Visit Colle di Val d'Elsa
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. 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.
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.
Exploring Colle di Val d'Elsa
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. If you want to head straight to the old town and most of the sights of interest to visitors from here follow the route up Via San Sebastiano, although we suggest you take the time to explore the other highlights in the Lower Town and Uper Town first...
From Piazza Arnolfo you reach the Piazza Bartolomeo, and continuing on 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). This 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 ('Theatre of the People').
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 the church there are numerous paintings and works of art; and nearby there is a neo-Gothic bell tower.
Upper Town (Colle Alta)
From the so-called Guelph Gate (Porta Guelfa), which is the only remaining gate from the 14 original access points to Colle di Val d'Elsa, you arrive at the Pozzo (pozzo = well), also known as the Quattro Cantoni in the upper town.
Passing the Conservatory of Saint Peter you reach the 17th century Hospital of Saint Laurence which was restored by Peter Leopold in the late 18th century. Following the route from the Old Gate (Porta Vecchia) you reach the old Convent of St. Francis (13th 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 Palaces of Tommasi, Usimbardi, Orlandini, Galganetti and Alessi. Continuing on you arrive at the 15th century church of St. Catherine. The church interior is usually bright because of its stained glass windows depicting the 'Conversion of St. Catherine'.
From this square you can 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 along with the Campana Palace (1539) by Giuliano di Baccio d'Agnolo. This is a very interesting building because of the humanistic classical references in the facade.
The main door of this palace connects with the Via del Castello which leads you into the heart of the Old Town with its many medieval and Renaissance buildings such as the palaces of Salvetti, Morozzi, Giusti and Dini and the Episcopal Seminary.
In the “Piazza del Duomo” (Cathedral Square) you will see the Podestà Palace and the Tower of the Cathedral with the Renieri Palace, Fountain and the Old Episcopal Seminary on the other side
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 the old town in Colle di Val d'Elsa can finish with the famous Tower of Arnolfo, where according to tradition Arnolfo di Cambio was born (1240-1302).
Museums in Colle di Val d'Elsa
The Sacred Art Musem is situated in the Praetorian Palace. The museum is dedicated to the great scholar Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli from Siena (1900-1975), and it brings together 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 e museum is 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).
Colle di Val d'Elsa and Tuscan cuisine
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.
Where is Colle di Val d'Elsa
Selected places to visit near Colle di Val d'Elsa
San Gimignano 8 km
Certaldo 16 km
Volterra 21 km
Empoli 36 km
Florence 41 km
Poggio a Caiano 44 km
Massa Marittima 46 km
Vallombrosa 49 km
Pelago 50 km
Montemignaio 53 km
See the Tuscany guide for more travel ideas...
Map of Colle di Val d'Elsa & places nearby