Gate to the Middle Ages
A general overview of the cultural and touristic policy of Monteriggioni
More than twenty years ago, the well-known Danish economist Rolf Jansen wrote an almost prophetic bestseller entitled “The Dream Society”.
This book argued that in our century the market would have opened up especially to the trading of apparently unmarketable goods: only products capable of embodying a dream will be sold, as the goods will not be purchased because of their intrinsic quality but much rather in relation to their power of evoking feelings, emotions and even positive and engaging rational thoughts in the consumer.
It will be the narrators who will find the way to reconcile dreams, art and productivity.
There is a little corner of Valdelsa in Tuscany, specifically Monteriggioni and its territory, where these principles have been put into practice with perseverance and success, where peculiarity and history have become an identifiable brand, where exciting stories are told, making people willing to visit these places.
A context being at the same time standardized and diversified by the mould of the Middle Ages and by the subsequent investments, as well as by the existence in the population of a healthy sense of identity, precisely based on History.
Gate to the Middle Ages
Monteriggioni, a superb castle celebrated by Dante Alighieri, has rewritten the rules of tourism, becoming attractive not only for granting dreams and emotions but also for encouraging visitors to spend time more slowly and enjoy its monumental heritage and its well preserved (and well managed) landscape.
In fact, Monteriggioni is a cultural district that is highly dedicated to heritage preservation and promotion, as well as to the production of material and immaterial culture.The “Gate to the Middle Ages” articulates its activities on three main features that allow to live and understand a quality district:
the Castle, the Via Francigena, Abbadia a Isola (the Abbey at Isola).
the Castle, the Via Francigena, Abbadia a Isola. These are the object of continuous attention by the Municipal Administration: together they form a real monumental, cultural and landscape circuit.
The construction of the castle of Monteriggioni, commissioned by Siena in opposition to Florence in 1213, took place between 1214 and 1219. Its circular walls, surrounded by charcoal pits and ditches, were lined with towers and the two gates were equipped with portcullis operated by pulleys..
The walls underwent an important intervention between the 1920s and the 1930s, with the reconstruction of the towers that had been lost in previous centuries.
Abbadia a Isola was founded in 1001 by the lords of Staggia.
The complex was built in a marsh located at the intersection of the four counties of Florence, Fiesole, Siena and Volterra, on an important stretch of the Via Francigena and at the confluence of secondary links to Florence and Volterra.
The abbey was conceived as a measure aimed at consolidating the patrimony of the founding family. Between the 11th and the 14th century it experienced a great expansion, acquiring lands and castles as well as strengthening its role in territorial control. The Siennese fortified the abbey in 1376 and made it part of the system of castles located on the borders of their territory.
In the last years the Via Francigena has gained new importance, taking back its long lost historical and cultural centrality. Since 2004 it is a Great Cultural Itinerary of the Council of Europe, largely following in its actual route the itinerary left by Sigeric at the end of the 10th century. For the territory of Monteriggioni Sigeric’s itinerary indicates the submansio of Borgonuovo and Abbadia Isola.
The Municipal Administration, assisted by the company AD 1213, carries out major human, economic and urban planning investments, for "decorum" and accessibility, for the experience to be lived by visitors, with great attention to families and religious tourism. Investments have been significant and continue to make Monteriggioni one of the "capitals" of the Via Francigena: home of the Tuscan Association of the Vie Francigene, it also organizes the Forum of the Via Francigena Municipalities.
The Castle is constantly visited by tourists delighted by this breathtaking scenery and willing to feel the past centuries with the legacy they left behind: towers, palaces, buildings, walls, the shape of the streets and squares. Abbadia Isola, an extraordinary monumental complex, has been restored and is becoming an important cultural and aggregation center, acting as a luxury hostel for pilgrims walking on the Via Francigena. It hosts high quality events, aimed at bringing together people and families with cultural operators, making them interact. This happened, for example, at the recent children's book fair held in February 2018 that has not only had great success, but also brought over 200 students from local schools to work for months on selected books. In other words, Abbadia a Isola is becoming a place of values, experiences, socialization. Monuments and landscape are told to people and made to appreciate emotionally, through a continuous fil rouge of events that allow them to get into history in several different ways. This happens at various stages, systematically, through fixed dates but also with European level events that promote knowledge and cultural insight.
The "Walk in history" is organized at regular intervals along the Via Francigena, where people walk together with characters in medieval dresses. The final stop is in Monteriggioni where participants continue their immersion in the Middle Ages led by the members of the cultural association L'Agresto, proud promoters of their own origins. But many other events are organized to tie people with monuments and history: from the Slow Travel Fest (respecting the theme chosen by the UN for 2017: "International Year of Sustainable Tourism") to the Medieval Festival, one of the oldest in Italy and one that enjoys greater reputation for the cooperation between the Municipal Administration, the academic world and the community.
The vocation of Monteriggioni is therefore to host events that always strengthen its widely recognised role of cultural stimulus for the knowledge of history and traditions in the national panorama, for the general public as well as for a generational education. Both the work of the Municipal Administration and the vocation of the monumental center support this effort.
All events connected with the Via Francigena and its fideistic-cultural aspects, with the landscape of diffused castles, with the value-creation chain of the monumental complex of Abbadia a Isola are part of such an approach. And the same goes especially for Monteriggioni itself with the great medieval festival: an intermediate and crucial moment in strengthening the cultural identity of Monteriggioni and of its community, which is very active in preserving memory. In fact, Monteriggioni, as a cultural district promotes the exchange, communication, socialization and sharing of the "imaginary", the "historical" and the "traditional". Starting from this assumption, the concept of a cultural district stimulates the specialization of the territorial offer in creating culture as a tangible and intangible product of the area (therefore, intense culture in a broad sense: from content creation to quality food, from the environmental goods to architectures, etc.). Ultimately, talking about a cultural district (like it is in our case), also means to build up and give centrality to a solid reputation. In fact, district policies can prove to be much more important than their immediate economic impact: they are a strategic resource capable of supporting effective territorial marketing in a lively competition between Italian and European cultural production and consumption centers.
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