During our travels in Tuscany, in particular on the roads between Siena and Florence, we passed innumerable ancient hilltop towns; some we have explored and others we have never found the time to visit. During a recent visit one in particular caught our attention and we decided to stop on our way back to Siena.
Tuscany is known all over the world for it's scenic beauty, architecture, history and countless photo opportunities. I can't tell you how many times in our travels on those curvy, narrow roads my husband, unannounced and with great gusto, would swerve off onto the shoulder, usually a narrow crumbling embankment, to take yet another picture to add to his collection. Wether it was an amazing natural vista, a stunning town, silver leafed olive trees or simply sheep grazing under a lonely stand of cypress trees, he never tired of capturing this tranquil beauty.
So I wasn't the least bit surprised when, nearly giving me whiplash and barely avoiding his fathers car up our rear end, he had to take the obligatory picture upon sighting Monteriggioni in the distance. The town on the hill in front of us was heavily fortified by a massive wall with many towers. Our curiosity was sparked and we decided to take a closer look.
Montiriggioni, which is built on a natural hillock, about 15km outside of Siena, was constructed by the Sienese in 1213 as a frontline in their continuous wars against Florence. This walled garrison town assumed command of the road connecting the Val'd Elsa in the east to the Val Staggia region to the west. The city withstood many attacks and only in 1554 did the town hand over the keys of the city to the Florentine Medicis, which was seen as a great betrayal by the townsfolk.
The town appears to float over the valley and, from many perspectives, sits solitary among the hills. The huge wall follows the natural contours of the hill and sports fourteen towers, set eqidistant and two gates at opposite ends of the town. We entered the town through the Porta Fiorentina and were transported to medieval times. The road from the Porta leads to the Piazza Roma. The piazza is domianted by a romanesque church and surrounded by Renaissance era homes, many of which where formerly owned by rich merchants or nobility and now house shops, cafes and restaurants.
Exploring the side roads we discoverd quaint homes and gardens. I personally remember one in particular, which stood at the end of the Piazza Roma. A low stone building with robins-egg blue wooden shutters, flower boxes below each windowsill and a bench to rest on under the canopy of an old majestic chestnut tree. Upon closer inspection I realized the hedge in front of that little gem was actually rosemary... Yes the herb. A whole hedge of it, imagine my surprise. Reading about the town later on I Iearned that there were public gardens shared by the towns people that were vital to their survival in times of siege.
We had a wonderful pranzo e vino at one of the small trattoria just off of the piazza and found some cute little shops, where my mother-in law purchased some treasures to take home.
Monteriggioni is one formidable, yet charming Tuscan hilltown that has earned a spot on ourBella Toscana tour.