Poppi Castle, One of the Best
Preserved Castles in Tuscany, Italy
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
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
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.
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
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!
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
In the room next to the fireplace is the chapel. The vaulted ceiling
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