In the days before trains, planes, and automobiles medieval towns had to rely on sturdy, towering walls to protect their populations from hostile invaders. Countless remnants of formerly grand defensive rampart walls are scattered throughout Europe. One of the most stunning examples of a fully intact rampart wall is in the Tuscan town of Monteriggioni. In the Middles Ages, the turrets of Monteriggioni were so impressive that the Tuscan poet Dante invoked them in his classic work “The Divine Comedy” when describing a ring of giants who surrounded a fiery ring of hell.
The Italian village of Monteriggioni began as a stately medieval castle in the year 1200. The rampart walls surrounding the castle were encircled by a ring of coal that could be ignited if invaders were on the horizon. Over time, Monteriggioni has evolved into a small village of a little under 10,000 people. The exterior of virtually every building in Monteriggioni has retained its medieval character. Walking Monteriggioni’s stone streets is akin to journeying back in time. The only major cosmetic change to Moteriggioni throughout the centuries has been a gradual reduction of the turrets mounted on the rampart walls. Dante would hardly liken Monteriggioni’s turrets to imposing giants if he saw their 21st century incarnation.
Every July, history enthusiasts from around the world flock to the Medieval Festival of Monteriggioni. Festival participants dress as knights, duel with cumbersome replicas of medieval swords, and stay out all night sampling medieval food and drink at Monteriggioni’s restaurants. Monteriggioni is home to an Armory Museum which is the ideal spot for festival goers who want to compare their 21st century swords and chainmail to authentic pieces used by actual soldiers in the 14th century. The Armory Museum offers visitors the opportunity to attempt to swing a 22-pound sword for maximum medieval cred.