Monteriggioni, Tuscany, Italy

As one drives down the free motorway between Florence and Siena, suddenly one sees the walled town of Monteriggioni and it would take the most disinterested of tourists not to stop and visit.

The castle was built by the Republic of Siena in 1214 to 1219 ad a defence against their wars with Florence.  As can be seen, it controls the valley along which the motorway now runs.  As a fortress it was very successful until 1554 when it was placed in the hands of a Florentine exile, Giovannino Zeti, who became reconciled with his former enemies and opened the gates of the castle to them.

The walls are in an oval shape and have a circumference of 570 metres.  They follow the natural contours of the hill and are protected by 14 towers and have two gates, one to the north and the other to the south. 

The Piazza Roma is the main square and has a church and houses that once belonged to nobles.  Unusually for what is essentially a castle, there are gardens inside which would once have been used for growing vegetables.

The town is mentioned in Dante's Inferno, its walls he wrote, were turretted by giants which threatened even Jove.

Parking is no problem - there is a huge car park which is unmanned but the tickets were checked very quickly by the municipal police.  For motorhomes the cost is EUR2 per hour or EUR6 for the whole day.