Visit Colle di Val d'Elsa
Colle di Val d'Elsa is a hill town in the Siena province of central Tuscany. There are lots of places of interest and historical buildings to discover in the small historical center and Colle di Val d'Elsa 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.
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.
Explore Colle di Val d'Elsa
Your visit to Colle de Val d'Elsa can start in the Piazza Arnolfo in the newer part of the town. This square is surrounded by buildings with porticos (arcades) and dates from the second half of the 19th century. If you want to head straight to the old town and most of the sights that are popular with visitors you can follow the route from here that leads along Via San Sebastiano, although we suggest you take the time to explore the other highlights in the Lower Town and Upper Town first...
Staying for a look around the lower town first, from Piazza Arnolfo you reach the Piazza Bartolomeo then continuing on you get to the Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. On the other side of the square are the 16th century Shrine of Our Lady of Renaio and the 10th century Church of Santa Maria Assunta - 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 will find the Teatro del Popolo ('Theatre of the People').
Continuing on, you arrive at the Piazza and Church of Saint 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) in the upper town. This Upper Town is the highlight of your visit to Colle di Val d'Elsa, and easy to explore being more or less one single long street with numerous attractive buildings to admire.
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 13th century Convent of St. Francis.
The most remarkable sight in this part of Colle di Val d'Elsa is the Piazza Bajos, with numerous houses of medieval origin. You will also discover the Palazzos of Tommasi, Usimbardi, Orlandini, Galganetti and Alessi. Continuing on you arrive at the 15th century church of Saint 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.
Around the edges of the “Piazza del Duomo” (Cathedral Square) the notable highlights include 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 a 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 period to the 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 the 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 typical traditional food s of the region that include products and local wines of great prestige and quality such as the Chianti dei Colli Senesi and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. You should also try 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
Map of Colle di Val d'Elsa sightseeing & popular sights
Selected places to visit near Colle di Val d'Elsa, Italy
See the Tuscany guide for more travel ideas...