Located in the heart of the Val d’Elsa, Certaldo is a small but charming town full of wonders of great historical, cultural and architectural value. Its ancient core is separated from the modern village, where the economic activities and residential expansions are concentrated, and maintains its medieval charm intact. The ancient part, called Certaldo Alta or the Castle, is on the top of a hill, surrounded by a circle of perfectly preserved walls.
It owes its fame not only to the picturesque medieval village, but also to the well-known poet and writer Giovanni Boccaccio, who was born in Certaldo in 1313 and spent various periods of his life there. It is here that the tomb and the house where he is presumed to have been born and lived are located. The tomb is located inside the Romanesque Church of Santi Jacopo e Filippo. The house, a faithful reconstruction of the original, is now home to the Giovanni Boccaccio National Body, a museum that houses many of his personal objects and a library specializing in editions of the Decameron. Do not miss the magnificent panoramic view that can be admired from the tower of the house.
The medieval village is a truly unique place where time really seems to have stopped. It is accessed through one of the three ancient gates: Porta al Sole, so called for its exposure to the sun; Porta Alberti, which takes its name from the family that ruled over Certaldo; and Porta al Rivellino, which overlooks a small fortification.
At the end of via Boccaccio, the main street of Certaldo Alta, is Palazzo Pretorio, the most important building in the village. Ancient residence of the Alberti Counts, it was built in the 12th century and subsequently enlarged and modified in the 15th century. Inside is very interesting museum which hosts various kinds of exhibitions, conferences, seminars and theatrical performances. Here one can admire some important works by Pier Francesco Fiorentino and archaeological finds uncovered in the surroundings. In the courtyard is the Japanese Tea House, created and designed by the artist Hidetoshi Nagasawa.
Near the Palazzo Pretorio you can see the now deconsecrated Church of Santi Tommaso e Prospero, where frescoes and sinopias of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries are preserved, as well as the great Tabernacle of the Justice painted by Benozzo Gozzoli, one of the most representative and prolific artists of the Italian fifteenth century. Among the religious buildings we highlight: the Propositura di San Tommaso Apostolo, in neo-Romanesque style, where a crucifix dating back to the 14th century is kept, object of prayer and veneration by the blessed Giulia Della Rena; and the Parish Church of San Lazzaro in Lucardo, one of the most significant examples of Romanesque architecture in Val d’Elsa.
Also worth a visit is the Museum of Sacred Art, housed in the premises of the former Augustinian convent next to the Church of Santi Jacopo and Filippo. Here are kept collections of religious works ranging from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century from the ecclesiastical vicariate of Certaldo. Among the most valuable pieces, a wooden crucifix from the 13th century stands out, coming from the Church of San Pietro in Petrognano. The original Museo del Chiodo has been set up inside Palazzo Giannozzi, which presents a unique collection of nails, tools of peasant civilization and wooden sculptures.