Tuscany is full of hidden gems and it’s highly likely that romantic Florence is on your itinerary. There are several charming towns near Florence worth visiting to soak in the Tuscan sun. In this region, the atmospheric Certaldo is considered one of the best small towns in Italy. With some of the famous Tuscan wine, great food and serene views, what more can you wish for?
Certaldo is divided between its medieval walled town on a hill called Rione Castello or Certado Alto and the lower modern area (Certaldo Bassa). Certaldo gets its name from the Latin term “cerrus altus” (“a rise covered in oak trees”) and its origins date back to Etruscan times. The town enjoys the Orange Flag status – a seal of sustainable tourism and environmental quality for its harmonious architecture.
Certaldo was the home of the family of the famous Tuscan writer Giovanni Boccaccio, the author of Decameron and The Life of Dante. Hence the name of the main square Piazza Boccaccio in the lower town. Take the funicular from here or leisurely walk up to the old town and take in the sight of the steep hills along the lovely Via Costa Alberti, Via Costa Vecchia or Via del Castello.
What to see
Palazzo Pretorio, Certaldo Alto: The palazzo (originally the castle of the Conti Alberti) has a lovely brick façade and also features a clock tower. Each terracotta-glazed coats of arms represents the families of the vicars that lived here. Explore the prisons, meeting rooms, archive, chapel and of the vicars’ private lodgings . The San Tommaso and Prospero church, dating back to the 13th century, next to Palazzo Pretorio is another charming pit stop.
Museum of Sacred Art: Originally a 15th-century Augustinian convent, the Museo d’arte Sacra was restored and converted into a museum in 2001. Enjoy the paintings, sculptures and sacred relics by renowned artists (from the 12th century-16th century). Another highlight is a frescoed refectory.
Palazzo Stiozzi Ridolfi: While closed now, its ancient walls can still be seen.
Casa del Boccaccio – You can see traces of the original mediaeval structure though it was reconstructed after being nearly gutted during the Second World War in the early 19th century by Marchesa Carlotta dei Medici Lenzoni. Located halfway down via Boccaccio, the author’s home (now a museum) for the last part of his life is constructed of red brick and boasts of splendid views.
Saints Jacopo and Filippo – a convent complex with a small brick church from the 1200s where the tomb of Boccaccio is kept.
What to do
If you’re in Certaldo in July, check out the colorful street theatre festival Mercantia (13-17 July in 2016) in the upper town. Expect performers, clowns, comedians, acrobats, magicians – it’s lively for sure!
At the Boccaccesca festival in Sept/ October, sample terrific Tuscan food and even take a cooking lesson or two from the masters of good food. There’s wine tastings as a reward for all the hard work.
Getting there: Certaldo is situated 35 kms from Florence and 45 kms from Siena. From Florence Santa Maria Novella train station, reach Certaldo, located on the Empoli-Siena-Chiusi railway line in 50 minutes. Buses are managed by Train Siena Spa.
For more information on gorgeous Florence and its surrounding regions, visit www.firenzeturismo.it.