The nature reserve of Castelvecchio is located a few kilometers from the center of San Gimignano. It includes within the Poggio del Comune and extends up
to the ruins of Castelvecchio from which it takes its name.
The stronghold of Castelvecchio
Castelvecchio and its stronghold had its origin, most probably, in the sixth and seventh century when the Longobards began to descend in the Italian peninsula. His greatest fame was acquired during the eleventh century when it was turned into a fortress to protect the nearby Via Francigena and the Via del Sale, essential commercial artery especially for the city of Volterra.
In 1213 Castelvecchio also enters in the history of San Gimignano that allocates in the citadel its military contingent, used for their expansionist ambitions. After the period of glory , the castrum begins its slow decline, aggravated by the terrible plague of 1485
The city was completely abandoned until 1979 when a group of residents of San Gimignano decided to bring back to light the former glory together with a large group of volunteers. Thanks to the work of these citizens in 1996 the Natural Reserve of Castelvecchio was finally funded.
The actual reserve
Currently the reserve is still exists and is divided into two parts: the first is the most strictly archaeological where are the remains of the military citadel; the second, however, is the most scenic, protected, that encloses the large areas of woodland with a wide heterogeneity of vegetation.
We see a a succession of diverse landscapes such as the Mediterranean maquis with beech woods, and other more typical mountainous points with rocky slopes. The area is currently very popular by hikers who can combine the beauty of the landscape with the beautiful ruins of the ancient city from where you have a special view of the whole valley.
The hiking trail is a fairly easy difficulty level, the entire journey takes about 4 hours and covers 15 kilometers of this wonderful stretch of Val d’Elsa.