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Popular Medieval Towns in Italy Worth Visiting

Because Italy is the cradle of the mighty Roman Empire and of numerous other civilizations before it, there is no dearth of old towns in the country.  In fact, even after the fall of Rome, many communities across what is today the modern state of Italy simply continued their existence as Medieval dominions. Some places became smaller kingdoms, others turned into independent maritime city-states, while others became vassal towns of more powerful realms.

Their often complicated and violent histories notwithstanding, many of these towns and cities still stand today as reminders of their storied past. In this article, we share with you some of our favorite medieval towns and cities in the country.

  • San Gimignano – Located in the province of Siena in the Tuscan region, the small walled medieval town of San Gimignano is affectionately called the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages” by historians and travelers alike. Now home to more than 7,700 people, San Gimignano also boasts of 14 Romanesque and Gothic tower houses, remnants of the more than 70 towers that were built beginning in the 12th century CE, but were mostly destroyed in the next centuries. During the zenith of the town’s tower house building frenzy, the tallest structures in San Gimignano reached heights of more than 70 meters, making the town’s skyline one of the most distinctive during the Medieval period.
  • Piazza Campo Square, Siena, ItalySiena – The historic town center of Siena was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995. This city in the Tuscan region is the capital of the province that bears the same name. First settled by the Etruscans around 900 BC, Siena emerged to become an important city in the Republic of Siena. Construction of its famed Siena Duomo (cathedral) began in the 12th century, while its shell-shaped travertine town square, the Piazza del Campo, was first paved in 1349. The piazza represents the nucleus of three earlier communities — the Castellare, the San Martino, and the Camollia — which later united to form Siena. The city is also home to the Palazzo Pubblico (begun in 1297) and the Palazzo Salimbeni (14th century). The historic town center of Siena was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1995.
  • Citadella – Home to some 18,000 people, the small town of Citadella is located in Italy’s southeast region of Veneto. The town is known for its medieval walls, whose construction began in the 1200s at a time when the communes were waging wars against each other. Citadella served as a fortified military outpost of the city of Padua. The walls stand as high as 16 meters and are almost a mile in circumference. A tour of the ramparts provides spectacular views of the medieval town center, where the city’s cathedral is located and stands over the beautiful Piazza Pierobon.
  • Cinque Terre – In contrast to the grandeur of cities like Florence and Genoa, the community of Cinque Terre (Five Lands) on the coast of Italy’s Liguria region is a bucolic medieval town like no other. The ancient community is composed of five villages, namely Monterosso al Marre, Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Corniglia, which together occupy a portion of the area’s coastline and the hills overlooking the Italian Riviera. The villages first emerged in the 11th century under the auspices of the powerful Republic of Genoa. Besides its picturesque, colorfully painted buildings, the community is also unreachable by cars, a characteristic that further adds to its appeal as an ancient town.
  • Florence – Florence is one of the greatest cities of the Middle Ages, and its activities were among the driving forces that launched the Renaissance era. Beginning in the 12th century, the Republic of Florence prospered as a trading and financial center in Europe. The city is famous for its many luxurious palazzo, including the Palazzo del Poppolo (13th century), the Palazzo Vecchio (13th century), and Palazzo Pitti (15th century). The most important structures, however, are the Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral, which was begun in 1296, and the Galleria degli Uffizi, a building first built in 1581 and is now one of the most esteemed art museums in the world. The historic town center of Florence was inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1982.
  • Volterra – Nestled between the rivers Bra and Cecina on a rocky rise in the Tuscany region, Volterra is a beautiful Medieval town that houses the 13th-century Palazzo dei Priori and the Palazzo Minucci-Solaini, which is today a museum that houses Tuscan works of art from the 14th to 17th centuries. It is also home to the Volterra Duomo and the Medicean Fortress, which was once a prison but is now home to a local restaurant. Just a few miles from the town center is the Villa di Spedaletto, which was built by the powerful Medici family of Republic of Florence.
  • Bonus: The maritime republics of Italy – One cannot hope to complete a list of must-visit medieval towns of Italy without the maritime republics. These historic places were six city-states that rose to prominence during the Middle Ages as independent republics. These include Genoa, Venice, Pisa, Ragusa, Gaeta, and Amalfi. The maritime republics built expansive navies to protect their political interests and promote trade in the region, allowing them to wield considerable power and influence that swayed even the movements of military endeavors such as the Crusades.

beautiful old Volterra - medieval town of Tuscany, Italy

To learn more about the best medieval towns to visit in Italy, please get in touch with Tour Italy Now today. We provide customized tour packages that will help you maximize your time in Italy and allow you to explore as much of its Medieval heritage as possible.

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By Priscila Siano (266 Posts)

Priscila Siano is the Marketing Director of Tour Italy Now, an online tour operator specializing in Italy travel. She's a respected expert on making dream Italy vacations a reality for clients.

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One Comment

  1. Mikey
    Posted December 14, 2015 at 1:42 PM | Permalink

    hello! I think Siena is beautiful, I’ve been there for holdiay many years ago.I’m italian and live in Padova (near Venice), and I agree with you, Italy can offer many fascinating possibilities, but I think also your Norway can. I’d really like to visit it! can you suggest me something interesting that I would not find in a guide?????? thank you!

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