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Certaldo, Florence

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Certaldo Alto, vistaCertaldo is famous for being the birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio, one of the greatest Italian poets and medieval men of letters, author of the notable novellas collection "Decameron" dated XIV century.

The town is under the province of Florence and it rises along the layout of the Frankish Road (Strada Francigena) at about 10 Km from San Gimignano.
It's divided in an upper medieval town - called "Rione Castello" enclosed in medieval surroundings - and a lower more modern part.

Its origins are Etruscan and Roman but the old town is an enchanting example of medieval architecture.
Certaldo was a fief of the Alberti Counts until conquered by the Florentines in 1184. The town had a fast increase after the destruction of Semifonte in 1202. In 1425 became the center of vicariate and the most important center of the arear of Valdelsa, Val di Pesa and of part of the Valdarno. This role was maintained during the Republic and the Medicean period.

In the lower town there's the main square Piazza Boccaccio, with a marble statue by Augusto Passaglia (1879) which was commissioned to mark the fifth centenary of the death of Giovanni Boccaccio.
You can reach the upper side on foot in 10 min or by cablecar from the main square. The old part of the town is almost entirely made of bricks and is incredibly well preserved.
The position provides a splendid view stretching from the hills of the Val d'Elsa to San Gimignano.

All the main buildings face onto Via Boccaccio. Half-way up on the left there's Casa del Boccaccio, Boccaccio's House with a tower and loggia. His home has been transformed into a specialized library with sections devoted to his life including translations of his works. The structure was almost completely rebuilt after being destroyed by allied bombs in the Second World War (1947).
A statue of him was erected in the principal square in 1875.

Facing onto the little piazza there's the church of Santi Michele e Jacopo where you can admore a cenotaph in honor of Giovanni Boccaccio.
The simple brick facade and the interior has been restored to original Romanesque appearance. In a niche there's an urn containing the body of Beata Giulia.
Next to the church is a small cloister which gives access to the Museo d'arte Sacra inaugurated in 2001. The museum has some fine and rare works which include: a monumental XIV century crucifix and paintings by Meliore, the Bigallo master Puccio di Simone and Ugolino di Nerio most of them removed from churches in the countryside around Certaldo.

At the top of the street you can admire the beautiful Palazzo Pretorio, also called "Vicariale", originally the castle of the Conti Alberti - the Florentine governorswith. Its facade is decorated with picturesque coats of arms in stone and glazed terracotta which record the Governors (Vicari) sent from Florence. Inside includes a prison, the quarters of the Vicar and his family, and rooms formerly used as the seat of government. There are various frescoes dating from the 13th to the 16th century, fine doorways and fireplaces.

Certaldo hosts famous festivals, such as the song festival called "Certaldo Sotto le Stelle" (early September) and the buskers festival "Mercantia" (last days of July). The Mercantia Festival is a really interesting happening: a mix of theater, festival and market, all done with a medieval flair. Singers, dancers, & performers as well as artisans demonstrate their arts and crafts.

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