Offbeat itineraries in the footsteps of industrial archaeology
Water and glass have always characterised the development of Colle Val d'Elsa, which from the upper to the lower town offers exploratory routes suitable for the whole family on the traces of industrial archaeology.
Colle di Val d’Elsa
Perched on a small hill and with its distinctive vertical profile, Colle Val d'Elsa appeals to those seeking a combination of history and modernity, nature and architecture. City of crystal and industrial archaeology itineraries, the hamlet will amaze with its uniqueness, capturing the attention of the whole family.
The upper part of the town, called Colle Alta, has maintained its typical medieval structure and constitutes the oldest part of Colle Val d'Elsa, as well as its historical centre. It can be reached by an uphill path or by the more comfortable lift that opens up to a panoramic terrace where to stop and take some pictures. One of the most famous architects and town planners of the 13th century, Arnolfo Di Cambio, was born in Colle Alta: Piazza Arnolfo, in the lower part of the village, is dedicated to him.
Indeed, it is Colle Bassa that marked a turning point in the town's aspect: over the years, this area has undergone an urban redevelopment that has involved internationally renowned architects such as Jean Nouvel, who has left his signature in and around Piazza Arnolfo.
From Colle Bassa there are numerous itineraries that, which, divers from the usual nature trek, lead to the traces of industrial archaeology: examples are the paper mills, the oldest of which (the La Buca paper mill) was already processing paper in the 14th century.
A visit to the Crystal Museum is also a must: Colle Val d'Elsa is the first and most important centre in Italy for the production of crystal, an excellence that originated in the 19th century in the lower part of the town and that today has earned the town the nickname of the Bohemia of Italy! The first glassworks arose in the Boschi area: the oldest factory was developed in an old Augustinian convent, where part of an old chimney can still be seen today.
The museum tour, with the magic of fire shaping glass and the final 'forest' of crystals will fascinate even the youngest visitors.
Searching as explorers the 'finds' and clues left by industrial archaeology, it turns out that the development and prosperity of Colle Val d'Elsa have been linked from the very beginning to its proximity to a waterway, the Elsa. The almost thousand-year-old Gore, small canals that conveyed water from the river to the industries, still show the urban planning ingenuity that has always characterised the people of Colle. Another example of the importance of water is the great Cistern 'il Torrione' (now disused), the first container of drinking water, which, like an impregnable fortress, towers massive as a reminder of its key function.
As anticipated, however, Colle Val d'Elsa is not only industry and architecture. The River Park of Alta Val d'Elsa is a protected area that can be explored thanks to a 4-km-long equipped trail, the Sentierelsa: entering the woods you will be catapulted in a dreamlike environment, where the water forms waterfalls and small lakes of such a blue water that one can hardly believe one's eyes! If you look closely, you will also find traces of the first constructions used to bring water to the village, in a small naturalistic adventure that is also suitable for children. Along the Elsa river, it is also possible to practice outdoor activities such as soft rafting or pack rafting, perfect for a bit of adrenalin and safe fun for the whole family.
Last but not least, Colle Val d'Elsa has always been a stopping point for pilgrims travelling along the ancient Via Francigena, so much so that there is an official variant (Leg 32) that, linking Monteriggioni and San Gimignano, makes a small detour in the town of water and crystal, before resuming the route.
Via Francigena - Leg 32
SentierElsa – River Park
Via Francigena - alternative route
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