Certaldo - a Tuscan Gem in Italy
Updated: Nov 10
Certaldo is divided into two parts: Certaldo Basso (lower) - the more recent part of Certaldo and where the train arrives and Certaldo Alto (upper) - the historic center of Certaldo.
Certaldo Alto is very small and can be seen in its entirety within a couple of hours giving you lots of time to wander the narrow alleys for shops, great eats, and fantastic photo opportunities.
Certaldo Alto built almost entirely of brick is a fortified medieval village very well preserved despite the bombing during World War 2. All the buildings were built facing Via Boccaccio which honors its most famous resident- the poet Giovanni Boccaccio. Casa Boccaccio which has been totally rebuilt is now a museum. Climb to the top of the loggia (only a few floors) for a fantastic view of the valley below and as far as San Gimignano.
Facing the little piazza is the church of Santi Michele e Jacopo (Saints Michael and James). Built in the 13th century but damaged in the war the interior has been restored to its original Romanesque appearance. Step inside for a quick peek of the Della Robbia shrines on either side of the main altar and locate the bust of the aforementioned poet sculpted in 1503. To the left of the church is the 14th-century cloister.
Continue on up the street to Palazzo Pretorio originally the castle of the Conti Alberti who lived there until the 13th century when it became the residence of the Florentine Delegate. Notice the facade decorated with picturesque coats of arms in stone and glazed terracotta which record the Governors (Vicari) sent from Florence throughout the centuries. There is also a small Church dedicated to the doubting St. Thomas off the courtyard. The Church houses the most important work, The Tabernacle of the Executed (c. 1464/65), a fresco by Benozzo Gozzoli, who also resided in Certaldo for a short time. Here is a video I took of the Tabernacle frescos on all four sides.
My favorite place to eat:
A Casa Tua is a tiny family-run restaurant with friendly service and fun interiors. Enjoy a noon snack or a full dinner. The food is sure to please.
A Casa A Tua
Address: Via Giovanni Boccaccio, 24
Hours: Noon - 3:30 PM and 7:00 - 10:15 PM. Closed Monday and Tuesday
My favorite place to shop:
I love anything made by hand and the 2 artisans that run Artesia Ceramica. Most of the time you will find Monica and Cinzia in the studio area of the shop painting. I could watch them all day. They are very hospitable and will answer all of your questions.
Their shop is located in a gallery of stores - behind the gelato shop.
Address: Via Giovanni Boccaccio, 30
Hours: 11:00 AM - 7:00 PM. Closed Saturday and Sunday
If you have time:
Plan ahead and book a cooking class with Giuseppina (and her son) at Cucina Giuseppina. They have a lovely location right on the edge of the village with amazing views both inside and out.
Magical events in Certaldo to plan a visit around:
Festival of the Mercantia - yearly event in mid-July that celebrates street theater. Think huge walking puppets, glow-in-the-dark fairies on stilts, flame throwers, and lots of music. The street comes alive after dark for 4 consecutive nights. Get the schedule of performers ahead of time and plan accordingly.
Official website: Mercantia - Festival internazionale del Quarto teatro - Artistic Concept
Boccaccesca Food and Wine Festival - a yearly food and wine extravaganza, celebrated in the narrow streets of Certaldo Alto in October.
My mother and I were lucky enough to have visited Certaldo during this event unbeknownst (do people still use this word?) to us. They have shopping, music, and of course lots of food and wine to taste. The museum was open on this day for free visits which was extra special as well.
Official website: BOCCACCESCA.it
Train service runs hourly from Florence Santa Maria Novella to Certaldo every hour. It is a 52-minute ride with no changes so it makes it easy. Round-trip tickets run about $15 depending on the season and the time of day you travel.
Funicular tickets are 1.50euro roundtrip. Purchase a roundtrip ticket and validate one on the way up and validate the other on the way down.