Val d'Elsa is located in the heart of Tuscany, in a strategic position near the cities of Siena, Florence and Volterra.
Val d'Elsa is located in the heart of Tuscany, in a strategic position near the cities of Siena, Florence and Volterra
The strategic importance of the Val d'Elsa lies in its paths and roads. It is both the passageway to the sea and a sacred path, an artery that brings “the Tuscan touch” from Florence to Siena. Its development was due to the Via Francigena and its propensity towards a sustainable economy is thanks to its wine and olive oil production, as well as crystal, mechanics, paper, electronics, ceramic and furniture production.
While the valley's reserved nature has saved it from mass tourism, it is a wonderful place to truly encounter Tuscany. It has all of the Tuscan characteristics including art, good food, great wine and its picturesque landscape. Machiavelli lived near here. Three towns that best describe the area's distinctiveness San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Colle. The Val d'Elsa is a living history book whose pages you can flip by talking with its people, enjoying its flavors, tastes and gorgeous landscapes. There are two place—Casole and Radicondoli—where this space-time contact is most perceptible, perhaps because they are less architecturally imposing:.
To understand this area, one needs an archeologist's spade, the lens of an anthropologist, a historian's notebook, the art historian's camera, the tastebuds of a gormet chef, the statistics of a sociologist, a psychologist's introspection and the economist's calculator.
The six gems
Hardly, in another part of Italy, history is present as in Val d'Elsa: not only for the architecture that resists intact in at least three conspicuous places: San Gimignano, Monteriggioni and Colle. In Val d'Elsa history is a living book, where flipping its pages is to chat with people, to smell its perfumes, is to enchante with its landscapes.
There are two places where this space-time backwards contact is more noticeable because they are perhaps less striking architecture: Casole and Radicondoli which still preserve the natural rhythm of the countryside. They have walls and "chiassi", Roman villas and rural houses, they have an inner metronome that is the rhythm of tradition.
Then remains Poggibonsi where the history plays "hide and seek" because this is, among the Valdense city, the one that probably has the most ancient and complex story.
It would take the spade of the archaeologist, the lens of the anthropologist, the historian's notebook, the camera of the art historian, and again the taste of the gourmet, the statistics of the sociologist, the insights of psychology and tables of the economist to fully understand the numerous souls. However, we suggest a tool above all: the human willingness to be permeated.
The Val d'Elsa is also a zone of "walled lands"; near Poggibonsi is visible the Cassero, an imposing fortress built in the fourteenth century, which is the only architectural element of the city of medieval origin.
Monteriggioni is also a fascinating example of walls still standing a crown; built between 1212 and 1219, it represents an attempt to place control of the Sienese fortress Francigena to counter the continued expansion of Florence.
Monteriggioni is also the crown that encircled the head of Italy of the outdated 100 Lire coin.