Serre di Rapolano
The petite town of Serre di Rapolano is like a miniaturized version of its nearby neighbor, Siena. Well-kept pedestrian lanes meander among pretty piazzas, impressive palazzi and sturdy city gates. There's an imposing castle, stretches of the encompassing security walls and breathtaking overlooks of the surrounding Tuscan countryside. Located above the spa town of Rapolano Terme, Serre developed as a borgo to serve the Byzantine castle, built in the 500s. It later became a Longobard holding and then passed to the city-state of Siena, whose architectural and cultural influence can be clearly seen.
Built in brick, the atmosphere of the village is practically perfect. It is typically Tuscan and full of character. The Porta Serraia is one of the old city gates, wedged between the Palazzo Gori Martini and the old protecting walls of the town. The columned loggia provided a passageway from the palace to its adjacent gardens, while the crenellated keep above was a watch tower. The Palazzo Gori Martini is faced in travertine and topped with Guelph crenellations, belying the owners' political alignment of the time. The massive entrance door is flanked by two carved lions.
Via del Cassero is a lovely lane that passes the village's most important monuments, nice for strolling and enjoying the atmosphere and exchanging greetings with the residents. There are palaces and it passes the narrow Vicolo delle Setaie, or street of the silk workers that once housed a prestigious silk-making workshop. The Teatrino is a diminutive but distinctive theatre with a loggia level of private boxes and an air of elegance. The main square is known simply as La Piazza and is home to the Palazzo del Comune (town hall) and a charming chapel. The ancient fortress still stands up above the village (now a hotel and restaurant).
Serre di Rapolano offers some restaurants, shops and caffes. It's perfectly situated for enjoying the Tuscan countryside but with easy access to the best sights. The spa town of Rapolano Terme is just minutes away, and the art city of Siena is just beyond that. The beautiful scenery and wonderful wines of Chianti are close by. Pienza, Montepulciano, Arezzo, San Gimignano, Montalcino and the Val d'Orcia should be on the list of must-see towns. The surrounding hills are perfect for country walks and are lined with cypress trees and sprinkled with country castles.
The village hosts a fantastic festival every May, Serre Maggio, which turns the town into a medieval center once again with a costumed parade, colorful flag-throwing competition, open-air market, music, games, food and fun.
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