Certaldo Alto is a medieval town in Tuscany located halfway between Florence and Siena. This ancient town has preserved its medieval look and with its red brick buildings it glimmers like an old terracotta pot on top of a hill under the hot Tuscan sun.
Certaldo was a feudal town belonging to the Alberti Counts. Of particular interest is the Pretoria Palace and the house of Giovanni Boccaccio, the famous author of Italian literature. It is also famous for Mercantia in July, a medieval street theatre with street performers and musicians coming from all over the world to participate.
But my favourite event is the medieval dinner which is held during June. Tables are laid along the brick paved street and the locals host a medieval feast fit for kings and queens. The menu includes dishes of antique Tuscan cuisine with the highlight being baked pig’s knuckle which is served on a large wooden cart carried by two men. The staff and many of the guests wear medieval costumes which you can hire from a local shop.
Visitors can also find craft shops and restaurants of great charm where you can enjoy incomparable views of the beautiful Tuscan countryside. One of my favourite craft places in Certaldo Alto is the Artesia where I attended a class for painting ceramics in the majolica style. One of those experiences that I will cherish for the rest of my life. There is also a wonderful cooking school where you can learn the art of making some delicious Tuscan dishes.
Among the places to visit in Certaldo Alto is the Pretorio Palace. It is positioned at the top of the main street (Via Del Boccaccio) and in the late twelfth century it was the former residence of the Alberti Counts. The facade of the building is made of old bricks topped by battlements. On the right hand side there is a clock tower which was built in the fifteenth centry. The surface of the wall is studded with badges and plaques made of marble and stone, each of them representing the coats of arms of various noble families.
You should also pay a visit to Casa del Boccaccio, where the famous medieval Italian writer lived (although some dispute whether he actually lived there). The house was purchased by the Marchioness Lenzoni, a friend of the Leopards, who restored the building after Byron came for a visit and lamented about its state of neglect. Unfortunately the house was destroyed in the last world war, but it has now been lovingly reconstructed to its original state.
If you are visiting Tuscan or staying in one of the nearby villas, do put Certaldo Alto on your itenary. You can reach Certaldo Alto by walking up a steep cobbled road which takes you to the hill top or alternatively taking the funicular from the main town centre. There is also a back road which takes you to a car park situated just behind Certaldo Alto.