Discovering the medieval cities of Italy
Italy is undoubtedly the country of rare beauty and a thousand cities. With an artistic heritage that has no equal, Italy is the place where you can go from medieval cities to the magic of the Renaissance through a road that represents the present day. My curiosity to discover some of the medieval Italian towns started thanks to my visit to Glorenza, a small town in South Tyrol, if not the smallest in the region. It is a medieval city, and it was from here that the intention to draw up a small list (in alphabetic order) of medieval cities to visit in Italy began. Choose your favorite and tell me your preference or if there are other medieval places that deserve to be mentioned.
The medieval town of Certaldo is located just 40 km from Florence in Tuscany. The town was the home of the writer and poet Giovanni Boccaccio (who was born here in 1313) and it is possible to visit his house where inside there is a study center entirely dedicated to the works of the great poet.
If you are in Rome and have enough time to explore the neighborhoods, I suggest to visit the medieval town of Cerveteri, just 60 km from the center of Rome. It is located on a tufa rock spur and was the place chosen by the Etruscans to build their necropolis. The historic center dates back to the Middle Ages and when the city became a fiefdom, it was ruled by the Crescenzi, Orsini and Ruspoli families, whose stories intertwined incredibly with those of the Popes. In the past the Cerveteri Castle was used to defend the village against attacks by the Saracens and other enemies but nowadays it is a lovely museum open to everyone who is interested to Etruscan heritage.
Overlooking the Gulf of Trapani and located on top of a mountain from which it dominates and defends the surrounding area, Erice is a medieval village made up of alleys and charming courtyards (picture on top). Worth a visit is the Castello di Venere, built between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries on the remains of an ancient temple dedicated to Venus Erycina. From here you can enjoy an extraordinary view and just think that in the past it was used to observe the area and prevent attacks from all sides, both by sea and by overland.
It is surrounded by high walls and its history is surprising. During the Roman period it was an important commercial center on the route to Switzerland, as the borders with the Swiss country are really just a few kilometers away. In 1332 the city assumed such commercial importance, that in the valley was imposed, the “Misura di Glorenza”, which was used to measure the weights of the marketed goods. In 1309 the city obtained the title of “civitas” and is the only city in all the Val Venosta to have arcades.
The fourteenth-century town of Soncino is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. Surrounded by the Oglio Park and the Riserva naturale Bosco di Barco, Soncino preserves the medieval center with its defensive walls and the Rocca Sforzesca di Soncino (a castle) built by the Sforza family.