Elsa Valley: Certaldo and Poggibonsi

Elsa is a river that, before reaching the Arno river, goes through one of the most populated, active and historical places in Tuscany; in fact the famous "Via Francigena", the pilgrimage route leading from Canterbury to Rome, goes through this valley and two towns in this area defintely deserve a visit: Certaldo and Poggibonsi.

It was the hometown of Giovanni Boccaccio (see picture), the author of the "Decamerone". He died here at his home and was buried here in 1375. Boccaccio's house, of red brick, was restored in 1823 and furnished with old furniture; a statue of him was erected in the main square in 1875.
The name of this historical town comes from the Latin term “cerrus altus”, which means “a rise covered in oak trees” and its origins date back to Etruscan times.The town of Certaldo is divided into upper and lower parts. The lower part is called Certaldo Basso, whilst the medieval upper part is called Certaldo Alto. Certaldo Alto has limited vehicular access, for use by residents only. Visitors can park outside the walls or in the lower part and go to Certaldo Alto by the Certaldo funicular.
The Palazzo Pretorio (see picture) can be considered as the symbol of Certaldo, with its brick façade, a clock tower to the right and the coats of arms in glazed terracotta, marble and pietra serena stone: each coat of arms represents the families of the vicars that lived and governed here. The prisons, meeting rooms, archive, chapel and private lodgings of the vicars can still be seen today.

Poggio Bonizio (today Poggibonsi) was one of the best towns on the Via Francigena until it was completely destroyed in the 1270 by the Florentines. Despite severe damages caused by bombing during the second world war, Poggibonsi is nowadays the biggest industrial area of the Valdelsa and a town that needs to be visited.
Five recommnded sites at Poggibonsi:
1. Fortezza Medicea di Poggio Imperiale. This Medici fortress is a piece of medieval architecture and, left untouched for more than 500 years, it now stands as a park and public area where during the summer there are shows and concerts, a restaurant with a stunning panoramic position and lots of space to enjoy a stroll overlooking the Elsa Valley.
2. Fonte delle Fate . Dating from the 1300’s this beautiful fountain, composed of 6 stone arches, was a very important source of refreshment for the pilgrims on the Via Francigena. 
3. Convento di San Lucchese. This church is one of the few examples of the gothic style of architecture in Tuscany. The church, located on a hill overlooking the Fortress, is particularly rich with artwork inside and its panoramic viewpoint.
4. Rocca di Staggia. Take a medieval castle with its thick fortified walls and mix it with contemporary art and you will find a truly unique way to explore Tuscany. 
5. Castello Magione. N ominated in 2012 one of the 1000 Wonders of Italy, this castle was built in the 1100’s and recently restored. The complex, originally belonged to the Templar Knights, includes a church and the “spedale” (hotel) for the pilgrims.
Recommended Restaurant and Hotel
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