Poggibonsi, Italy

The lovely town of Poggibonsi, Italy lies on the Elsa River in the heart of Tuscany’s Val d’elsa Valley, just 29 kilometers (18 miles) from Siena. With a population of 28,602, Poggibonsi is a Chianti Classico sub-region. The economy depends on the production of chianti, furniture and other small industries.

Poggibonsi’s old town reflects its rich history. Established in the 12th century on the road from Rome to France, it was declared an Imperial City by Frederick II. The town was destroyed in 1270 by the Florentine Guelphs led by legendary figure Guy de Montfort. The Guelphs supported the Pope in the struggle with supporters of the Holy Roman Empire. Poggibonsi was rebuilt in the lower valley and in 1484, while still under Florentine rule, Lorenzo de Medici ordered construction of a new fortress-protected settlement that fufilled the Renaissance notion of an “ideal city.” The project was halted in 1510 and Poggibonsi later fell under French rule until it became part of United Italy in 1861.

Basilica di San Lucchese , Poggibonsi, ItalyThe town is dominated by the ruins of the fortress of Poggio Imperiale, a forerunner of fortified architecture designed by architect Giuliano da Sangallo and built between 1488 and 1511. Two other significent buildings are the 13th-century Palazzo Pretorio that was once the seat of local government but now houses a palaeontological museum, and the Santuario del Romitazzo, an ancient edifice that holds the idolized image of the Madonna of the Snow. Its bell tower was added in the 15th century.

Poggibonsi has no shortage of “must-see” churches, including the 1495 Gothic-Romanesque Church of San Lorenzo that boasts Giovanni d’Agostino’s 14th-century wooden crucifix and several paintings, including Neri di Bicci’s “St. Nicholas.” The 1252 Basilica di San Lucchese that rests atop a nearby hill houses a terracotta statue of the Immaculate Conception by Giovanni della Robbia and numerous frescoes by early Italian artists.

Other attractions include the Fonte della Fate (Fairies fountain), one of the few remaining ruins of the original town; and the “Castle of the Fox Strangler,” an ancient Guidi family fortress supposedly connected to Poggibonsi by a tunnel.

Accommodations in Poggibonsi include 12 hotels, castle rooms and farmhouses to suit a wide range of tastes and budgets. There are also numerous restaurants featuring fine wines and Tuscan dishes, especially seafood. The town’s s spirit is expressed in the 1982 song, “Poggibonsi,” by popular Italian singer and actress “Milva.”


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