A little more than 20 km from our villa in Chianti is Montaione, a suggestive medieval village set in a naturalistic and landscape context of extraordinary beauty, where time seems to have stopped. The town, located between the Valdelsa and the Volterrano, lies on a hill at about 341 meters above sea level, from which it is possible to admire breathtaking views and postcard views dominated by woods, vineyards, olive groves and clayey slopes edged with cypresses.
The history of Montaione has very ancient origins, as evidenced by the archaeological finds of necropolis and furnaces at Poggio all’Aglione, Bellafonte, Iano and Castelfalfi, which document the existence of numerous colonies from the Etruscan and Roman periods. Fully included among “The most beautiful villages in Italy“, Montaione has preserved its medieval road system and some historic buildings, despite the damage caused by the Second World War. In the historic center, the streets, alleys and squares, where the artisan shops once opened, have remained the same as many centuries ago. Unfortunately, very little remains of the ancient walls.
In addition to the medieval atmosphere that you breathe, Montaione is also known for: glassmaking, a tradition that dates back to the thirteenth century, especially based on the production of glasses, mugs, bottles and flasks; and the prized white truffle, which abounds in the area and to which a food and wine exhibition is dedicated in October.
What to see in Montaione?
In the historic center stands the Palazzo Pretorio, a prestigious building located along Via Cresci. Seat of civil power since the thirteenth century, it was the home of numerous noble families of Tuscany. Its façade still shows the coats of arms in stone and glazed terracotta of the families of notables who succeeded the government of Montaione. Inside it is currently set up the Civic Museum, which tells the history of the territory through archaeological, paleontological, minerals and fossils of great interest, found in the surroundings of Montaione. The objects cover a very large time span, between the lower Paleolithic and the late Middle Ages. There is also a section dedicated to the historic glass and ceramic manufactures.
Also in the historic center, there is the Church of San Regolo, which represents an important example of Romanesque architecture in Tuscany. The church, probably dating back to before the 12th century, has undergone many renovations over time, which have determined its current configuration. It houses some valuable works of art, among which the “Madonna del Consiglio“, attributed to the Sienese painter Guido di Graziano, stands out. Another religious building to visit is the sixteenth-century Church of Santi Giuseppe and Lucia, commonly called by the montaionesi “church of the nuns” because it was annexed to a former monastery. Inside you can admire a painting of considerable importance, the “Madonna del Rosario” by Sister Plautilla Nelli, the first Florentine woman painter who lived in 1500.
Of considerable interest, especially from the religious point of view, is the Sacro Monte di San Vivaldo, also known as the “Jerusalem of Tuscany“. It is a complex of chapels and temples built in the woods by the Friars Minor of San Francesco in the early sixteenth century, which reproduces the plan of the Jerusalem of the time on a reduced scale. This evocative place of great historical, artistic and cultural value was designed so that you could symbolically visit the Holy City, which at that time was under the dominion of the Turks. The chapels house polychrome terracotta sculptural groups, inspired by the Passion and life of Christ, made by great Florentine sculptors such as Giovanni della Robbia, Agnolo di Polo and Benedetto Buglioni.
In the locality of Palagio there is the Sanctuary of the Pietrina, that is what today remains of the ancient Castle of the Pietrina. The small sanctuary, of which we have certain information starting from the fourteenth century, is located on the peak of a rock, from which you can enjoy a magnificent view as far as the eye can see that embraces Volterra and the Valdera. Finally, the Romanesque parish church of San Floriano in the hamlet of Castelfalfi is undoubtedly worth a visit, built around the year 1000 with local stones but partially rebuilt in 1500, preserving its original style.
Photo © I Borghi più belli d’Italia