We’re spending the day in Certaldo, about fifteen kilometres from the agriturismo where our empty suitcases are stacked.

Corner of agriturismo
A small corner of the agriturismo where we’re staying. The landscape is greener here, and the hills covered with vineyards and olive groves.

Certaldo is on two levels, connected by a funicular, but it’s an easy ten-minute walk up or down, on cobbled or gravel paths leading to the city’s various gates. The walled upper town is famous as Boccaccio’s birthplace (1313). You can see his tomb (he died in 1375) in the church and friary of Santi Jacopo e Filippo. You can also visit his house, just down the road from the Palazzo Pretorio, the seat of local government, whose outer walls are studded with terracotta and stone family crests.

Way up
One of the paths that lead to the walled Medieval town of Certaldo. One of the defining features of Certaldo is that it lacks a Museo della Tortura.

Whether Boccaccio composed the Decameron in Certaldo is unknown to me, although I doubt it: he moved around a great deal, between Florence and Naples. I suppose I could have ducked into the conveniently located Boccaccio Museum and found the answer, but I did not. I like my museums in cold, cloudy cities. And there’s always Wikipedia.

The poet
The poet with pigeon. He stands in lower Certaldo, in the Piazza Boccaccio, which is actually a car park. A wider angle would reveal any number of Fiats and Renaults.

The Medicis were here

Last night, before dinner, we had a tour of our agriturismo’s organic wine making operation. The place was originally a sixteenth-century hunting lodge for an obscure member of the stupendously rich and powerful Medicis, and so it came with all the comforts of home: a permanent staff of hundreds, packs of dogs, stables for horses, farms for filling noble bellies, as well as a vast winemaking operation.

Some vineyards attached to our agriturismo. I’ve been running in my usual Asics, but have been advised to wear stout shoes when off road, as the Tuscan viper lives in these here parts. I didn’t pack any stout footwear, but I took a short hike in Birkenstocks today and nothing happened, so I should be fine.
Emblem of the Medicis on the vaulted ceiling of the wine cellar.

We had a tour of the wine cellar, which is independent of the main buildings: dark brick, vaulted ceilings, surfaces furred with ancient black moss, the air pungent with centuries of wild yeasts, layered with antique aromas of fermenting wine and oak. You can smell time’s slow passing.

The harvest is in progress right now, and we stood beside giant tubs of grape juice and must exhaling clouds of intoxicating aroma, the tubs brimming with the soon-to-be wine, waiting to begin its adolescence in stainless steel tanks, before a long, dream-filled slumber in oak barrels in the dark Medici cellar, where the wine will dream of its hilly Tuscan birthplace, visited by cooling rain and wreathed with bees — until a sudden pop and the wine tumbles headlong into someone’s glass, disoriented and bleary, taking its first breaths, more awake now, stretching and blinking through the curved, distorting prison of precise German glassware…fully awake now, in Vegas.

The best part of a day in Certaldo: a double espresso, under the shadow of Medieval walls, with Coleman Hawkins murmuring on the café box.

4 thoughts on “Certaldo”

  1. I checked out Coleman Hawkins – on Wikipedia, of course. He died of liver disease – no specifics, but probably not from wine, or in Vegas. Glad for you and your readers, myself included, that you seem to be enjoying yourself in Italy.


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