Very few places in the world can offer such a rich and picturesque view as the Tuscan inland; kilometres of vineyards and olive groves, medieval hamlets standing on the hills whose green is interrupted only by winding roads.
Chianti Classico region includes the towns of Greve, Castellina, Radda, and Gaiole, which form undoubtedly one of the best known local areas, but not far from it you can discover a territory that has much more to offer.
The area of Val d’Elsa, for example, includes some of the most picturesque villages in Tuscany, hamlets that are still intact and where it is possible to enjoy the authentic medieval atmosphere.
Colle Val d’Elsa
Important place for the pilgrims travelling to Rome, Colle Val d’Elsa is characterised by fortifications, numerous monuments and churches, but especially by the atmosphere of the past that can be felt everywhere. After centuries dedicated to the production of paper, the commercial life of the town started producing glass first and then crystal, thus earning the name of Italian Bohemia.
At only 20 minutes from Park Hotel Chianti, it offers numerous attractions. Walking along its roads, it is possible to admire the Palazzo dei Priori that hosts the Museo Civico e di Arte Sacra (Sacred Art and Civic Museum), the former Conservatory of San Pietro designed by Vasari, and obviously the Duomo dei Santi Alberto e Marziale (Cathedral of the Saints Alberto and Marziale).
There are interesting places to be visited even in the lower part of the town, from the modern piazza of Arnolfo di Cambio with the beautiful fountain, to the Museum of Crystal. On the first Sunday of the month there are also the market and the glass production exhibition.
In only 25 minutes by car from Park Hotel Chianti, you arrive to Certaldo. Once you have left at the bottom of the valley the modern part of the town to go up to Certaldo Alta, you will find the walls of red terracotta bricks after which you can enjoy walking through the alleys of this jewel of medieval urban architecture, where time seems to have stopped.
Inhabited first by the Etruscans and Romans, in the XII century it passed under the protection of Frederick I (also known as Barbarossa), and successively under the control of the Medici family of Florence becoming the seat of the Vicariate and political and judicial centre of Val d’Elsa.
Worth a visit are also the Palazzo Pretorio, the house of Giovanni Boccaccio, the church of the Saints Jacopo and Filippo with the tomb of Boccaccio, the Museum of Sacred Art and Museo del Chiodo, in which nails and tools of all periods are kept. During the month of July, unmissable is Mercantia: Medieval feast and street theatre festival. For five days the hamlet animates with numerous performances and attractions, transforming into a great show for adults and children.
Located at the top of a hill from which it dominates the entire Val d’Elsa, and at only 30 km from Park Hotel Chianti, San Gimignano is one of the most precious pearls of Chianti. Its 25 towers (originally 72) are famous all over the world, while the historical centre has preserved its original aspect over the centuries and has been declared World Heritage site by Unesco.
Although the hamlet is very small, the concentration of interesting places is amazing. The centre of the village is Piazza della Cisterna that, together with the adjacent Piazza del Duomo, ideally represented the meeting point between Via Francigena and the road that connected Siena to Pisa. Surrounded by towers and tower-houses, the two squares hosted the market that was the par excellence meeting place of the village, heart of the political and religious life of San Gimignano.
Worth a visit are the Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, Palazzo Comunale, and Palazzo Vecchio del Podestà with the homonymous 54 metre high tower, also known as Torre Grossa. Very interesting is also the former Conservatory of Santa Chiara that hosts the Archaeological Museum, the Apothecary of Santa Fina Hospital, and the Contemporary and Modern Art Gallery. Noteworthy is also the Fortress of Montestaffoli that, during the Middle Ages, was the seat of the bishop of Volterra.
Reachable in about thirty minutes by car from Park Hotel Chianti, Monteriggioni is maybe the smallest of the fortified hamlets in Tuscany. Built at the beginning of the XIII century by the Republic of Siena, it has represented for centuries the last bulwark against Florence.
Its aspect makes the village of Monteriggioni more similar to a castle; the imposing walls and the 14 towers, the internal constructions, and part of the ancient walkways can still be admired. Once passed the medieval gate, the view opens onto a large square surrounded by the Romanesque parish church, the museum of armours, many restaurants, bars, and shops of typical products.