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Colle di Val d’Elsa

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Inhabitants in 1991: 17.040

The municipal territory of Colle di Val d’Elsa extends for 92,21 square kilometres in an area of medium hills in the high Val d’Elsa. It had origins as a free municipality until the end of the XII century; became seat of Community in 1776 with the Leopoldina reforms.

The first news of the Colle territory, which since ancient times had the Bishops of Volterra as Lord, goes back to the XI century and it referred to two Ecclesiastic authorities in possession appointed by the Volterra Bishop: the parish church at Elsa and the church of Santa Maria di Spugna; in 1007 the latter was ceded to the Nobles Aldobrandeschi, who transformed it into a monastery with a large jurisdiction over the surrounding land. In one of these, Piticciano, was born the first nucleus of the present day Colle, recorded as “Colle Nuovo” (new) in contrast to a “Colle Vecchio” (old) (therefore pre-existing) which was mentioned in a document of 1115. Occupied and destroyed by the Fiorentini during the war against Siena (1172), it was quickly reconstructed; already in the last decade of the XII century it was organised in free municipality with its own consuls and then, from 1201 its own statutes. In an attempt to maintain a balanced position between Siena and Firenze, for the whole of the first half of the 1200s Colle took sides with one or with the other, until in 1260 it found itself at the side of Firenze in the war of Montaperti, and was devastated by the Siena troops. Again in the following years Colle saw, at first hand, the warring and diplomatic events which marked the rapport between the two powerful municipalities and they alternated from the Ghibellina to the Guelfi parties until the epilogue which occurred in their countryside and which marked the defeat of Siena by the Fiorentini (1269). Colle fought again by their side between 1284 and 1293 against Pisa: by now tied to the municipality of Firenze (and always more frequently governed by a Podesta or Captain belonging to the Fiorentino management class), at the beginning of the 1300s they were officially placed under the protection of Firenze. Loyal and subordinate to Fiorentina politics, when Arrigo VII came into Italy, Colle was aligned to the Guelfa league, and sent militia against Uguccione della Faggiola (1315). After several years of internal instability characterised by a series of civil struggles, it was first occupied by the exiled Ghibellini (1322) and then they had as Lord Archpriest Albizzo dei Tancredi, member of the most powerful local magnate family (1326-1330); in 1333, it decided to subject itself to Firenze for a period of three years, then extended it to fifteen after a new scheme of exiles. Other civil disturbances and a question of borders between Colle and Poggibonsi caused Firenze to intervene; it is not know how spontaneously, but Colle in 1349 opted for an act of perpetual dedication to Firenze. In the war which had the Pope, the King of Napoli and the Siena republic lined up against Firenze (1478-79), Colle was besieged and taken by storm, but in 1481 it return to being part of the Fiorentino State. In 1592 it obtained the dignity of City in consequence to the concession of the Episcopal Seat. Colle is the birth place of famous artist like the sculptor and architect Arnolfo di Cambio (died 1302) and the artist-treaty writer Cennino Cennini (XIV.-XV cen.) and in contemporary times the artist and writer Mino Maccari (1889-1991) and the writer Romano Bilenchi (1909-1989).

It was here that the art of printing began in Italy around about 1400 with the installation of one of the first printing presses.
The modern part of the town has developed beneath the old medieval town (Colle Alta), which still has its ancient walls, 13th century towers, and Renaissance palaces. In the town centre there is also a tower-house built at the beginning of the 13th century called Torre di Arnolfo di Cambio because the artist is said to have been born here.

Places to visit:
House of Arnolgo di Cambio ,tower house of the 1200s where it seems the artist was born.
Palazzo Pretorio, 1300s construction, with the façade decorated with Podesta coats of arms.
Palazzo Campana, it was erected in 1539 projected by Giuliano di Baccio d’Agnolo. It is preceded by a bridge which connects the two nuclei of the Città Alta.
Porta Nuova, flanked by to cylindrical towers from the XV-XVI century, it was probably designed by Giuliano da Sangallo
R. Bianchi Bandinelli” Archaeological Museum, in which is exhibited material which goes from Eneolithic to Medieval relative to the Val d’Elsa territory.
Cathedral, constructed in the first half of the 600s on the place of a preceding Romanic parish church. Restored in 1992, the interior hosts an important collection of 1600s art.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Translated by Ann Mountford

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