FOCOGNANO CASTEL | TUSCANY
The municipality of Castel Focognano, which has an area of 56 sq km, is located in the Valdarno Casentinese on a spur of the Pratomagno. Castel Focognano was a feudal stronghold and then the seat of a Podestà from the beginning of the 15 C until Pietro Leopoldo ordered the transfer of the Podestà to Rassina which has been the capital of the municipality since then. Castel Focognano became a community in 1776 reaching is present aspect in 1809 with the creation of the “mairies” when the hamlets of Talla, Bagno, Bicciano, Pieve, Campovecchio, Pontenano, Capraia were detached to form the new community of Talla.
The earliest written record of Castel Focognano is in a document signed by Bishop Tedaldo of Arezzo in 1028, when half of a wood here was assigned to the Abbey of Santa Flora and Lucilla. Later, the Ubertini exercised their feudal rights until, threatened by the Bishop of Arezzo, Guido Tarlati, they vainly sought help from the Florentine Republic. The castle fell into the hands of the Tarlati in 1322 and remained in the possession of Arezzo until 1353, when, under a treaty between the Florentines and the Duke of Milan allied with Arezzo, it returned to its ancient feudal Lords. At the end of the 14 C it passed directly under the jurisdiction of the Florentines, becoming the Seat of a Podestà.
POPPI | TUSCANY
The municipality of Poppi in the Valdarno Casentinese covers 97 sq km, extending from the ridge of the Tosco-Romagnolo Apennines to the floor of the Arno valley, centred on a terraced hillock that dominates the Campaldino plain and the valley of the Upper Arno. It was a fiefdom of the Counts Guidi of Battifolle and later became a Vicariate Seat.
The first historical record of Poppi dates from 1169, when it was cited in a document as belonging to the Abbey of San Fedele di Strumi. In a more significant document of 1191, Poppi, Battifolle and Porciano, together with many other castles on the borders of Tuscany and Emilia Romagna, were confirmed as a fief of Count Guido Guerra dei Guidi by the Emperor Arrigo VI. For the next three centuries, the history of Poppi was intertwined with that of its Lords, who were, for a long time, among the most powerful of the Tuscan feudal nobles and often protagonists in the principal events of Florentine politics of the 12 C and 13 C. In 1261, Count Simone fortified the town and began the construction of the palace, which was finished towards the end of the century by his son Guido. The Guidi di Poppi were Ghibellines and as such were forced, after the death of King Manfredi in 1266, to make an act of submission to the Guelfs who were dominant in Florence. On 11 June 1289, in the plain of Campaldino close to the walls of the castle, the historic Battle of Campaldino was fought between Florence and Arezzo, confirming the predominance of Florence and the Guelf party in Tuscany, even if for the moment without any acquisition of territory. The next year, the Florentines, returning from an unfruitful expedition against Arezzo and out of hatred for the Count Guido Novello who had been Vicariate General to King Manfredi in Florence, devastated the Casentino, setting on fire the Castle of Poppi. Finally in 1440, during an assault by the Milanese forces under the command of Niccolò Piccinino, Count Francesco dei Guidi, who had favoured the enemies of Florence after the Florentine victory at Anghiari , was besieged in his castle and forced to surrender. Passing into the possession of the Florentine republic, Poppi became Vicariate Seat with jurisdiction covering the whole of the Casentino.
Famous natives of Poppi are the sculptor Mino, called da Fiesole (1430-1484), the artist Francesco Morandini, called il Poppi (1544-1597) and the free thinker and poet Tommaso Crudeli (1703-1745).
Main sights in and near Poppi
Poppi Castle, a very impressive castellated palace positioned to dominate the valley. It was constructed in the second half of the 1200s as a strengthener to the fortress. In the front there is a large garden. The Castle of Poppi is thus a 13 C construction with successive Renaissance additions and embellishments. Externally it resembles the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, of which it may be considered the prototype, since it is probably the work of the same architect, Arnolfo di Cambio. The interior courtyard, the staircase, the great rooms with coffered ceilings are masterworks of Tuscan architecture. The chapel is decorated with frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi. The Castle of Poppi houses a great library of more than 25,000 volumes, including over 1000 manuscripts and incunabula.
Church of the Madonna del Morbo, a circular plan church started in 1657 and finished in 1705.
The ruins of the Abbey of Strumi (10 C) - initially Benedettine then Vallombrosine.
The Hermitage of Camaldoli, constructed at the beginning of the 11 C by San Romualdo, is located near the Apennine ridge, surrounded by thick fir and beech woods.
CASENTINO VALLEY | TUSCANY REGION
The Casentino valley is the initial and highest basin of the Arno valley, extending from the sources of the Arno river to the town of Subbiano. It is one of the four valleys comprising the Province of Arezzo. Monte Falterona, where the Arno arises, lies on the northern boundary between the Casentino and Emilia Romagna. On the east of the valley, are the Alpe di Serra and the Alpe di Catenaia, which separate the Casentino from the Upper Val Tiberina. On the west is the Pratomagno, which separates the Casentino from the Valdarno Superiore. Part of the Casentino is included in the Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona, Campigna National Park.
The Casentino is roughly oval in shape, extending either side of the Arno to a width of between 30 and 60 km. The topography of the Casentino is varied, including both river plain and heavily forested mountains. Due to its geographical position and to its history, although it is less than 50 km from Florence, few people know the Casentino well. Since no highways or long-distance railways cross the valley, it is difficult to pass through the Casentino by chance. The mountains that ring the valley encompass the largest forests on the Italian peninsula. This too is a legacy of its long isolation, as is the presence of deer, badgers, wolves and many other wild animal species. Today the forests of the Casentino form a National Park that is among the largest in Italy. These mountains have often attracted great saints: it was here that St. Romuald built his hermitages at Camaldoli, and that less than two centuries later St. Francis of Assisi established the Sanctuary of La Verna, the headquarters of the Franciscan order.
The municipalities of the Casetino valley are:
- Castel Focognano
- Castel San Niccolò
The larger towns are all located in the Arno valley, the biggest being Bibbiena and Poppi. The villages located on the neighbouring hills and mountains are much smaller. These are Chitignano, Chiusi della Verna, Montemignaio, Ortignano-Raggiolo and Talla.