Monteriggioni is a little medieval gem and the perfect stop on your way to Siena. The town is perched on a hill and is surrounded by a perfectly maintained ring of fortifications. The twelve towers that dominate the city are even mentioned in Dante’s Inferno, in which he compares them to giants. Monteriggioni is also so charming and scenic that it has featured in many films such as The Gladiator, The English Patient and Stealing Beauty and even in video games like Assassin’s Creed II. But where did this begin?
A brief history of Monteriggioni
During the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, Siena and Florence were enemy towns. They faced each other in many battles and skirmishes. The city of Siena chose Monteriggioni as a protective outpost. The hilltop position and the ring of walls surrounding Monteriggioni, protected its inhabitants during sieges. The 12 towers, facing every direction, helped the garrison see approaching enemy troops. The construction of the fortifications lasted from 1214 to 1219. In 1554, the captain of the garrison betrayed the Sienese by handing the keys of the town over to the Florentine. The battle was lost without bloodshed, but all of Monteriggioni’s inhabitants were taken to Florence as slaves (yep, those were very hard times).
What to do in Monteriggioni
Monteriggioni is a small town, perfect for a half day visit. Stop there for a coffee or aperitivo on your way to or from Siena. If you aren’t scared of heights, go to the top of the walls and enjoy the spectacular views. The ticket costs 4 euros (which also includes the entrance fee to the armour museum). Sadly you cannot walk on the actual medieval walls but on a 10 meter gangway that runs parallel to them. Time your visit around sunset to capture the soft glow on the Tuscan countryside.
The armour museum gives a quick overview of the weapons and armour of the medieval period. It’s a short fun stop, strongly recommended for people with children. The city center is full of little boutiques. They sell tasteful and well packaged products, often hand crafted, that make perfect souvenirs or gifts for loved ones.
The Medieval festival Monteriggioni di Torri si Corona (one of many medieval festivals in Tuscany) is held twice a year at the beginning and middle of July. Immerse yourself in the playful atmosphere of the Middle Ages with dancing, music, jesters and games. In the past editions, tickets were around 15 euros.
As you head up the hill towards Monteriggioni, follow the signs to the well organised parking lot Castello. Though a bit pricey (3 euros for an hour during the high season), it’s only 50 meters away from the main entrance to the town. Should it be full, there is another one a little further away called Cipressino.
If you don’t have a car or just don’t want to drive, I Just Drive organizes private and shared private tours to Chianti with stops at Monteriggioni. Our advice is to take the night tour called Chianti’s best by night to experience views of the Tuscan landscape from Monteriggioni ramparts at sunset.
If you have enough time, consider wandering around Monteriggioni. This town in on the Francigena road. This ancient axis connected Canterbury to Rome and even further south. It was the road taken by the crusaders and pilgrims of the Middle Ages. If you feel like exploring the Tuscan countryside in a different way, why not follow in the footsteps of the pilgrims of a bygone era?
Leg 33 of the Via Francigena connects Monteriggioni to Siena. This 20 km walk doesn’t require a lot of experience but don’t be fooled, it is almost impossible to find water on the way. Make sure to come prepared!
Though small, Monteriggioni is the perfect town for a quick immersion into the Middle Ages. It’s central location makes it a perfect stop on the way to other Tuscan towns such as Siena, San Gimignano or even the Chianti area.