Located in the beautiful valley of river Elsa in Tuscany, Certaldo is a small town in the countryside at less than 50 kilometers from Florence, which makes it the ideal destination for Florence day trips. This lovely town has been inhabited since Ancient times, when Etruscan and Romans adorned the area with palaces and ceramic decorations which have been discovered recently.
However, the first official proof that witnesses Certaldo relevance dates back to 1164 when Frederick Barbarossa granted the Conti Alberti family the right to own this area. Before that, the so-called Mastio, an Early Medieval fortress made of a single big tower, had already been built. Thanks to the high position on Tuscan Hills and to the Tower, Certaldo could have an overview from above of the Via Francigena. This was used as the main road that led goods and pilgrims from Northern Europe to Rome.
The undoubted importance of its location helped Certaldo growth: soon locals built an impressive Castle and a real village around it later. Today, Certaldo still keeps its medieval appearance being divided in 2 parts: the higher district, which is the old town of Certaldo, and the lower district, built in the valley near Via Francigena.
Whatsmore, Certaldo is the homeland of one of the most renowned Italian poets: Giovanni Boccaccio, who spent many years of his life in this fascinating land which he mentioned several times in his novels.
Check out below and discover Certaldo highlights.
What to see in Certaldo
The best way to experience his picturesque village is a pleasant walk in the old town. You will notice many medieval details such as the red brick buildings and the lack of a great square, which is substituted with countless small alleys and little squares here and there. The old town is surrounded by medieval walls built to protect the town. To access this area there are three gates: Porta Alberti, Porta al Sole and Porta del Rivellino.
The most remarkable highlight of Certaldo is definitely Palazzo Pretorio, also known as Palazzo dei Vicari. This is a brick red building with a Clock Tower and merlons on the upper side.
On the main facade, it is still possible to admire a great variety of Vicari’s coat of arms made of terracotta, marble and stone. Inside the palace, you can find many frescoes by Pier Francesco Fiorentino.
A must see in Certaldo is certainly Boccaccio’s House, located in the street that bears the same name, just a few steps away from Palazzo Pretorio.
Open everyday except on Tuesdays, Boccaccio’s House is built on different levels. On the ground floor, you can admire an exhibition about his life and works. On the floors above, you can see instead a fresco that depicts Boccaccio while writing, and a Tower where to glance at the incredible view over Elsa Valley.
Boccaccio, the italian poet born and raised in Certaldo
Boccaccio is one of the most renowned Italian novelists ever, who worked during the XIV Century. He was able to use different writing techniques and he is still considered the precursor of Humanism and one the “Three Crowns” of Italian literature, together with Petrarca and Dante.
His family was from Certaldo however he spent most of his early years in Florence. After traveling to Naples, Milan and Avignon, he eventually came back to Certaldo as an adult and died there.
His most famous work is “The Decameron”, a collection of short stories for a total of 100 tales recounted by its characters in 10 days. They are about love, jokes, life lessons and many more.