Barberino Val D'elsa
A winding hilly road, once the ancient Via Cassia and now State road n° 2, leads up to the town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, situated high up above the valley.
Discover Barberino Val d'Elsa
A winding hilly road, once the ancient Via Cassia and now State road n° 2, leads up to the town of Barberino Val d’Elsa, situated high up above the valley from which it takes its name and halfway between Florence and Siena, on the north-western borders of the Chianti area.
Looking at the fortified town walls surrounding the medieval heart of the town, we can easily imagine what the pilgrims or merchants would have found before them about six centuries ago when they arrived here on horseback or by mule on their way to Rome.
In Piazza Barberi we can find Palazzo Pretorio, decorated with the noble coats of arms of the Podestas or Magistrates and the apse of the Church of San Bartolomeo. Inside the church we can admire a fragment of an Annunciation by the school of Giotto (14th-15th century) and a bust in bronze by Pietro Tacca.
From the square, a long street - Via Francesco da Barberino – leads from the right down to the 14th century Porta Senese (Sienese Gate), and, from the left, towards the Ospedale dei Pellegrini (Pilgrims' Hospice) dating from 1365. Further down the hill and outside the walls, we can find the Town Hall with its Council Chamber frescoed by artist Marco Borgianni with elements recalling the landscape, history and culture of the town and its district.
Our exploration of the suggestive past and art of this area continues outside the town walls and gates. The entire district is in fact rich in tiny villages, parish churches and castles scattered here and there in the midst of the Tuscan countryside. Don't miss the very old Parish Church of Sant'Appiano, in stone (11th century) and brick (12th century), whose attached Antiquarium Museum contains various Etruscan finds and ceramics that come from the many necropoli in the area; the village of Linari, the romantic Castle of Poppiano at Vico d’Elsa and Petrognano.
The Chapel of San Michele Arcangelo is particularly interesting. Built in 1597 by Santi di Tito, it is a perfect 1:8 scale reproduction of the Cupola or Dome of the Cathedral of Florence. It was constructed on the site of the ancient city of Semifonte, completely razed to the ground by the Florentines in 1202. A most important factor in this area is the great care taken to ensure the quality of the environment.
Discovering Barberino Val d'Elsa
Entering the borough through the lower gate, to the left we find a noble palazzo: it is known as the Cardinal’s Palazzo and on its entrance door there is a coat of arms with bees, that is, the one of the Barberini, Pope Urban VIII’s powerful family. Inside there is a picturesque courtyard with a round well and a representation court: To the right of the door there is another fourteenth-century palazzo erected on the eastern walls and now turned into a farm. Proceeding along the main road, on the right we encounter the beautiful Palazzo Pretorio, now the provostship of San Bartolomeo, with a renaissance facade adorned with noble coats of arms belonging to the Magistrates up to the XV century.
The thirty-five coats of arms on the facade belong to the most important families of Florence and are mostly made of grey stone. On the opposite side of the square there is a building with a loggia that had the typical function of communal loggias as public area for representation, meetings or even covered markets. The provostship of Barberino underwent remarkable changes in the course of centuries until it was radically transformed in 1910 by the Florentine architect Castellucci, who also changed the orientation of the facade from the main square to the valley. An interesting remain of the old church is the cross, sculpted and enclosed in a sphere of the architrave external to the main door. Inside one can admire a few fragments of frescos dated XIV-XV century, a bust in bronze of the Blessed Davanzato as well as his mortal remains. Near the Florentine gate we find the Pilgrim’s Hospice in which there are some frescos and a tombstone. Recently restored, the building now houses the rooms of the Municipal Library. A statue has recently been placed in the square in front of the Town Hall, in commemoration of the fourteenth-century writer Francesco da Barberino to whom our town owes its existence, by the German sculptor Quirin Roth.
Routes in Elsa Valley
The picturesque castle of Tignano stands on a small and isolated hill (334 m.) directly facing Barberino, with an extensive view that takes in the Elsa Valley and the narrow Drove valley. It is perhaps the finest example of a walled village in the Elsa Valley. Its circular castle-like structure with a central square is particularly original. A steep slope leads up to the Florentine gate of the castle, further defended by a squat and square block of the Keep.
Tower House in Upper Tignano
This tower house was once part of the ring of defensive walls around the village.
Church of San Romolo
Originally built on a square plan in Romanesque style, this church was notably altered and restructured in the 20th century.
Oratory of Sant’Anna
Sixteenth century oratory situated inside the castle walls of Tignano. The interior, on a rectangular plan, has a trussed wooden roof.
The tabernacle of Tignano
This tabernacle, built in a niche in a raised wall, can be found on the road that descends from Tignano to Uliveto and is in perfect harmony with the surrounding landscape.
It stands in a wonderful position right in the midst of the countryside, sprawled along the ridge-like hill that acts as a watershed between the Elsa and Pesa Valleys. The village boasts many unusual and unexpected architectural elements, such as old round arches, as well as fine houses in stone with aristocratic entrances. The pentagonal shaped square is extremely interesting. Marcialla is famous in particular for its climate, thanks to its hilltop position, about 400 metres above sea level, and gives on to splendid views over all the surrounding countryside.
Church of San Lorenzo at Vigliano
Various elements within the church date from the 10th-12th century. The building itself, constructed with rows of stone, is designed on a single nave with an apse. It was enlarged and restored in 1928.
Church of Santa Maria
The original structure of the building dates back to the 12th century, even though various alterations were carried out during the 16th century. The interior contains some very interesting 16th century paintings.
The palace, with the characteristics of an urban villa, has an eighteenth century facade with Spanish influences. It contains a beautiful room with a vaulted Gothic ceiling lined with bricks set edgewise.
Villa San Lorenzo at Vigliano
Originally a convent known as San Lorenzo alle Grotte, the villa contains a small chapel.
The village of Petrognano sprawls along the green hills cultivated with vineyards that lie on either side of the road leading from Barberino to Certaldo. The tiny hamlet is made up of a series of ancient houses, scattered haphazardly around the Villa Capponi; in actual fact these buildings with their medieval towers resemble city houses more than country cottages, in spite of being deep in the countryside. This is because Petrognano was once a village attached to a city that has long disappeared: Semifonte.
The village of Petrognano
The small hamlet is formed of a cluster of houses built alongside the road, many of which also possess the vestiges of 13th and 14th century towers and elements from a castle.
Chapel of San Pietro
Originally a small church, the chapel contained several paintings, which, for the moment, have been transferred to the Church of San Donnino in the borough of Certaldo.
The Montigliano SS. Annunziata Tower House
A tower house in rural architecture possessing important elements that date from the 12th - 15th centuries. Enlarged several times over the years, it presents important and distinctive typological elements.
The Morello Tower House
A tower house with outbuildings dating from the 13th century, traditionally believed to having been part of the outer perimeter of Semifonte.
Archaeological remains at Petrognano
Remains dating from the Etruscan-Hellenistic and Imperial Roman periods were discovered between 1967 and 1968 after excavations were carried out by the Board of Archaeology of Florence.
Semifonte no longer exists today, for it was razed to the ground by the Florentines, Dante's fellow citizens, in 1202. It possessed as many as four gates and a central keep with an octagonal tower. The cupola of San Donnino, the only building standing on the site today, was constructed four centuries later to commemorate those tragic events.
Small town of medieval origin situated in a strategic position on a low hill above the Via rancigena (Road to France) and in the vicinity of the bridge of San Galgano, which goes past Semifonte to ink the Volterra road to Florence. This ancient walled castle and town has retained its original oblong design with two central squares and two parallel streets that meet up near the two gates, which no longer exist today.
The Brancadoro - Majnoni - Guicciardini Chapel
Situated inside the Villa Guicciardini, this small chapel is characteristic for its harmonious geometric forms and for the splendid frescoes by Giovanni da San Giovanni.
Chapel of San Michele
The Chapel, the property of the Guicciardini family, is built with elegantly worked rows of stone in ypical Renaissance style, with a single nave without any decorative elements of note. A coat of arms hangs above the main entrance.
Church of San Bernardo
The church, a Gothic construction of great architectural interest, is situated in Piazza Torrigiani at Vico d’Elsa.
Church of Sant’Andrea
The church dates from the 14th century, but it was reconstructed in 1934 and has been raised in height in recent years. The interior contains valuable works of art.
Fattoria Torrigiani (Farm)
Large farm with a huge farming estate attached, situated on the site of the former Castle of the Florentine Republic, built to defend the Elsa Valley.
The villa, which incorporates the farm of the same name, was reconstructed during the 18th-19th centuries. The small chapel frescoed by Giovanni da San Giovanni in 1621 is of particular interest.
The villa, constructed between 1896 and 1899, is situated on a hill that dominates the Elsa Valley. The building is composed of a single construction surrounded by grounds shaded with great trees.
PONETA - PASTINE- POPPIANO
The tiny country village of Poneta stands on a low hill. It is cut through by the road that branches off from the Via Francigena at the bottom of the valley and climbs up to Barberino Val d’Elsa. The Church of Santa Maria at Poneta is extremely old and important. San Martino at Pastine is a small and very pretty church that dates from the 12th century; its original Romanesque structure and layout is substantially intact. The Castle of Poppiano, whose origins are extremely old, is situated on a hill overlooking the medieval towers of San Gimignano. Itwas completely rebuilt in Neo-medieval style with battlemented towers.
This is a delightful fortified village of extremely ancient origins and particularly fascinating for its position among the verdant hills of the Elsa Valley. It stands on the road that branches off from the Via Francigena and leads towards Barberino. The little Church of Santa Maria, built on a Romanesque design with a fine eighteenth century bell-tower, stands at the highest point on the site of what was once the ancient Keep. The Castle itself is built around a paved central street that connected up the two gates.
Church of Santo Stefano at Linari
The tiny church, like many other rural churches in the area, is built in brick with typically Gothic decorative elements. The square bell-tower, with its curiously truncated cusp, is also Neo-Gothic in style.
The monumental group of buildings that composes Sant Appiano – the Romanesque Parish Church, the ruins of an octagonal building, the cloisters, the canons' house and the group of houses in the close vicinity forming the village - is situated on a pleasant hill and surrounded by dark cypress trees. The beauty of the landscape blends in perfectly with the sacred atmosphere of this place, which also preserves the remains of the Saint who gave his name to the village, originally called Monteloro.
The remains of a single complex dating from the 8th century B.C., have been discovered near the Parish Church, while two chamber tombs have been found near Podere Piazza.
Parish Church of Sant Appiano
This suggestive and beautiful Parish Church, mentioned in documents as early as 990, still retains many early Romanesque structural remains, like the part in stone in the left nave, the apse and the crypt.
Antiquarium of Sant’Appiano
The museum occupies two rooms that contain part of the archaeological material found in the surrounding area and unearthed during some of the excavation campaigns.
SAN MARTINO AI COLLI
San Martino ai Colli is a group of very old houses built on either side of the Via Cassia road; many are farmhouses but some were originally built to offer various services to wayfarers, as well as pilgrims of course, on their way to Rome. The cemetery chapel now remains as the local place of worship.
Chapel of San Martino ai Colli
Situated inside the cemetery of San Martino, the chapel has taken on historical importance since the discovery of two Etruscan tombs dating from the 8th-7th centuries B.C. beneath its foundations.
Necropolis of San Martino ai Colli
The excavations of 1960 brought to light a necropolis with chamber tombs and funerary furnishings dating from the end of the 6th century.
SAN FILIPPO - PONZANO
Stretched along the hill, the country village of San Filippo is composed of various groups of houses set in a particularly beautiful landscape. The central group is more typically urban as it is cut through by a stone-paved road that comes to an end at the church of San Filippo at Ponzano. This 12th-13th century Romanesque church is built on a rectangular plan with an apse.
MONSANTO - LA PANERETTA
Monsanto is situated in a panoramic position on the ridge of the hill that rises between the river Drove and the stream of Cepperello. Standing on the border between Florence and Siena, it is surrounded by forests, where we can also find the famous wood composed solely of cypress trees.
Palace al Pino
The aristocratic architectural style of the villa includes various structural elements that can be traced back to the 17th-18th centuries.
Castle of Paneretta
The ancient fortress villa of Paneretta was built around an existing medieval tower. The square structure, the central tower and the three corner towers were part of the original building.
This tiny hamlet, surrounded by countryside that still shows signs of the traditional farming methods, is composed of a handful of houses in stone, a church, and a large mansion. The splendid tower house of Torre del Chito, situated in a strategic position for the defence of the road along the boundary between Florence and Siena, the cause of centuries of war, is a really splendid example of medieval defensive architecture.
The Villa, built in post-Renaissance style, boasts several important typological elements. Recently renovated, it is today a private residence.
Castle of Cortine
The Castle can be found mentioned in a document concerning a donation to the Abbey of San Salvatore all’Isola as early as 1038.
OLENA - SAN GIORGIO
The tiny hamlet of Olena lies on the edges of the great Chianti woodlands and is formed of a cluster of houses built around the church. It makes a charming and old-fashioned rural scene, with an atmosphere of the past, further enhanced by the unique landscape all around. The surrounding countryside is particularly beautiful thanks to the combination of woods and hills covered in vineyards. The Hospital of San Giorgio is instead an isolated building that was originally constructed in medieval times to assist the poor pilgrims and wayfarers.