Certaldo Alto is a perfectly preserved Medieval walled town situated in the province of Florence in Tuscany. It’s a quaint and charming town with some beautifully preserved Medieval architecture and a relaxed atmosphere. It also boasts unbeatable views from the top of Casa Boccaccio tower.
The town of Certaldo is in the Val d’Elsa and Certaldo Alto is its Medieval walled centre, perched on a hill above the modern part of town. It lies 35 kilometres south west of Florence, and is easily reachable by car or train.
Certaldo has been an important spot since the early Middle Ages due to its proximity to the Via Francigena. It attracted the interest of Florence who annexed it in the 13th century, roughly the time at which the walls took on their present shape. The Medici exploited the territory for agriculture, and the city remained isolated, not growing beyond its city walls. The new city in the valley below was established in the 18th century.
Certaldo Alto -What to see and do in Certaldo, Tuscany
The town developed around the main street, the charming Via Boccaccio, which still today is the heart of the community and the perfect place for lunch with a view. It was the only street to be originally paved, as it was where all the activities took place. At one end stands the stunning Priori Palace that dominates the town with its fabulous facade.
Palazzo Pretorio (Priori Palace)
Seat of the government and the court of justice, it also used to house the prisons. The magnificent facade is lit up by stone and glazed terracotta coats of arms, including some by the Della Robbia workshop. Today it hosts contemporary art exhibitions, where modern works line its ancient frescoed walls. The building is a fascinating place to visit, with a beautiful courtyard and staircase. The entrance to the former Church of San Tommaso and Prospero is just through the garden. Here you can admire a fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli, “Tabernacle of Condemened prisoners”. On the left wall you’ll see what’s left of a 15th century fresco rediscovered under the plaster during renovations – you’ll notice the hammer blows used to attach the plaster.
Church of SS. Jacopo and Filippo
This 13th century single nave church is a peaceful space with a magnificent wooden crucifix standing guard over it. It’s a ‘triumphant Christ’, with eyes wide open, dating back to the 14th century. There’s a fresco by Memmo di Filippuccio, “Virgin and Child between Saint James and Peter”. Boccaccio (1313-1375), the influential author of the “Decameron”, is buried here. A sign marks the exact location of his burial place near the marble effigy on the floor. You’ll also see a bust of the writer holding his literary masterpiece on the left wall (1503).
Museum of Sacred Art
A small but fascinating museum attached to the church, with some Medieval paintings and a collection of religious objects and vestments.
Museum Casa Boccaccio
This house-tower is where Boccaccio choose to live out his last years. Today it’s an important learning centre dedicated to the writer, with an extensive library and copies of his works. There’s a idealised portrait of Boccaccio on the first floor, by Pietro Benvenuti from the early 19th century. The highlight of a visit is the climb to the top of the tower that offers magnificent views of the town and surrounding countryside.
You can visit all the main attractions of Certaldo Alto with a combined ticket which can be purchased at the Palazzo Pretorio.
Boccaccio and Certaldo
Boccaccio was born in Florence in 1313 but lived in Naples for many years and travelled around Italy. Certaldo became the quiet haven that consoled him in the last years of his life, when he was ill and tired of life. His main work, the “Decameron”, was written in early Italian prose, and is still today considered a pillar of Italian literature. He was a Renaissance humanist, scholar of classical literature, a friend of Petrarch and a great fan of Dante. Boccaccio died in 1375 in Certaldo.
For more information and pictures about Certaldo, check out at our post about a visit to Certaldo Alto.
And if you like the idea of visiting small towns with an authentic Tuscan feel, you’ll find some ideas in ten charming small towns in Tuscany.