Photo of Certaldo

Visit Certaldo

The town of Certaldo is in the Chianti region of central Tuscany, about 35 kilometres south-west of Florence.

It is a small town of medieval origin in Tuscany, which developed in the Val d'Elsa in a location that has been settled since ancient times. Today Certaldo is a popular tourist destination both for its historical buildings, perfectly preserved in the upper part of the city, and for the landscapes around the town.

The name comes from the Latin "Cerrus Altus", a reminder that at the time the town was founded the area was surounded by woodland.

A brief history of Certaldo

In ancient times the site of Certaldo was inhabited by the Etruscans, and archaeological excavations have unearthed several tombs, remains of temples, inscriptions and ancient coins. Later the area was almost certainly a Roman colony, but from this time until the early Middle Ages the history of the town is almost completely unknown.

From the 12th century it is known that Certaldo was a fief of the powerful Counts Alberti from Prato, and the setting for many struggles between the local ruling familes.

By the end of the 12th century the Counts Alberti were forced to accept the rule of Florence, and from that moment the history of Certaldo is more or less the same as all the region that was under the control of Florence.

Tuscany countryside with Certaldo and vineyards

Under Florentine rule the city experienced great prosperity which was largely due to the towns proximity to the important Via Francìgena, the trade route between Italy and France.

With increasing prosperity Certaldo grew larger and additional settlements developed down the hillsides below the original village, along the Via Francìgena. Certaldo was held in high esteem by Florence, and at the beginning of the 15th century it became the seat of a 'Vicariate' (an important centre for local administration).

From the end of the first Florentine Republic and the Medici dynasty Certaldo full under the control of Lorraine in the first half of the 18th century. It saw further economic development in the 19th century, coinciding with the construction of the railroad that gave a considerable boost to local manufacturing and trade.


Explore Certaldo

Certaldo can be seen as falling into two distinct parts with the larger, more recent town below and the historic centre, sometimes called Castello, further up the hill along Via del Castello. It is the upper town, which is really quite small and follows one main street, where your visit will focus.

Your visit to Certaldo can start with the house of Giovanni Boccaccio, its most illustrious and famous citizen who was born here in 1313 (d. 1375), and well known both as the author of 'Decameron' and various other works (he is one of the most famous Middle Age writers) and for being a great humanist.

You can reach the house along Via Boccaccio. Boccaccio's house was seriously damaged during World War II but was meticulously restored after the end of the war. The façade, with a tower and balcony, is in brickwork.

Information about the life and work of Boccaccio is presented in the house using audiovisual displays in a room on the ground floor, then in the Poet's room you can admire a fresco by Pietro Benvenuti (1820) that survived the bombing, and other common objects used in the Middle Ages.

Today the house is also home to the 'Centro Nazionale di Studi sul Boccaccio' (National Centre of studies on Boccaccio), which includes a library with a large number of foreign translations of the Decameron.

Church in Certaldo

Other sights in Certaldo

Next to the House of Boccaccio is the 13th century Church of Saint Michael and Jacob, in Romanesque style and with a single nave, which houses a remarkable 14th century fresco by a Sienese artist ('Madonna Enthroned with Saints'). In the same church you can see the tomb of the great writer of Certaldo.

Also in the upper city of certaldo, which is well preserved and features many medieval buildings, you can admire the Palazzo del Vicario (the Praetorian Palace), which is the former residence of the Counts Alberti and constructed on the existing structure of the castle.

This important building has arched windows and a decorative facade with merlons and a tower.

Inside the palace you can visit the Knights Room (with paintings by Francesco Fiorentino (1445-1497), the 'Madonna and Child' and 'Dead Christ') and the Audience Hall (with paintings again by Francesco Fiorentino, the 'Pietà' and 'Doubting Thomas').

Another building of some importance is the Church and Cloister of Saint Thomas where some frescos by Benozzo Gozzoli can be seen.

The Certaldo 'Museo d'Arte Sacra' (Museum of Sacred Art) is also very interesting and contains many ancient sacred vessels, among them a wooden crucifix of the 13th century, the so-called "Christ Triumphant".

Museum of Sacred Art in Certaldo

Certaldo cuisine

Certaldo is not only the city of Boccaccio, and its medieval traditions have also been preserved in the local cuisine which is often based around the famous purple Certaldo onion, used in a wide variety of local products. At Certaldo you can also enjoy the famous wine of Chianti.

Attractions nearby

Certaldo is close to the exceptional medieval village of San Gimignano and the historic town of Colle di Val d'Elsa.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Tuscany guide.

See also: 

Map of Certaldo and places to visit


Certaldo places to visit

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

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Colle di val d'Elsa

Colle di val d'Elsa

The highlight in the Tuscan town of Colle di Val d'Elsa is the medieval centre of the upper town

Colle di val d'Elsa guide


In the quiet town of Empoli you can explore the medieval piazza and surrounding streets

Empoli guide


One of the 'most beautiful villages in Italy', historic Montefioralle is a picturesque village in the Chianti region of central Tuscany

Montefioralle guide
San Miniato

San Miniato

Midway between Florence and Pisa, the hill town of San Miniato is a lovely place to break your journey and explore

San Miniato guide
Castellina in Chianti

Castellina in Chianti

Castellina in Chianti is an ancient Etruscan hill town in Tuscany with a history dating back 3000 years

Castellina in Chianti guide

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