A Picturesque Journey through Tuscany's Most Beautiful Castles
Castles and fortresses tucked into the landscape, defensive bastions, walls and strongholds narrate the story of Tuscany's late Middle Age.
A pleasant journey through local stories and legends which are still able to inspire wonder, such as the ones about the Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo (Via Papitiana, 2, Massa Carrara), an imposing construction built in the middle XII century and that, in the XVII century, thanks to Jacopo Malaspina, was enlarged to the point that it had 800 "fires". According to legend, the wicked Marquise Cristina Pallavicini used to kill her many lovers by pushing them down the trap door at the foot of her bed, after having spent the night together. An ancient trap door is still visible, along with another room, the torture chamber – into which the bodies of her unwise lovers fell.
Set between Lucca and Valdinievole, the Fortress of Montecarlo (Via Fortezza, 4, Montecarlo) has been an inaccessible and mysterious place for a long time. The complex, privately-owned for over one hundred years, is a typical example of a military construction showing the innovative elements that use to decorate elegant residences of the 1800s and 1900s. Box hedges, lemon trees and rare dog roses adorn the beautiful Italian-style garden created within the fortress, just next to the parade ground, at the beginning of the past century.
Bordering on Pisa, the village of Vicopisano has been an important frontier post for centuries. The current Castle of Vicopisano dates back to 1330 and was fortified by Filippo Brunelleschi when it fell into the Floerentines' hands. The stringhold is still considered one of the best examples of Florentine military architecture of the first half of the XV century. Today it is included in the Unesco's World Heritage Site list and, in the past, it was so disputed because of its strategic position that it is nearly impossible to reconstruct its history: it is the Rocca of Radicofani, set on top of a basaltic cliff 896 metres high and dominating the territory between Mount Cetona, the Val d'Orcia and the Amiata mountain.
Most of all, it rises above the Via Francigena, the road that led wayfarers and penitents to Rome. On a hilltop located between the territory of Val di Chiana and Val d'Orcia, stands the Castle of Sarteano, the main structure of a small mediaeval village, The castle still appears inexpugnable with its walls seven metres thick and nearly no windows.
Set on hill 310 metres high, the Castle of St Giovanni d'Asso looks like a residential building rather than a castle. Once owned by Imperial officials stationed in Tuscany and the object of dispute between the bishops of Arezzo and Siena, today the castle houses various exhibitions: every year in November, the Crete Senesi white truffle fair is held there.
The Castle of Poppi dominates the Casentino valley. Its history is closely tied to the Counts Guidi family. Today the castle, mentioned by Vasari, is a museum housing the beautiful frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi in the chapel, historical finds of the Campaldino battle (that took place in the plain of Poppi between Florentine Guelphs and Ghibellines from Arezzo on June 11th 1289), a library and the "Giovanni Gualberto Miniati" documentation centre.
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