As with circling round
Of turrets, Monteriggioni crowns his walls;
And thus the shore, encompassing the abyss,
Was turreted with giants, half their length
Uprearing, horrible, whom Jove from heaven
Yet threatens, when his muttering thunder rolls.
This is how the Tuscan writer Dante Alighieri, in his book “Inferno”, used the turrets of Monteriggioni to refer to the ring of giants that encircled the Infernal abyss.
Town of Monteriggioni is far from the abyss that Dante was talking about, although its founders- Sienese were expecting it to be a strong defence tool and as such – abyss for their eternal rival – Florence.
This little town is an actual fortress that rises from the hill near Siena and with multiple towers around builds an actual crown of the hilltop. This bastion of Siena was built during 13th century and represented one of many shields of defence of Siena against Florence. One of the fights of rivals, that happened here, is of special importance to locals and interesting for tourists, since it gave birth to legend of Captain Zeti.
According to this legend, as Florentine army never had luck in conquering Monteriggioni, on April 27, 1526 they finally surrounded the area, but, that was only achieved because of the help of Captain Zeti from Siena. Being afraid of Florentine bigger army, although promised he’ll fight to the death, allegedly, he betrayed his own army in Monteriggioni. He sneaked into Florentine camp and gave them information on where the defence of the castle is weakest, after what fort was forced to surrender and Siena finally gave up on fighting.
To this day locals say that ghost of Zeti can be spotted flying across the castle, begging for forgiveness for his betrayal in hope he’ll find a peace. There is also a rumour that under the castle a secret passage exsists and starts at the well in center of the town of Monteriggioni and goes all the way to Siena, and that this is the place where Captain Zeti’s spirit wanders and seeks for a peace that is nowhere to be found. This betrayal was so boisterous that Dante had mentioned Monteriggioni as a place that will forever be prison for damned soul of the Captain.
Today, Monteriggioni stands as one of the most beautiful Tuscan and Italian villages, completely preserved in it’s original form. Its central area is Piazza Roma in which Church of St. Mary of the Assumption is located, old as the town itself. Surrounding the church and central “mystery passage” well are wineries, restaurants and shops with hand-made crafts and souvenirs. Central area is actually a tiny place, logically, given that was never meant to be a town, almost reminding of someone’s ancient living room in open, with high towers throwing their shadow on it.
Town stands on one of the oldest and popular pilgrim route leading to Rome- Via Francigena, which you can take leaving the city through doors facing Italian capital- Porta Roma. Accordingly, you can take a walk across the edges of town, on walls overlooking the panoramic view of Siena surroundings and fields where major battles had happened or closely look at structure of towers that have resisted time for almost 8 centuries.
Right there, standing tall, you will become fully aware of how does it feel to stand and walk on, what is known as crown of Italy.