“Però che, come in su la cerchia tonda
Monteriggioni di torri si corona,
così la proda che 'l pozzo circonda
torregiavan di mezza la persona
li orribili giganti, cui minaccia
Giove del cielo ancora quando tona”
(Dante Alighieri, Inferno Canto XXXI, vv. 40-45)
Dante was so deeply impressed by the sight of Monteriggioni walls as to create, in his own Divina Commedia, the famous similitude between its towers and the giants chained around the gap of Malebolge. At present the walls, with their fourteen squared towers, extend for 560 metres and have on top a sentry walk open for visitors.
Monteriggioni was founded by the people of Siena in the first years of the 13th century: it was on the north-western border, meant to check the pressure of Florence, Siena’s great enemy, and was besieged several times, even before the walls were complete. But the circle of the fortified walls, looking like a crown on top of a hill, always resisted.
The fortress was also surrounded by the “carbonaie”, ditches filled up with coal that could be set alight to provide an additional fire wall to drive back the enemies’ attacks.
It was occupied by Florence troops, on April 27th, 1554, only because of the treason of Captain Zeti, who surrendered and so saved the fortress, but not his life.
What has now become a small village spreads around a main square, surrounded by houses that still have gardens and yards, the same that had allowed the survival of besieged people: on one side of the square a small church, Pieve di santa Maria Assunta.