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Five Walled Cities in Italy

We build walls to keep things out, for protection against anything we perceive as a threat.  For people living in medieval times safety could often only be found by living within the city walls.

These walls provided a means to control who entered the city, thus effectively keeping the unwanted out.  Yet, over the years this original intention has morphed into something entirely different.  It has become the walls themselves that tend to be the very thing that draws people in.

Scattered across Italy you will find these little towns, leftover walled cities, havens for those lucky enough to call them home and historical landmarks for those of us who can only afford a quick visit.

Verona


It was in fair Verona that he did lay his scene and so also is the location of a charming walled city.  Verona gained worldwide recognition for being the setting of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays.  For many people though it is the impressive militaristic style architecture that draws new visitors year after year to Verona.

Here you can find architecture that dates back 2,000 years.  The city’s preservation has been something remarkable and because of it, still standing today, are many examples of impressive and intact Roman architecture.   This is almost unheard of for a city so far north.  Within the city’s walls you will find an ancient Roman Theater, Arena, and the Ponte Pierta Bridge.  All equally impressive sites protected by the two final remaining gates that wall the outside of the city.

The sites within the walls of this next city equal Verona in their impressive ability to sustain the test of time.

San Gimignano


San Gimignano, like Verona, has even been declared a “World Heritage Site”.  It sits atop a hill which at one time was strategic in the city’s ability to provide better protection for the surrounding countryside.  Now it just provides a uniquely spectacular view from its position above the surrounding towns.

The city’s walls date back to the 13th century, a time when competing families vied for control.  This led to some irreparable damage to the walls, but they are primarily still intact.  The impressive structures found in both of these cities are certainly reasons to make them a part of any trip.

Montagnana


The walls surrounding the city of Montagnana are impressive in and of themselves.  They are constructed of four gates and twenty-four towers.  The city is located just a short distance from Vicenza.  Here you will find what many consider to be the best preserved walls in Europe.

Inside the walls there is a castle that is now used for tourism and to hold any remnants of what would otherwise be a long forgotten time.  The convenience of location and the entirely intact walls of this city, which truly are a sight to behold, leave little reason for missing this little town on your next trip to Italy.

Perugia

Perugia is the capital of the region Umbria.  It is not only an impressive walled city, but for those of you who do not consider Italian to be your first language, it is home to one of the largest language schools in the country.  It is known for being at the “heart” or center of Italy for it’s located directly in the middle of the country.

Its status as a walled city is not the only draw to this little town.  For music lovers it’s the ideal place to visit.  Each year it plays host to a summer jazz festival.  If you are visiting in July you will likely hear the benefits of this festival that lasts almost two weeks.  It is easily the most celebrated jazz festival in Italy and arguably in all of Europe.  This city, much like San Gimignano, is also a city built atop a hill.  Below you will find spectacular views of the Tiber Valley and the valley of Umbria.

Lucca


Finally we have one of the most beautiful walled cities, Lucca.  Unlike some of the walled cities of the North, Lucca is completely flat.  Within the city’s walls, which were constructed in the 16th century, there are a variety of popular attractions. One of them involves strolling or biking around the ramparts that surround the city, which are lined with plane and chestnut trees.

Each year Lucca plays host to an annual flower festival, The Santa Zita, which takes place in April and lasts for about a week.  Just a 45 minute drive from Florence and you could be attending the ideal festival for welcoming spring in just one of several remaining walled Italian cities.

Written by Molly Photo Credits : rbultynck / lhalstead / busybenito / johnspooner / wyzik

Which is your favorite walled city in Italy? Share in the comments.

  • User Gravatar
    Eleonora
    May 3rd, 2010

    I am particularly fond of BARGA, near Lucca in the Garfagnana region of Tuscany.

    The 12th century walled city of Barga is rarely featured in Italian travel guides, and it is a beautiful example of Tuscan Medieval urban planning: maze of tiny piazzas, shops, cafes and porticos, narrow streets, which criss-cross the hillside before reaching the main piazza at the summit, where you can eat al fresco while admiring the 9th century duomo.

    Ciao,
    Eleonora

    Well, it certainly looks like I am going to need to do another post on the subject!

    .-= Eleonora´s last blog ..Cime di Rapa =-.

  • User Gravatar
    Gray
    May 3rd, 2010

    Cool idea for an article, Robin. Perugia is beautiful!

    Thanks Gray. I’m glad you weighed in :)

    .-= Gray´s last blog ..Shiny Travel Objects: May 2, 2010 =-.

  • User Gravatar
    Gloria - Casina di Rosa
    May 3rd, 2010

    Pisa is certainly not famous for this but its 12th century city walls are among the longest walls built in the Middle Ages and still standing (11km).

    Thanks Gloria, always great to get a local’s perspective :)

    Another place that you probably know and which is very interesting for its walls is Monteriggioni, near Siena. Probably the sole example of perfectly-preserved Sienese-style city walls.

  • User Gravatar
    Silvia Corradin
    May 3rd, 2010

    Marostica & Siena are my two faves ;-)

    Thanks so much for sharing your favs Silvia!

  • User Gravatar
    Paula - bell'alimento
    May 3rd, 2010

    I’ve always loved Verona! But hello they’re all stunning!

    I agree Paula- they are all stunning. Can’t wait to get to Verona!

  • User Gravatar
    Laurie
    May 3rd, 2010

    Awesome article!
    It’s a tough decision, there are so many greats!!
    My top three list would have to be Lucca, San Gimignano and….Montepulciano, which is also a walled city in southeast Tuscany near the Umbria border (and this despite its moment of fame from Twilight’s New Moon filming there)….and LOL, my recent post features Montepulciano :-)

    Another great choice Laura- so many.. I will have to do another installment. And great minds think alike ;)

    Laurie’s last blog: Romantic Montepulciano

  • User Gravatar
    food lover kathy
    May 3rd, 2010

    Verona is definitely my favorite, but I also love Lucca. I also loved San Marino—guess it technically isn’t a part of Italy.

    I know Kathy, I know…it’s hard to pick a favorite ;)

  • User Gravatar
    Andi
    May 4th, 2010

    Just gorgeous!!! Reminds me of the walls I saw in India.

    Haven’t been there, but I’d love to see walls there….

    .-= Andi´s last blog ..imgp2629 =-.

  • User Gravatar
    Alison
    May 4th, 2010

    Beautiful choices! One that I discovered totally by accident was Soave. Not sure if it’s big enough to be considered a city but it is walled and beautiful :)

    Hey, if there are walls and you liked it, that’s all that counts Alison ;)

    .-= Alison´s last blog ..Kasteeltuinen Arcen Gardens =-.

  • User Gravatar
    charlene evans
    June 5th, 2010

    I visited a walled city outside of Rome many years ago.I can’t remember the name of this city but people still lived there.Can anybody help me with the name? It was about an hour outside of Rome but not sure of the direction.Thanks

  • User Gravatar
    Mary Jane Cryan
    May 24th, 2012

    VITERBO is the city Charlene means, its 12th century walls still surround the city and Europe’s best preserved medieval quarter. I live in the nearby Vetralla where the medieval walls have “disappeared” since they have been incorporated into the later buildings. Other parts-and the castle-were bombed in 1944 .

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