The small walled town of Monteriggioni is just 20 kms to the north west of Siena. It was built in the 13th century as a fortified outpost for the Sienese during the wars against Florence and was referenced by Dante in his work “Inferno”.
As with circling round
Of turrets, Monteriggioni crowns his walls;
E’en 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.
(Translated by Henry Francis Cary during the years 1805–1844.)
Except for some minor restoration in the 16th century, the 570m of external walls and 14 towers remain unchanged and it’s possible to walk along part of them. I actually enjoy walking around the outside where they are bordered by vineyards which produce the local wines. Entry to the town can be made through two gates, one of which opens out into the main square, surrounded by restaurants, shops and a small church.
On seeing signs for a free museum, I am intrigued to see what lies inside. What I discover are a few scenes of knights, some helmets to try on and a pillory where an Italian family are posing for photos. The museum is really nothing more than a trick to get you into the souvenir shop where they are selling toy weapons, trinkets and T-shirts with Assassin’s Creed pictures. It now becomes clear that the online information about the town’s history that I found was really the plot for a computer game.
Next door I find a cellar filled with wine and local food products where Seila, the sommelier, allows me to try some delicious rose wine and some strong pecorino cheese. When I leave with my purchases, I find a handsome young man, dressed in a suit, playing classical music on his cello in the middle of the square. “That’s the theme to Lord of the Rings”, Seila informs me, and somehow I’m not surprised.