Toscana - Places to Visit - Barberino Val d'Elsa
The communal territory covers an area of 65.88 square kilometres (25.44 sq. m.) perched on the hills separating the valleys of the Pesa and Elsa rivers. The zone slopes gently down toward the Elsa. The altitude never exceeds 400 meters (1,312 ft.) and the town itself is situated at 373 meters (1,223 ft.).
Slightly less than half the district extends into the Chianti Classico zone. Barberino Val dElsa is bordered by the communes of Tavarnelle Val di Pesa, Castellina in Chianti, Poggibonsi, San Gimignano, Certaldo and Montespertoli.
Barberino Val dElsa has 3,500 inhabitants (1991) and 21.2% of the working population is engaged in agriculture, especially the cultivation of grapes and olives.
The history of Barberino Val d'Elsa - Archaeological evidence found at San Martino ai Colli, Barberino, Sant' Appiano and Petrognano and dating from the Etruscan period through the centuries of the Roman Empire indicate the antiquity of settlement in the area. Later, feudal society was responsible for the construction of the Barberino zones many castles.
Semifonte, near Petrognano, has an especially interesting history. The Alberti family built the castle during the 12th-century restoration of imperial power. Semifonte experienced rapid and promising development until Florence decreed its destruction in 1202. As a result, construction of the Chapel of Saint Michael Archangel, dedicated to Semifonte, was interrupted until the end of the 16th century.
Destruction of the short-lived Semifonte increased the importance of Barberino, which also benefited from a favourable geographical position. When, around the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century, the rural area surrounding Florence was organized into leagues, Barberino became the administrative centre of a league bearing its name.
Thirty popoli (communities) between the Elsa and Pesa valleys belonged to the organization. Barberino was laid out on an ellipsoid plan popular in the Middle Ages. Parts of the fortifications are still visible along the Highway of the King of Rome.
Within the walls, in a setting that still preserves much of its ancient appearance despite the insertion of the modern parochial church in neo-Gothic style, stands Palazzo Barberini, once the home of Pope Urban VIIIs family.
Among the other castles in the Barberino territory mention should be made of Linari, with ruins of medieval structures, the Church of Santo Stefano, Vico dElsa, which has lost its fortifications but not the characteristics of a medieval rural village, and Tignano, where most of its circuit of walls and a gate flanked by an imposing castle are still intact.