Once a year, in a small and charming medieval town in Tuscany, thousands of people flock to what is arguably Europe’s best street theatre festival – Mercantia.
Each July, this great and unusual thing to do in Tuscany is held in the small Tuscan village town of Certaldo, a town comprised of ‘Certaldo Alto’ (translating to something like Certaldo Heights – a small walled town with a charming castle and a medieval town hall, and the home of the famous writer Boccaccio) and then, ‘Certaldo Basso’, the lower and newer part of town which circumferences one side of Certaldo Alto.
The other side of Certaldo Alto features stunning views over the stunning Tuscan landscape that is rolled out over the Tuscan hills, raked with vineyards and dolloped with Tuscan villas and farmhouses.
Generally life here revolves around the seasons, around old-fashioned values that have been carried into the present – like long lunch breaks to dine with the family over traditional home-made meals, Sunday morning fishing by the river, spending time with the family and life-long friends, gardening and enjoying a relaxing life in a charming part of Tuscany.
Balmy summer evenings are spent strolling through the town centre, stopping for a gelato from one of the few gelaterias in town, stopping to chat with the locals who are comprised of relatives or life-long friends and acquaintances.
There is also a nearby river lined with land that is filled with fruit trees and vegetable patches stoically worked by the local land owners, the bounty from which is then shared amongst friends and family who gather regularly for lunch and dinner, which on Sunday can seem to roll one into the other so long and lovely they are.
But each year in July, Certaldo is transformed.
Thousands of people from all walks of life flock the small village town for the occasion of the Mercantia festival. Lasting from Wednesday evening to Sunday night around mid-July each year, Mercantia sees Certaldo Basso filled with market stalls pedaling homemade jewellery, hand-printed shirts, artworks, beauty products made from traditional herbs, hand-crafted handbags and shoes, and a whole myriad of other arts and crafts.
Certaldo Alto meanwhile is the highlight of this charming Tuscan festival.
To travel the short distance to the hilltop town, you can take the funicular up the hillside, or perhaps opt to walk the road that winds up and around the hillside, or else the cobbled medieval pathway that cuts through the trees straight up to the charming Tuscan hilltop town.
Within the walls, there are dozens of performers along the main walkway who entertain the crowds. Then inside the various courtyards, stages are set up to host comedians, acrobats, bands, and various other performers who contort, fire-breathe, joke, sing, dance, or act up a treat.
Music fills the air, mingling with the occasion oohs-and-ahs of the locals astounded by the more daring acts, and of course, much applause.
This year, for the 24th annual Mercantia, there was also much laughter as Italy’s famed female comic trio, Le Galline (‘The Hens’) had us all laughing hysterically.
There were three performers who gracefully danced from behind the windows of a stunning medieval building before abseiling down the face of the building.
A jazz band danced and jazzed their way through the streets whilst a stage set up in an ancient courtyard saw some young comic performers dance and sing.
There were art displays, markets, people dancing in the street, laughing, chatting and working their way through the cobbled pathways. In an open park within the town, a live band performed folky music that had hundreds of people swinging and dancing, twisting and turning.
As the night wore on, the energy refused to wain, kept up as it was by the energy of the crowd, the beat of the music, the cheer of the performers, and the wine. But eventually, we headed home, wandering down the cobbled medieval rode, stepping over stones warn down throughout the centuries. It was late, very late, but the stores in the town were still open and we decided on a delicious midnight gelato to keep us company on the short stroll home, the music still riding on the cool summer night air from the castle town up on high.
If you too would like to explore the Tuscan countryside and are looking for a great thing to do, you can visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Explore the historic wine estate before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.
Stroll through the Tuscan countryside for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.
If you would like to immerse yourself in the Tuscan countryside and be part of the scenery that has inspired so many great artworks, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni, and stopping for lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence –Best of Tuscany small-group tour.
To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence,Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more. We offer outstanding experiences in Florence, Venice,Rome, Cinque Terre and beyond.