The Castle in Monteriggioni, a fortified village in the homonymous municipality in the province of Siena, towers over the memories of generations of readers of Dante Alighieri’s “Commedia”. So many of them have “seen” the Medieval stronghold only in the verses of the 31st canto of the “Inferno”, when the Italian poet writes “on its circular parapets / Montereggione crowns itself with towers”. Dante, in fact, used this simile as his otherworldly journey brought him to the “horrible giants” who, sunk into the infernal rock, guard the ninth and last circle, where traitors are punished. For a moment, that frightening sight looked like high towers, like the ones of the ancient castle.
Today, the castle’s eleven towers – surrounded by the wonderful valleys and plains of Siena’s area – stand about six meters above the walls, which are partially walkable and face the beautiful tourist park of the Via Francigena, the pilgrims’ road that joined Northern Europe to Rome.
Built by the people of Siena at the beginning of the 13th century, to watch over the valleys extending towards rival town, Florence, in 1554 the Monteriggioni Castle was conquered by the Florentine Medici family. After so many wars, the castle changed hands not after a battle, but because of treason by a false ally, Bernardino Zeti.
Taking a leaf out of Dante’s book, we can imagine this man entering the last circle of Hell, astonished as he believes, for a brief moment, he is standing again in front of the Tuscan village he betrayed.