Colle di Val d´ Elsa - lies in the heart of Tuscany, in a strategically favourable position near the towns of Sienna, Florence and Volterra, on the via Francigena which connects Rome with the North.The town was originally made up of three independent areas with separate structures and urban arrangements: Borgo di Santa Caterina, Castello di Piticciano and Piano. The two oldest settlements, privileged seats of the ruling class, are both situated on the same hilly ridge which runs from east to west and, separated by a wide valley, dominate the valley floor which is home to the third hamlet, Piano, which has a more recent urban structure built specially to accommodate manufacturing activities.The first documents in which Colle is recorded date back to the 10 century but it was only at the end of the 12 century that the town gradually began to develop its independence and a political identiy: the first municipal charters are dated 1307.The urban area was already quite extensive in the Middle Ages and, in addition to the high district, included Piano (the plain) which ran along the old millraces, the artificial canals of the River Elsa, and was populated by numerous water-powered buildings, such as mills, paper mills and fulling mills, which were fundamental to the town´s economy, encouraging industrial development.The history of Colle di Val d´Elsa is characterised by frequent episodes of violence. One of the most famous of these was the batde of 1269 between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, which had considerable repercussions on the political balance in Tuscany. Another important event was the siege by the troops of the Duke of Calabria, suffered in defence of Florentine territory in 1479, which led initially to serious destruction and then to improvement of the fort system.During the Sixteenth century, Colle di Val d´Elsa was still part of the Florentine sphere, but was gradually gaining power, mainly thanks to the de Medici family and to the illustrious people of Colle who handled the town´s administration. After the Sienna war and the constitution of the grand duchy of Tuscany, in 1592 with the Bill passed by Clemente VIII, Colle became the seat of a new diocese. In the 17 century, the Usimbardi family opened a new chapter in the modern history of Colle di Val d´Elsa. At the beginning of this new era the paper industry was replaced by the new iron and glass industries. The production of glass followed by crystal characterised the industrial activiy of Colle di Val d´Elsa, which became known as the Bohemia of Italy in the 19 century. Today it is an authentic Crystal City, producing 15% of the world´s crystal.
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