The history of Barberino Val d’Elsa, situated along the ancient Via Cassia that connects Rome to Florence, is linked to that of Semifonte, the city totally destroyed by the Florentines in 1202.
It is said, in fact, that the stones of Semifonte’s walls were used to build those of Barberino, fortified to become a Florentine outpost. The city retains its original medieval aspect, with an elliptical plan traversed by two longitudinal streets.
On entering the town through the Sienese Gate, still well preserved, we arrive at the main street, Via Francesco da Barberino, lined with ancient palaces, among them the Palace of the Podestà whose facade is decorated with the heraldic arms of the families that governed it, and the Malaspina Palace.
The street ended at the Florentine Gate, no longer existing. Nearby is the ancient Pilgrims’ Hospital, founded in 1363 to provide shelter for pilgrims travelling to Rome, now converted into a cultural centre.
Overlooking the town is the Church of San Bartolomeo (St. Bartholomew), rebuilt in neo-Gothic style in 1910. Inside is a 16th-century painting by the Master of Barberino portraying the Virgin and Child giving a Rosary to St. Catherine of Siena and St. Dominic.