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Monteriggioni, the almost impregnable village

Posted by GLflorence on November 7, 2019

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Monteriggioni is a tiny village situated on a hill in Siena’s area. You may think it’s just one out of the many fortified villages in Tuscany, but the story of Monteriggioni is different and legendary. Fundamental during the Middle Ages for its proximity to the Via Francigena, the village was also mentioned by Dante in his Inferno and contains legends and stories which gives it a fascinating air of mystery. 

Dante and the giants protecting the village

Monteriggioni was considered in the past an impregnable fortress. The walls around it, indeed, were crowned by towers and surrounded by many coal-cellars ready to be fired up in case of invasion. Dante didn't lose the chance to mention it in his Divine Comedy, comparing the walls and towers around Monteriggioni to giants inside the well of the final part of Hell:

« però che, come in su la cerchia tonda
Monteriggion di torri si corona,
così la proda che ‘l pozzo circonda
torregiavan di mezza la persona
li orribili giganti, cui minaccia
Giove del cielo ancora quando tona »
(Dante Alighieri, Inferno canto XXXI, vv. 40-45)

The poet was not wrong, since the village resisted many attacks by the Florentines, such as the one in 1526 by pope Clemente VII and, some years later, the ones by Marquis Marignano, who ordered to intensify the attacks over the borgo.

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Corruption and traitors  

Florence's army managed to enter Monteriggioni only in 1554 and the victory was not due to the ability of its military forces. Captain Giovanni Zeti, indeed, betrayed Siena’s army and opened the gates to the Florentines, who promised him to save his life and gave him the protection by Cosimo I. Zeti gave in this way Monteriggioni's keys and the Medici managed to conquer this almost impregnable town. The citizens were conducted to Florence as slaves and Siena itself surrendered. Legend says that after this episode of corruption the walls of Monteriggioni became a prison in which the soul of the Captain is still wandering, trying to find the forgiveness he will never obtain. Following the inhabitants statements, there may be a secret tunnel that starts from Piazza Roma’s well and ends up in Siena: the soul of the Captain would be roving in this gallery looking for peace and redemption. They also states that you can hear the horses trot and Zeti’s complaints during the night. It is actually probable that a secret tunnel was indeed constructed, but with a specific purpose: it was used to bring goods and to guarantee water supply to Siena.

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Today’s Monteriggioni

Got scared from the legend? Don’t worry, today’s village is not a war scenery anymore. It is possible for visitors to take a short walk on the walls of the town to enjoy the view from the top. The borgo is also home of a number of craft shops and workshops, mostly located within the castle walls itself. Take a stroll along the alleys to watch as artisans create unique articles of clothing on hand-looms and buy a special memory directly from the workshop. You can also find hand-knitted accessories, hand-made jewelry and delicate hand-painted ceramics showing motifs and landscapes typical of Tuscany. Last but not least, there’s an old carpenter shop and an important stained glass workshop in Badesse which was also responsible for producing the copy of the stained glass window by Duccio di Buoninsegna for Siena’s Cathedral. Monteriggioni has also been the setting of Assassin's Creed! Walk till the castle and visit the place where the magnificent feats of Ezio Auditore has been set. 

If you want to visit Monteriggioni you can join our Tour, which also stops in Siena and San Gimignano. Our day trip includes a typical Tuscan lunch and a wine tasting in Chianti too! Don't lose the chance to visit the heart of Tuscany in just one day!

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