Colle di Val d'Elsa is a hilltown in the Siena province of Tuscany. There are many places of interest and historical buildings to discover in the small historical center and Colle is in a scenic location, so a visit is recommended.
The city celebrates itself as the city of Arnolfo and the surrounding territory as Terre di Arnolfo - Arnolfo di Cambio is a celebrated 13th century sculptor and architect.
Note: historically Colle included three different villages: Piano - the newer (but still now very old) part in the valley and Borgo di Santa Caterina and Castello di Piticciano on the ridge of the hill above. there is also now a larger, more recent part to Colle.
A visit to Colle can start from the Piazza Arnolfo, in the newer part of the town and surrounded by buildings with porticos (arcades) and dating from the second half of the 19th century.
From this square you reach the Piazza Bartolomeo, and, continuing, you get to the Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. On the other side of the square are the Shrine of Our Lady of Renaio (16th century) and the Church of Santa Maria Assunta (10th century). The church is located not far from the 11th century Benedictine Abbey.
At the Monte Spugna is the Cartiera (Paper Mill) della Buca, home to the Paper and Printing Museum. Facing the 'Middle Paper Mill' [Cartiera di Mezzo] you find the Teatro del Popolo ('People Theatre).
Continuing on, you arrive at the Square and the Church of St. Augustine, designed by Antonio da Sangallo (1455 ca.- 1534), the façade of which dates from the 13th century. Inside, it contains numerous paintings and works of art; and nearby is a neo-Gothic bell tower.
From the so-called Guelph Gate (Porta Guelfa), the only remaining gate from the 14 original access points to the city, you arrive to the Pozzo (Well), also known as the Quattro Cantoni, placed in the upper town.
After the Conservatory of St. Peter is the Hospital of St. Laurence (XVII century), restored by Peter Leopold in the late eighteenth century. Following the route from the Old Gate (Porta Vecchia) you reach the old Convent of St. Francis (XIII century).
Most remarkable in this part of Colle di Val d'Elsa is the Piazza Bajos, with numerous houses of medieval origin. You will also discover the Tommasi, Usimbardi, Orlandini, Galganetti and Alessi Palaces. Continuing on you arrive at the church of St. Catherine (XV century). The interior is bright because of its stained glass windows, depicting the 'Conversion of St. Catherine'.
From the Square you also see other buildings of great artistic value, such as the Palazzo Renieri, Apolloni and Ceramelli Palaces and the current Town Hall.
In the upper town it is the Castle that stands out, and the Campana Palace (1539) by Giuliano di Baccio d'Agnolo, a very interesting work because of its humanistic classical references in the facade. The main door of the palace connects with Via del Castello, through which you access the Old Town with its many medieval and Renaissance buildings, like Salvetti, Morozzi, Giusti, Dini Palaces and the Episcopal Seminary.
In “Piazza del Duomo” (Cathedral Square) there are the Podestà Palace and the Tower of the Cathedral. On the other side you can see the Renieri Palace, Fountain and the Old Episcopal Seminary.
The Cathedral of Colle di Val d'Elsa, with a neo-classical façade, was built in the first half of the 17th century on the site of the ancient parish church of St. Saviour. The interior of the cathedral houses many works of art, such as the marble pulpit of 1465, and a crucifix in bronze by Giambologna (1529-1608). In the side chapels note the door of the sacristy, the Chapel of the 'Holy Nail' (Santo Chiodo), with a railing in the Renaissance style.
Your visit to Colle can finish with the famous Tower of Arnolfo, in which, according to tradition, Arnolfo di Cambio was born (1240-1302).
The Sacred Art Musem is found in the Praetorian Palace. The museum is dedicated to the great scholar Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli from Siena (1900-1975), and it collects artefacts from the territory of the Val d'Elsa from the Neolithic to Middle Ages. Colle di Val d'Elsa has a large amount of finds from the Etruscan period, extracted from the great necropolis of the 'Le Ville' and 'Dometaia'.
Next to this stands the 14th century Palazzo dei Priori, now the seat of the Civic Museum. Among the oldest examples of medieval art here is a large table with the 'Majesty', a work by an anonymous painter active at the end of the 13th century. Other notable works are those by Cennino Cennini [1370 ca-1440 ca.] ('The Nativity of the Virgin'), Lorenzo Bicci [1350-1427] ('Madonna and the Child with Saints'), also works by more recent artists such as Ventura Salimbeni (1568-1613), Sebastiano Folli (1568-1621) and Bernardino Mei (1612-1676).
The town is proud to link to its medieval roots through a typical food that offers products and local wines of great prestige and quality, such as the Chianti dei Colli Senesi and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Try also some classic cheeses such as the Pecorino Toscano, and some salt-porks such as the Buristo and Rigatino, rolled bacon and Capocollo.
Related article: the history of Colle di Val d'Elsa.