Colle Val d’Elsa is a densely populated historic town located in the heart of Tuscany, in a strategic position on the top of a high hill overlooking the Elsa River and its valley. The town appertains to the province of Siena and is just a short distance from Siena, Florence and Volterra.
Due to its strategic position along the way of Via Francigena , the medieval pilgrimage and trading route from Central Europe to Rome, it developed in three different districts, each of them with its idiosyncratic architecture and art: Il Borgo di Santa Caterina, Il Castello di Piticciano and Il Piano.
The two first and oldest settlements are located in Upper Colle and were held in reserve for the local leading class. They are of great medieval architectural interest. Il Piano, located in Lower Colle, has a more recent urban structure particularly constructed to host its industrial activities.
Colle Val d’ Elsa is an important Etruscan archaeological area. However, its first historical records date from the 10th century. At the end of the 12th century the former feud developed its independence and, consequently, its political and economical characteristics due to the construction of several artificial water channels, supplied by the Elsa River, to power some industrial activities like wheat mills and paper manufacturing works.
Colle Val d’Elsa is the birthplace of the celebrated architect and sculptor Arnolfo di Cambio who was born in 1245 and died in Florence in 1310.
In 1269 the town was the scenery of the famous battle of Colle Val d’Elsa between Guelphs and Ghibellines, the two factions that were keeping Italy divided and devastated by an unstoppable civil war during the later middle Ages. The town, as well as all of Siena’s territory, was captured by Florence. In 1479 it was invaded by the army of the Duke of Calabria. Colle was seriously destroyed and later went through a process of strengthening its fortified walls. The new walls were built by the prestigious Florentines architects Giuliano da Sangalo, Cecca and Francione.
In the 16th century the town was still under Florence’s dominion. Thanks to the Medici family and to some eminent local citizens the town was progressively increasing its power on the territory. In 1598 Pope Clement VIII at the request of the Grand Duke of Tuscany established the Diocese of Colle. Its first Bishop was Usumbardo Usumbardi whose family, in the 17th century, set off a new flourishing era for the town changing the old paper manufacturing to a new iron and glass industry.
Nowadays, Colle Val d’Elsa is proud of the international notoriety reached by its crystal ware and crystal art works detaining 15% of the world production made in the industrial area of Lower Colle.
Click here to see main monuments to visit in Colle Val D'Elsa:
Where to eat:
- Ristorante Arnolfo: this exclusive restaurant is located in the historic centre of the town in the indoors of a 16th century Palazzo. It has a beautiful panoramic terrace for meals in season. It is considered as one of the best restaurants in Tuscany having received numerous awards over the years. The wine cellar offers an excellent variety.
- Ristorante “Il Cardinale”: placed in the “Relais Della Rovere”, it is a former Abbey from the 11th century. It was later the residence of the Cardinal Giulio Della Rovere who was nominated Pope Julius II on the 31st of October 1503. Surrounded by a beautiful country yard, it offers a refined traditional Tuscan cuisine. The wine cellar hosts an excellent wine selection.
Where to sleep
Collevaldelsa.com: Hotel Colle Val d'Elsa
Main Towns of Chianti
Badia a Passignano,
Barberino val d' Elsa,
Castellina in Chianti,
Castello di Brolio,
Castello di Gabbiano,
Castello di Meleto,
Colle Val D' Elsa,
Greve in Chianti,
Mercatale Val di Pesa,
Panzano in Chianti,
Radda in Chianti,
Tavernelle Val di Pesa,
Badia a Coltibuono.
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