Barberino appears as one of the west outposts of the Chianti territory, and its history has much to do with the animosity of Florence as a state city.
Barberino Val d'Elsa rises in a zone which, in its time, abounded in Etruscan and Roman settlements, as demonstrated by numerous archeological findings taht have turned up in its environs, in particular cinerary urns that werw found near San Martino ai Colli.
Its medieval standing was not, moreover, ancient. Even if mention is made of its name on a parchment preserved in the Abbey of Pissignano, dated 22 June 1054, in reality the development of Barberino dates back to the early years of the 13th century.
It also coincided with the destruction of the city of Semifonte, the stronghold of the Ghibelline nobility of the Gherardini and Alberti families, effected by the Guelph city of Florence in 1202.
As Repetti wrote, "the destruction of Semifonte gave life to Barberino", because Florence felt the need to fortify a citadel in the zone that could serve it as a garrison towards the pipe-dream of winning back the pro-imperial feudality.
The material that served to erect the walls and to furnish the old castle of Barberino with two gates was taken from the ruins of the rival city. Thus, around 1250, Barberino had recognition as the office of a podesta, and became the chief town of the League, which took its name and grouped together more than thirty "populatios" by the Val d'Elsa and of the same Val di Pesa. After the short interval of the invasion by Henry VII, who laid siege to it and devastated it, Barberino returned within the sphere of thr Comune of Florence, whose subsequent fortunes it followed.
Today, in observing Barberini Val d'Elsa, it is possible to see the typical structure of a fortified medieval village: the enclosing walls of an almost elliptical shape and the village cut longitudinally by the direct road.
At the two ends, there are the two entry gates, with the one exposed to the south preserving its 14th-century characteristics. The buildings of the ancient built-up area have also kept their 14th-century appearance, with the sole exception of the collegiate church of San Bartolomeo, a medieval edifice which is the work of Giuseppe Castellani. It preserves a fragment of a late 15th-century fresco and a bronze bust of the Blessèd Davanzato, the work of Pietro Tacca.
Among the most important buildings, the former Town Hall, which today is the seat of the Rectory, with its facade decorated with stone or terracotta coats of arms of the ancient podestas; the 14th-century palace of the Da Barberino family, with the suggestive inner countryard furnished with a circular well to wich the guard militias on the castle keeps gained access by means of underground passages, and the Pilgrims' Hospital, built in 1365 by Taddeo di Cecco da Barberino, are worth a mention. The latter was the son of the more famous Francesco da Barberino, whose bust today is housed in the chapel. Lastly, in the town hall, works by the sculptor Leto Fratini and the painters Ugo Capocchini, Emilio Montagnani and Marco Borgianni, are on display.
The last-mentioned also frescoed the council room with themes linked to elements in our landscape and culture.
All this has remain untouched until present, together with the tower-houses (though not as impressive as those of the famous neighbouring village of San Gimignano), and the Palace Pretorio.
A little curiosity: between Barberino and Poggibonsi lies a locality called Sosta del Papa (the Pope’s stop).
Tradition has it that Pope Pio 7th , caught by a physiological need, was forced to stop here in search for hospitality by a local farm house. The owners of the farm house placed a memorial plaque in memory of the event, and from that moment, the place was named “The Pope’s peeing".
Barberino Val d’Elsa, with Sant’ Appiano and Semifonte, has been appointed with the prestigious Orange Flag of Italian Touring Club.
In the surroundings of Barberino Val d'Elsa: