Tuscany’s Best Castles
Posted by Ruth (13/11/2015)
Tuscany has some of finest surviving castles in the world, many of which have a distinctive style reminiscent of the classic ‘fairy tale castle’. Whether you are planning a romantic holiday, a history lovers’ tour or a family vacation, the castles of Tuscany are wonderfully atmospheric, conjuring up over a thousand years of Italian history. The following are our top three picks from the region (although there are so many to choose from we could have easily picked twenty!).
Located on a ridge overlooking Arezzo, this walled village (known locally as Civitella della Chiana), is steeped in history. Its fortifications date back to the Kingdom of the Lombards in the early mediaeval period, sometime between the 6th and 8th century AD. Before that the site was home to settlements going all the way back to pre-Roman times.
Today, the original fortifications have survived mostly intact, however the main fortress (or Rocca) was heavily damaged by bombing during the Second World War and has not been restored. However, Civitella still provides an excellent example of a mediaeval Tuscan walled town and offers fantastic views across the surrounding area.
The exact date of the construction of this impressive fortress is not known, although most educated guesses place it at some time during the 15th century due to the architectural style. The castle occupies a strategic position overlooking the nearby town of Aulla at the junction of the Aulella and Magra rivers.
The squat, square shaped castle is in excellent condition having been used as a private residence during the early part of the 20th century before being bought by the state who carried out a complete restoration. It is currently home to the Natural History Museum of Lunigiana and sits within a wonderful natural park.
Castello Malaspina – Fosdinovo
Malaspina Castle dominates the Tuscan town of Massa and has a rich and varied history. The earliest recording of a keep on the site comes from 1164, however this was levelled by an army from nearby Lucca in 1269. Construction of the new castle was begun in 1340 by the Malaspina family and incorporated surviving elements of the original fortification.
During the Renaissance, the castle was updated into a more elegant fortified home in line with the fashions of the day. Legend has it that Dante’s vision of the descending circles of Hell from the Divine Comedy was inspired by a funnel shaped cave near the castle. During the 17th century, the fortification fell into the hands of the military and it was subsequently used as a prison until 1946.
After many years of refurbishment, the entire complex is now open to the public and contains a fantastic collection of antique furniture and paintings, a torture chamber and, allegedly, a ghost!
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