Semifonte, the lost city

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In the latter part of the early Middle Ages, on the hills between Certaldo and Barberino Val d’Elsa (Chianti) stood the Semifonte Castle. Thanks to its strategic position and to its broad-minded politics, the Semifonte Castle became a refuge for all kinds of drifters, refugees and exiles, to the point that it became an evil city, disliked by its powerful neighbours Florence and Siena.

This situation of city-refuge consequently led to a phenomenal demographic growth until the year 1200 when Semifonte was almost the same size as Florence. In about the year 1200 Florence requested Semifonte to limit its growth and to submit to Florentine power, but the reply was a sign attached to the city gate looking towards Florence on which was written “Florentia, get out of the way because Semifonte is becoming a city”.

Florence sent two ambassadors to Semifonte but they were killed and their bodies were left hanging at the city gates for several days. In retaliation Florence sent its armies, accompanied by several mercenaries from Siena - the order was to destroy everything. The entire population was massacred and buried in common graves and the city was reduced to a pile of rubble.

A law prohibited any kind of construction of the Semifonte territory for five centuries, until the Lorena Family, a new noble family from Florence, had a miniature copy of the Florence Cathedral semifonte built – the San Donnino church, where the cursed ancient city used to lie. To reach Semifonte, take the Tavarnelle exit off the Firenze-Siena motorway, then continue towards Siena. Coming out of Barberino Val d’Elsa, turn right in the direction of Certaldo-Empoli and carry on for a few kilometers and you will find the sign on your right.

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