Tourist guide to the castles and fortresses between Val d'Orcia and Amiata
A journey back in time ..... between monuments of the past and landscapes. Archaeological ruins, Romanesque parishes, Aldobrandeschi castles, small villages but still charming floral decorations and curious shops, healthy spas, luxuriant crops. A beautiful route in this territory and its ancient villages rich in history and traditions.
1 -ROCCA ALDOBRANDESCA ARCIDOSSO
The earliest records of the existence of a settlement in Arcidosso date back to the year 860 and report it as a possession of the Abbey of the SS. Savior. The construction of the first nucleus of the castle, around which the village will develop, can be dated around the year one thousand. From the 12th to the 14th century it was a fief of the Aldobrandeschi counts and became an important military stronghold, an extreme bulwark against the penetration of Siena into the Amiata territory.
The current appearance of the fortress is the result of several extensions suffered by the original 11th century Lombard construction; it consists of an imposing two-body factory building (one of which is lower), with a quadrangular section that rests, for most of the perimeter, on imposing shoe bases; the external walls are covered in filaretto.
The north side of the complex is characterized by the presence of a tower (Mastio) that rises above the roof of the tallest building (Palazzo). The top of the tower is crowned by a series of blind arches resting on shelves, which form the base of the battlement above. The fortress, recently restored, is now used as a space for cultural activities. From the top of the tower (paid access) you can enjoy a splendid view of the summit of Monte Amiata.
Three gates remain of the medieval walls, two of which are original: Porta di Castello and Porta Talassese (towards the sea). From here, descending towards Codaccio, you reach the Porta dell'Orologio, built in 1851 to replace the Porta di Mezzo.
Arcidosso rises 679 m above sea level on the slopes of the western side of Mount Amiata.
2 - VIGNONI ALTO:
The origin of Vignoni castle dates back to the XI century, as a possession of the Abbey of S.Antimo
In the current fortified village you can still notice a tower, now cut off, equipped with a strong and wide escarpment and surmounted by a redundant and some small windows. This was the keep, the heart of the fortress. Even one of the ancient access doors to the walled enclosure is still perfectly intact, next to the church of San Biagio. Outside the door the view on the valdorcia is breathtaking, on the left stands the bell tower of the church and on the right the best preserved section of the walls, with the corner tower, made with the same characteristics of the keep.
San Biagio, of Romanesque origin, although strongly altered inside, has a single nave with still remains of frescoes of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. From this church come the baptismal font (of 1585) currently in the Collegiate of San Quirico d'Orcia and the bronze crucifix of Giambologna today at the Museum of Montalcino.
The Borgo di Vignoni rises above the built-up area of Bagno Vignoni and can be reached by following a dirt road from San Quirico d'Orcia following the signs for Ripa d'Orcia / Vignoni.
3 - Rocca Aldobrandesca of Castiglione d'Orcia
The remains of what was once the mighty Rocca Aldobrandesca dominate the medieval village of Castiglione d'Orcia. The Fortress stands at the highest point of the relief of 574 meters which is built on the country whose walls, in large stretches still visible despite the fact that many houses have risen against it, once connected.
The construction of the Rocca is due to the feudal family of the Aldobrandeschi di Santa Fiora, one of the most powerful in southern Tuscany, around the X century. The fortress controlled the ancient road that leads from Mount Amiata into the Val d'Orcia through which the main communication routes passed to and from the Maremma. The proximity, practically a few hundred meters as the crow flies, of the equally powerful Rocca di Tentennano on the rocky spur of Rocca d'Orcia, strongly limited the control that the Rocca Aldobrandesca could exercise on the Val d'Orcia and on the Via Francigena / Cassia crossing it, as the 'twin' stood in a strategically better position for the purpose
The remains of the fortification are scarce, both because of the state of abandonment in which it was left since the end of the 'War of Siena' of the 16th century, and above all because of the serious damage suffered during the bombing of the last war. What remains of the keep shows us the excellent materials used in the construction and makes us imagine that overall the appearance had to get very close to that of a classical medieval fortress-palace, with a fence able to contain the population in case of failure of the city walls. The country has undergone a major restructuring, including the repaving of the streets of the historic core.
La Rocca overlooks the medieval village of Castiglione d'Orcia.
4- ROCCA DI TENTENNANO:
A first glance is enough to understand the reasons that led to the construction of the Rocca di Tentennano or Tintinnano: from the large limestone rock at the edge of the Val d'Orcia, which housed it, it was possible to control the route of the underlying Via Francigena and access to the Gorges dell'Orcia through which the communication routes to and from the Maremma passed, being able to count on a virtually impregnable position.
The earliest records of the existence of a settlement called Tintinnano date back to 853. The fortification developed mainly during the years 1250-58, when it came into possession of the Municipality of Siena.
La Rocca is also famous for having hosted in 1377 Santa Caterina da Siena, who according to legend learned here to read and write thanks to a miracle.
The system of the Rocca defenses is an integral part with those of the underlying village. A first wall circuit (partly still visible today) enclosed Rocca D'Orcia and connected it to the Rocca. A second circuit enclosed the summit of the rocky spur, which was accessed through a door of which only some remains are visible. This was the outer courtyard of the fortification, in which stood several buildings, now disappeared.
At the northern end of the courtyard a series of stairs leads to the heart of the stronghold: the Cassero. This consists of a pentagonal area enclosed by massive bastion walls that still preserve part of the battlements. The door to the Cassero has been destroyed but it is still possible to reach the patrol walkway. From here, thanks to an iron staircase placed during recent renovations, through a round arch door you access the Tower. The original access was via a wooden escalator, which was withdrawn in case of danger. Also the Tower has a pentagonal plan and two internal floors. Its function, in addition to that of sighting, was of accommodation for the command and last defensive bulwark. The walls have a thickness of about three meters, detectable from the slots obtained in the masonry, and the interior rooms have beautiful vaulted ceilings. The upper floor is particularly interesting, divided into two rooms, where you can see the mouth of a cistern that guaranteed water supply and a furnace built into the wall. From the second room there is access to the roof terrace. The view of the valley is great here.
5 - ROCK OF PIANCASTAGNAIO
Since the XI century the area of southern Tuscany around the castle of Piancastagnaio was the subject of the expansionist policy of the powerful family of the Aldobrandeschi and the whole territory is rich in historical evidence related to their potentato.
Built on the slopes of Mount Amiata, the village has a circular shape, once enclosed by a fortified wall surrounded by square towers and four doors. The walls have been almost completely demolished, today there are three towers, two semicircular and one square, the main door next to the fortress and three other very simple doors, in the southern part of the walls' Porta Romana ',' Porticciola 'e' Porta of Voltaia '. The mighty Rocca Aldobrandesca still stands today at the highest summit of the town.
The building has a quadrilateral shape and is equipped with high walls strongly scarped. Two towers rise from the fence, the largest, both in terms of solidity and height, it had the function of a shutter, the other, located in the opposite corner, defended the underlying gateway to the city. The whole complex was equipped with a defensive apparatus to protrude on corbels, still today almost intact, and the battlements mostly disappeared. La Rocca is in excellent condition thanks to a careful restoration work completed at the end of the last century.
Piancastagnaio is located on the slopes of Mount Amiata and can be reached by following the Via Cassia until the junction for Abbadia S. Salvatore / Vetta Amiata / Piancastagnaio.
6 - ROCCALBEGNA
The Roccalbegna fortress crowns a rock, simply called 'sasso', which overlooks the homonymous village from its sixty meters high. The town lies on the southern flank of Mount Labbro at the confluence of the Armancio and Albegna rivers, which has always been a fundamental strategic point for the control of the road that crosses the area of Monte Amiata, which narrows at this point.
Just go up to the top of the 'sasso', and look out from the bastions of the medieval fortification to get an exceptional panoramic view over the valley.
The Fortress that has come almost intact to us was the minor fortress, used essentially as a lookout point and last refuge in case of capitulation of the village. During the XIVth century the village experienced a period of great decay which caused its almost total abandonment. In 1455 the fortifications were re-adapted by the Sienese, but this only partially halted the involutional process of the area. With the defeat of the Sienese Republic, in the middle of the sixteenth century Roccalbegna passed to the Grand Duchy supported by Cosimo I dei Medici, but already in 1560 it was given in fief to the cardinal Antonio Sforza. It remained a grand-ducal fief until 1751.
Roccalbegna dominates the valley of the river Albegna on the slopes of Mount Labbro, south of Mount Amiata. It is about 11 kilometers from Arcidosso, the main center of the area.
7 - ROCCA SILVANA
Rocca Silvana, also called Rocca Selvena or Roccaccia Selvena, today reduced to suggestive and still imposing ruins, was in the Middle Ages the most important palace-fortress of the area of Mount Amiata, being one of the main strongholds, almost certainly the richest, of the most powerful feudal dynasty of the time: the Aldobrandeschi. Its wealth was due to the nearby deposits of cinnabar and mercury exploited since before the year 1000 and its position at the top of a rocky hill, almost six hundred meters high, with three sides overlooking the river Fiora valley that it gave him almost impregnability.
As mentioned, the ruins of the fortress dominate the landscape and it is still easy to recognize the course of the double walls, the first enclosed the town and the second internal to protect the feudal palace, with a semi trapezoidal shape. At the eastern summit of the second circle, at the main door, stands a splendid pentagonal tower that served as a formwork.
Immediately to the side of the tower, almost in the middle of the second enclosure, there are the remains of the palazzo del Signore, one of the highest examples of a thirteenth-century manor house that we can find in Tuscany outside the great municipal cities. All around there are various remains of other buildings among which the cistern and the chapel can be identified. The complex remained in use until the seventeenth century and then began its slow downfall, as after the exhaustion of the surrounding mines that was its strength, its position of eagle nest difficult to attack and consequently also badly attainable, it became his condemnation.
The works that allowed the reopening of the site are part of the project "Valorisation and use of the Rocca-Silvana mining and mining area of the Morone", promoted by the Municipal Administration in order to create a synergistic system among the cultural heritage territorial.
This first phase of works has allowed the reopening of part of the summit area of the castle and interventions for the arrangement of the paths of use in the mining area below, still in progress.
The imposing ruins of the Rocca Silvana rise about two kilometers outside the town of Selvena, along the road that leads to Sovana. It can be reached by following the SS2 Cassia until the junction for Abbadia S. Salvatore / Piancastagnaio
8- SASSOFORTE CASTLE
The ruins of the castle of Sassoforte rise on top of the homonymous massif more than 700 meters above sea level, surrounded by a beautiful forest landscape marked by beech and chestnut. It is certainly one of the architectural evidences of the most monumental embankment of Tuscany, of which the imposing outer walls are clearly visible, the refined noble residence and the very large keep, placed at the highest point of the hill. The site, used in the Etruscan-Roman age as a boundary between the territories of neighboring cities, was set before the end of the eleventh century and was dominated by the Aldobrandeschi counts, succeeded by a powerful family of local lords, strongly linked to the emperor Frederick II and to the Ghibelline lineup.
To the northwest is the cassero, a tall building still provided with the access door (very narrow, about a meter) with a plant-decorated shelf. Above this, there are two small brackets supporting the defensive apparatus to protrude. In the remains of the interior rooms there are still doors and loopholes, a water cistern is also identifiable, it is hypothesized that the manor house was located here.
In front of the walls there is a rectangular building with beautiful ogival windows and vault grafts.
All the details show great care, skill and refinement so as to identify a building of uncommon use, of considerable size and equipped with structures not frequent in the area and certainly among the most notable of the area, as evidence of the power achieved by the lords of Sassoforte . Given its position between the quarterdeck and the inhabited area, it was probably used as a public courthouse.
The visit to Sassoforte is particularly suggestive for the age-old chestnut woods that you must cross by walking up the mountain, for the sensation of gradual discovery that give the various floors of the riolitic terrace, for the panoramic views towards the sea and the inland really exceptional.
The remains of Sassoforte can be reached from the village of Sassofortino. Take the Siena-Grosseto highway to the Civitella Marittima exit, then continue to Roccastrada and, after passing the town, to Sassofortino / Roccatederighi. Once you reach the village follow the signs for the castle / sports field, at the first junction continue to the right, the road becomes a dirt road and a steep climb, after a few hundred meters the path returns flat and almost in front of the first house, which we meet on the right side a small dirt road (recently restored but closed to vehicular traffic by a chain) that crosses the chestnut wood up to Sassoforte. There are also wooden arrows with the words 'Sassoforte' but not very legible. The castle can be reached, always along a path in the woods, even from the Municipal Park.
9 - CASTELLO DI ROCCHETTE DI FAZIO
The castle of the Rocchette di Fazio rises in the valley of the Albegna river. In the Middle Ages the whole valley, especially the hills that were the watershed with the adjacent Fiora valley, was enfeoffed by the Aldobrandeschi counts and as a result all the castles of the area passed under their control and were rebuilt or reinforced starting from the twelfth century. The origin of this castle is due to Count Bonifazio, called Fazio, of the Aldobrandeschi family, the future father of that Ildebrandino who in 1272 became the head of the branch of S.Fiora of the powerful family.
Recently the ruins of the entire summit area of the castle have been consolidated and equipped to lookout, splendid from here the view of the valley. The remains of the keep and the walls still testify to us how great, even for a short time, was Rocchette di Fazio's importance.
The walls, built with hexagonal shape during the two hundred to defend the primitive settlement of the Aldobrandesco Castle and a series of buildings including a cistern, the Palazzo di Giustizia and the Palazzo Pretorio, are in more points still re-disposable. Two access doors are well preserved. Near the castle stands the parish church of Santa Caterina, currently deconsecrated, also from the thirteenth century.
10 - Rocca and Mura di Monticchiello
The castle, or rather walled village, of Monticchiello, formerly a fiefdom of the local Lambardi family, was heavily fortified by the Sienese at the end of the 13th century, when it became an important frontier stronghold. Monticchiello was the cornerstone of the defensive organization located on the eastern border of the Sienese countryside and for this reason it was in the course of the centuries the center of numerous war events such as assaults, destruction and occupations.
The whole system of fortifications was headed by the Rocca located at the highest point of the hill where the village stands. It was built in 1260 and remains essentially the mighty Senese shutter (private property - which can not be visited) with scarce walls and equipped with a protruding apparatus on stone corbels (partially intact), the walls were joined together. The latter, for the most part preserved, were equipped with a walkway supported by corbels in stone and interspersed with towers of various sizes, seven are still intact, five square and two round with redondone and escarpment that flank the only door access to the village (Porta S.Agata), with a fine sestiacuto arch. Other places are located along the perimeter wall.
Even the village within the fortifications has kept intact its medieval characteristics and walking through its narrow streets you can still breathe history. Significant emergence is the propositional church of Saints Leonardo and Cristoforo which remains today as evidence of the period of maximum splendor of the village, preserving many frescoes of the Sienese school dating back to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
11- ROCCA DI RADICOFANI
The mighty Rocca di Radicofani stands out for over a thousand years, was first mentioned in 973, from the top of an imposing basaltic cliff of 896 meters, from which dominates all the territory between Mount Cetona, Val d'Orcia and the Monte Amiata. At his feet passed an ancient passage of the Via Cassia, then Francigena or Romea, and it was undoubtedly this that determined his birth and his history, which has always been inextricably linked to this path.
The primitive fortress has an almost triangular plan and is endowed with a mighty mastio and today it is in good condition thanks to the restoration work carried out in 1929 (the keep has been the object of a complete reconstruction, with a very different shape compared to the original) . Inside the keep there is today the museum with finds found during the archaeological excavations carried out during the recent restoration. Also interesting are the remains of the other sides of the oldest nucleus, with remains of corbels for the plumbing defense and other corner towers. Around this there is the first circle of the bastion fortress built in beautiful cut stones, with four irregular sides, the subject of an important restoration work that brought them back to their former glory. The fortress was later extended to the north, being the south side already naturally protected by a strong escarpment, but not many traces remain of these walls, with the exception of the corner bastions next to one of which opens the ancient gate of 'access. The two fortresses basically encircle the entire basaltic cliff on different levels, making it almost impossible to reach the heart of the fortification on either side.
The castle has been restored with a Fio project worth over 9 billion. Since January 1999 the fortress has been reopened to the public, today it is entirely open to visitors, including all underground walkways and shooting posts.
Fortified City Museum Park of Radicofani
Hours Visits: 10.30-19.30 (open every day)
For information contact the Brigadoon Company: 331 4103303
The mighty Fortress of Radicofani stands at the southern end of Val D'Orcia, on a narrow hill between Mount Amiata and the border with Umbria and Lazio. It can be easily reached following a detour of the SS.2 Cassia. Radicofani is on the UNESCO 'World Heritage Site' list as part of the 'Natural and Cultural Art Park of the Val d'Orcia' and 'Orange Flag' of the Italian Touring Club.
12-CASTLE OF POTENTINO
The Castle of the Potentino is located outside Seggiano. The castle was built around the year one thousand as an ancient possession of the bishops of Chiusi, whose diocese extended, at the time, to the whole area of Mount Amiata. In the eleventh century there is the attestation that belonged to the Visconti di Campiglia. In the thirteenth century it came under Sienese control and belonged to the Bonsignori, Tolomei, Salimbeni and Bindi families. Later, its importance as a boundary fortress was declined, it was transformed into an elegant holiday resort and was bought first by the Mignenelles and then by the Venturi family. Enrico Venturi gave it to the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena.
In 1600 it was bought by the Marquis Giovanni Battista Bourbon Del Monte who kept it for centuries and only in 1906 sold it to the Swiss citizen Hemmeler. Today the complex is the heirs of the British writer Graham Greene who turned it into a renowned farm.
The castle of the Potentino still presents its original medieval appearance, occupying two distinct areas; the first, more external, includes the various annexed rural buildings and leads to the second, more internal area, which can be reached through an arched door that opens up along a curtain wall with summit merlons.
The main area consists of the castle properly called L-shaped around a courtyard. The building, unlike the remaining complex, is in Renaissance style following the interventions made by the Sienese between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with the portal of architraved access surmounted by a coat of arms; on the roof there is a small bell gable. Beyond the main area there is a third well-defined area where there stood an Italian garden, now completely resized and modified.
At the castellano settlement, there is the noble chapel dedicated to Sant'Antonio da Padova. Today, the estate has been revitalized and is dedicated to the production of wine, grappa and oil thanks to the 4 hectare vineyard and a suggestive olive grove.
It is possible to make tastings with historical tour of the Castle and the Cellar, to learn about the winemaking process from the vine to the bottle and finish with a taste of what makes Potentino so special. The visit lasts about 90 minutes. Tasting of 6 wines and grappa included.
Tastings must be booked in advance. Our guests can ask us directly or connect to the site:
13- MONTEMASSI CASTLE
The castle is undoubtedly the most famous monument of the town of Roccastrada if not of the Alta Maremma, for its importance as a historical document (it is depicted in the famous fresco 'Guidoriccio da Fogliano at the siege of Montemassi' of the public palace of Siena attributed to Simone Martini) and for the high example of Gothic architecture it represents. The fortification, which crowns a hill 280 meters above the village, is made up of the remains of the two bodies of fabric buildings, to the north is the Palazzo / Mastio with the base of the shoe wall with numerous windows with wide opening that denounce the function of housing and not strictly military, remains of a polygonal tower.
Inside the Palace you can still see traces of the trusses where the wooden floors leaned, however following a vaulted ceiling whose remains are evident. Next to the building was a large water cistern, still today plastered with lime. To the south we find the remains of a quadrangular tower, equipped with loopholes, with vaulted vaults of masonry and well-worked pediments.
The historic center of Montemassi is very picturesque because it has still maintained the appearance of a compact "pigna" village, even though there are no traces of the walls, largely incorporated into the houses, with the exception of a door, which once protected it they connected to the castle.
The castle of Montemasi rises in the municipality of Roccastrada in the province of Grosseto, on a hill at 280m. of altitude at the edge of the northernmost part of the Grosseto plain