Poppi Castle, One of the Best Preserved Castles in Tuscany, Italy 

Poppi Castle is an imposing building that overlooks the Casentino Valley . It is in excellent condition, one of the best preserved castles in Tuscany and still used by the local council for their meetings.

Visiting the castle is a magical experience, and if you can get into the library, which isn't often open, you will be astounded by the wealth of old manuscripts and books that are in this room. I certainly was blown away when I saw books written by Copernicus and Galileo, along with many others. Two rooms in fact! Certainly not to be missed.




Poppi Castle was built by Count Guidi, a family which dates back to the 10th century in the Tuscan area. There were 2 brothers who had the command of the Casentino. One was Simone, the Count of Battifole, and the other was Guido Novello, the Count of Modigliana. They lived in the second half of the 13th century and were very politically active.

The Poppi Castle remained in the possession of the Guidi family until 1440. Then, due to a betrayal by Count Francesco who had aligned himself with the Duke of Milan against Florence the castle passed into the hands of the Republic of Florence. At that time it became the seat of the provincial government.

When you look at Poppi Castle you can see that there are 2 distinct parts of the castle built in different styles. The first part of the castle has one row of windows that are double arched and simply framed. In the latter part, there are two rows of windows and a more elaborate frame closely resembling those of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. This is because it is thought that during the battles, the castle had been damaged and then rebuilt.

When you look at Poppi Castle from the outside, and the approach is from the large car park at the top of the old town of Poppi, it is surrounded by a huge wall, and deep, wide moat. Outside the wall, before the drawbridge, there is a munzione, which is the little square building, now used as the main entrance. At one time it served as the first defense in time of battle.

Take time too, to have a look at the wonderful valley below on the right hand-side of the castle. Great views of the Casentino Valley can be seen from the car park.

The last time I was there was a young girl training a young falcon to fly and retrieve. It was a wonderful site. She held the falcon steady on her leather clad arm to protect her skin from its huge talons while a young man called to the falcon from some corn fields in the valley below. The falcon took off, circled and then what seemed forever, finally found the young man and settled on his arm after being offered a rather plumb, but well-dead mouse. With the castle as a backdrop listening to the shrill call of the falcon, you could just imagine being back in the Medieval Ages.

The inner courtyard of Poppi Castle, Tuscany However, I digress. Back to Poppi Castle! Step inside the strong walls of this stronghold and your eyes are immediately drawn to the fantastic stairs. It is a stone staircase designed by Turriani, and along the inner-courtyard wall are many of the coats of arms and crests of the families of the Vicari (vicars) that have had connections to the castle.

There is also a beautiful balcony inside Poppi Castle still covered in part, by its originally decorated wooden ceiling. Look out for the statue of Count Guidi of Battifole that heads the staircase, as it is said that he continues to haunt the castle.

Another interesting piece of architecture is the column across from the statue that supports the entire roof. This column doesn't stand straight and it is supported by a unique series of overlapping stone shelves.

On the ground level of the castle are 2 rooms that have been dedicated to the famous 
Battle of Campaldino. Here you can find a very large model of the siege on the castle, as well as the reconstruction of some of the more common war machines of the day. The model displays more than 4000 lead soldiers divided into 2 realistic halves showing the battlefield at the end of the battle.

Another room of interest is the drop-hole prison. It consisted of 2 rooms, with no windows and a trap-door into which the prisoners were unceremoniously dumped. Basically they would be left to die. Only much later, in the 17th century, did one of the vicars insisted that an entrance and a window should be added to this prison.

Prisoners were never treated well in those days, and all who arrived had to pay a daily fee for their cell! If they didn't, they didn't get fed. For those who had little, they had to sell what ever they did have, in order just to survive. Many of course, weren't even that lucky!

The fireplace dating back to 1512 in Poppi Castle Traveling up the stairs of Poppi Castle and into the various rooms, including that wonderful library of international acclaim, that I mentioned earlier are other interesting places to visit. There is a huge ballroom, frescoed walls of interest with a beautifully decorated ceiling.

Look out for the stone wash basin dating back to 1469 and the stone fireplace of 1512 which displays the Guidi family crest.

In the room next to the fireplace is the chapel. The vaulted ceiling and walls are decorated by a series of frescoes that tell the "Story of the Gospel". These frescoes have been attributed to Taddeo Gaddi, a student of Giotto.

 
The Frescoes inside Poppi Castle
             
See more pictures of Poppi Castle in our page on Pictures of Italy.



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