the city of Monteriggioni, which reaches its highest point with 671 meters of Monte Maggio, very ineresting.
The must of the area is primarily the nature, characterized as it is by a forest of oaks, holm oaks, hornbeam and chestnut, inhabited by the typical fauna of wild boars, porcupines and foxes.
Along some paths opening on breathtaking views, do not fail to impress some natural caves and stone quarries, among which are those of the precious “giallo Siena” marble.
Between San Gimignano and Siena, the Via Francigena crossed also the territory of Monteriggioni, where it still survives one of the oldest stations stop the road had: the Abbey of Abbadia Isola. Abbadia Isola is a small, attractive medieval village that is at just 4 km from Monteriggioni on the road to Colle Val d’Elsa. The place still retains its medieval charm with the eleventh century lombard style church dedicated to St.Cirino.
And finally, a culinary curiosity: the Cinta Senese, an extraordinary ham, delicious to the palate, that, if accompanied by slices of Tuscan bread (free of salt), allows us to capture the flavor of the ham in all its goodness. The Cinta Senese is a typical pig of this area, pink and black, and has its origin in the so-called Montagnola Senese, and it seems to have been raised in the wild since the time of the Etruscans. Today the Etruscan tradition continues and the Cinta Senese ham, after aging for at least twelve months, strictly hanging on wooden scaffolding, seasoning of Montagnola air, reaches the tables of the surrounding restaurants to delight the palate of all those gourmets who, like us, have get to Monteriggioni …