A day at Monteriggioni on the Via Francigena

The beautiful medieval walled town of Monteriggioni, located on a natural knoll, is among one of the best preserved in all of Italy. Every year it not only attracts tourists but also medieval archaeologists and historians, as well as architects. The approximately circular walls, nearly 570 metres long, follow the natural contour of the hill and were built between 1213 and 1219. They are interrupted by two gates, Porta Fiorentina, facing Florence to the North, Porta Romana, opening towards Rome to the South, and 14 towers. A main street connects the two gates in a roughly straight line.

Entering through Porta Roma, originally provided with a heavy gate that was lowered in case of danger, one arrives in Piazza Roma, the main square and heart of the village which is dominated by the Romanesque church of Santa Maria Assunta. To date, the square is surrounded by gardens and orchards, which in the past were very important for the survival of the population in case of siege. In the local museum there is a collection of medieval and Renaissance arms and armours, faithful reproductions, of which some can be touched, handled, weighed and even worn. Furthermore, it is also possible to walk along two sections of the ancient battlements, from which one can enjoy wonderful views over Chianti and Montagnola Senese.

The town was originally built by the Republic of Siena for a defensive purpose since the position dominated and watched over the Via Francigena in the direction of Florence, historic rival of Siena. The Via Francigena, ancient road between Rome and Canterbury, was very important during the Middle Ages for merchant and travellers, as well as being the major pilgrimage route. In the stretch between San Gimignano and Siena, the Via Francigena crosses the territory of Monteriggioni, where one of the oldest stopping stations still exists today: the abbey of Abbadia Isola.

In recent years Monteriggioni’s municipal administration has embarked in the improvement of the Via Francigena as itinerary of both historic and cultural interest. In this part of the territory most of the route unfolds through fields and woods, passing in front of ancient castles , abbeys and tiny hamlets. The best way to appreciate it is to follow the path on foot, following the pilgrim’s footsteps who, like a thousand years ago, still today walk until Rome to venerate the tomb of St. Peter.

On the first of April, and again on the 15th, 25th, as well as May 1st, 13th and 20th, Monteriggioni invites visitors to an entertaining walk along the Via Francigena in the company of reenactors. The abbot of Abbadia Isola will start this journey into the past opening the doors of his magnificent monastery, a casket of art and history linked to the Via Francigena since its beginnings. Then a pilgrim, who will narrate his adventures along the road to Rome,  will accompany visitors to Monteriggioni, along a stretch of Via Francigena full of fascinating and breathtaking views. At the castle of Monteriggioni the company will be proudly received by the captain of the garrison, where a revival of the emotions of guarding the walls and the investiture of a knight will be attended.

Certainly a very interesting way of spending one’s Sunday.

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