by Sandra Massai Fallaci, ph. Alessandro Gambinossi
Monteriggioni, an evocative tourist destination
Nearly 10,000 inhabitants, a flourishing tourism industry, beautiful medieval festivals: this is Monteriggioni today. But in the past it was Siena who transformed it into a bulwark with the 14 towers we see today, guarding the via Francigena: this was why it was also an important crossroads for the connections between Siena itself and Florence, situated as it is in the heart of Tuscany. It was Dante who mentioned it in the XIII canto of Purgatory: but he had already died when, in the middle of the 14th century, it was Florence who prevailed over Pisa, assaulting the impregnable fortress, siege after siege and imposing its predominance without ever succeeding in penetrating it, so strong was its defense. Only after Captain Zeti’s betrayal was it finally conquered, and the legend has it that his ghost is still roaming unable to find peace and that when there is the full moon the Captain’s wails and his galloping horse can still be heard. Has Bernardino Zeti’s ghost got a guilty conscience? Or perhaps he pleads a mercy he will never receive? Shortly after the second half of the 16th century the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’Medici included him in the Signoria: it was the end of the Comune of Monteriggioni, as well as the commune era in Italy and the inhabitants were taken slaves to Florence. After a series of other passages, it ended with the Griccioli family who still to this day owns the castle and the surrounding countryside. Nowadays it is part of the via Francigena itinerary. It is lap 32 which from Monteriggioni reaches Piazza del Campo in Siena, an over-20km walk. From a farming-pastoral past it has now opened up to a remarkable wine industry as well as food, crafts and precisely, tourism. And even if literature and legends, like the circles of Dante’s Hell and the wailing ghost, give it a rather creepy aura of mystery, nearly like a city from the Apocalypse, Monteriggioni is an amazing place by which no one remains untouched. How would it be possible, with a wall 20 metres high and 2 metres thick? It certainly had its farming past when farmers and share-croppers and country workers, perhaps also with their animals, gathered in Piazza della Cisterna to go and work on the farms out of the walls. In fact, subsequently, with refurbishing works which put stones in the place of dirt tracks, and with restaurants, wine shops and an enviable medieval festival which attracts thousands of visitors, Monteriggioni has acquired a tourist dimension of primary importance. There are also sporting activities such as the “Team Bike Pionieri” which, leaving from the castle, covers 54km on paths of the via Francigena amongst dirt tracks, vineyards and century-old walls, as well as striking landscapes.