Certaldo features one of the most well-preserved medieval towns in all Tuscany, just a few kilometers from San Gimignano and in the heart of the Val d’Elsa. Situated in the upper part of the town, and therefore called Certaldo Alto or Castello, the old part of town is connected to the lower town by a funicular. Alternatively one can choose between the comfortable via del Castello or one can set off through the splendid medieval routes of Costa Alberti and Costa Vecchia. Passing through these ancient entrances, one enters the town and reaches the Main Street, via Giovanni Boccaccio, on which one finds a series of imposing historic buildings: Palazzo Ridolfi from the 13th century and Palazzo Giannozzi in whose rooms can be found the shops of local craftsmen, and the Museo del Chiodo (Museum of Nails) where an unusual collection of objects can be found, of which the nail is the protagonist. Continuing along the street we come across Boccaccio’s House where the famous Tuscan storyteller lived during the last years of his life.
Today it houses the Centro Nazionale Studi sul Boccaccio (National Center for the Study of Boccaccio) in addition to a library which gathers works on the writer from around the world. After Boccaccio’s House we find the 13th century Church of Saint Jacopo which houses works in terracotta by the Della Robbias as well as the cenotaph of Boccaccio. Adjacent to the church, we find the 14th century cloister from which one enters the Sacred Art Museum, among whose most important works is the wooden 13th century cross called the Christ of Petrognano. The Palazzo Pretorio is located in the medieval heart of Certaldo and is the most important monument of the city, presenting an imposing red brick façade bearing numerous coats of arms made of glazed terracotta and stone of the numerous vicars who succeeded each other over time. In the interior of the atrium one can visit numerous rooms that house fifteenth century frescoes attributed to Pier Francesco Fiorentino and to Benozzo Gozzoli. The courtyard also leads to the prisons and to the Stanza dei Tormenti (Room of Torments), on whose walls the writings of the condemned are still visible. Placed by the side of the Palazzo Pretorio, the ancient Church of Saints Thomas and Prospero preserves the Tabernacolo dei Giustiziati (Tabernacle of the Executed) frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli in 1466. Certaldo also boasts rich cultural as well as wine and gastronomic activities. Each year, Mercantia, the large feast that for more than thirty years takes place during the second week in July, is held in the upper town. On this occasion, every corner of Certaldo Alto comes to life at all hours of the day with jugglers, artisans, fire eaters, street artists and musicians coming from around the world with performances that attract thousands of people. There is no shortage of art installations and tastings of typical local products.
In June another spectacular rendezvous is the Medieval Dinner that takes place along via Boccaccio with two very long tables. The table mates eat by the light of torches, served by characters in costume and entertained by music and tightrope walkers, while at the beginning of July one can watch the Corteo Storico, a historic parade that reproduces some of the most famous stories from the Decameron with approximately 150 actors.
In October the best of Tuscan and Italian food and wine can be tasted at Boccaccesca, an event where displays for the direct sale of products are presented side by side with cooking lessons from great chefs. At Boccaccesca one can taste numerous dishes made with the famous Certaldo onion from which an excellent marmalade is also made. The cultivation of onions goes back to the 12th century when the bulb was added to the city coat of arms to indicate the farmer identity of the town.
Other prestigious events are the Giovanni Boccaccio Literary Prize and the Ernesto Calindri Prize for performance arts, named after another illustrious citizen.
What to do in Certaldo and surroundings
Our territory is rich in landscapes and historical places to visit, but not only … you can enrich your stay with cultural, sporting and enogastronomic activities. On the visitmontaione.com website you can find the perfect activitie one for you!