The Poggibonsi Archeodrome is an open-air Archaeological Museum created as a joint project between the Musei Senesi Foundation, the Municipality of Poggibonsi and the University of Siena, under the guidance of Dr. Marco Valenti, Professor of Medieval Archaeology and Scientific Director of the Archeodromo and the Parco della Fortezza Medicea.
The excavations on the hill of Poggio Imperiale began in 1993, following the discovery of the remains of a Carolingian era village, which attest to the settlement of a group of people on the hills starting around the Sixth to the Seventh century; a community with a larger manor house for the local Lord [Dominus], surrounded by other smaller houses and some workshops and buildings used for storing food and other agricultural products and housing farmyard animals.
Of the 17 structures originally found in the excavation many have already been reconstructed with great skill and impressive fidelity to the sources, for others the process is still ongoing. To date, the following can be visited: the “Longhouse” (the large home of the owner’s family), three peasant huts, the barn, a chicken coop, the blacksmith’s forge, a bread oven and a vegetable garden all recreated under the expert guidance of archaeologists from the University of Siena who carried out the excavation and who deal with the maintenance, expansion and life of the whole village.
The park and museum were inaugurated in October 2014 and are open to the public with an exciting formula, halfway between re-enactment and experimental archaeology.
At the Archaeodrome, in fact, we have the opportunity to learn about the evolution of human settlements between the late Roman period and the Renaissance in the countryside of central Tuscany, but also and above all to experience first hand the actual material forms of life in the Carolingian era, together with villagers wearing proper historical dress, reproducing the customs, crafts and social dynamics of our distant predecessors in an exceptional full immersion where nothing is left out.
Here the blacksmith forges tools and weapons, the carpenter carves wood, the saddler works leather and the baker grinds his wheat and prepares bread, while inside the houses the weavers work with their looms with coloured fabrics from the dyer, guaranteeing the visitor a unique experience, both educational and entertaining, which exploits the great potential of direct experience and the innovative communicative tool of storytelling, where historical facts and congenial fantasy are mixed with learning about history.
The Fortezza Medicea Park of Poggibonsi is open for free on Sunday afternoons with the presence of the village staff. On all other days you can organize and book guided tours and activities, lasting between two hours, half a day (morning or afternoon) and full day (from 10:30 to 18:00).
You can enjoy a two hour stopover to visit the museum that holds the results of the archaeological excavations on the hill – which encompass a wide period between the Sixth and the Seventeenth centuries C.E. – and join the inhabitants in the medieval village.
Or if you want you can stop for longer, letting yourself be guided by the villagers on a journey back in time of over 1200 years! You will discover together how the village was born, how it is organized and how its functioning is assured. You experience the life of the families in their huts, using objects and furnishings typical of the early medieval period, learning to build and forge according to reconstructions made from the remains that emerged during the excavations. You can follow ‘live’ an extremely engaging trajectory, learning the techniques and procedures used, and then sharing together the fruits of what is produced.
You will therefore be an active part of this community, directly involved in the performance of the various activities: you will be able to help ‘Gottfried’ in the vegetable garden and ‘Garipaldo’ the cook (Dr. Luca Isabella, our extraordinary companion in this experience), who without fear of a lie, if you search, you can always find by the fire (!), attempt to bake cakes in the earth oven, much appreciated by the inhabitants of the village and the visitors, the result of a faithful reproduction of the remains of an oven in the excavations and reconstructed to be, as then, perfectly functional.
You can even opt to spend an entire day out in the Ninth century: enjoying a packed lunch in the large spaces of the Medici Fortress of Poggio Imperiale where, over an area covering about twelve hectares, the memory and deeds of the origins of the city are exposed or in the nearby Al Cassero restaurant, before the recreational activities in a historical setting scheduled for the afternoon with medieval games, shield games, historical quizzes, treasure hunts, thrilling orienteering activities and using a bow and arrow.
And to finish the day in the best way, at the end of the activities there’s the award ceremony for the winners of the competitions held and a certificate of citizenship of the medieval village will be issued to all participants who willingly applied themselves – given to record a memorable day lived together with Garipaldo, Razo, Bodo, Ansipertu the coin minter, Ursa the weaver, Ermentrude, the dyer and spice expert and also Bledo, the skilled blacksmith expert in forging and Sperandeo, the ever-ready handyman, specialized in the production of candles from tallow. Who would we be and what we would do in Chrlemagne’s times?
Info: Open for free every Sunday from 5pm to 8pm/ Guided tour of the museum and the Archeodrome 10 Euros A half day in the 9th century costs 18 Euros and a full day 30.00 – free for children up to 6 years, 50% reduction for children from 7 to 13 Guided tours by reservation (minimum 10 people) Thursday 10.30 and 16.30, Friday 10.30 and 16.30 Saturday 16.30 Sunday 10.30.