As in most of the Tuscan region, the rolling hills of the Upper Tiber Valley vaunt a number of enchanting, age-old fortresses. Centuries-old castles dot the landscape near Anghiari, structures whose history is tied to world-famous battles and illustrious figures, including St. Francis of Assisi. From Etruscan origins to renowned restaurants today, don’t miss exploring these four Tuscan gems near Anghiari.
In 1268, German soldiers destroyed Castello di Sorci, an attack led by Corradino of Swabia against Charles I of Anjou. It subsequently fell under Florentine rule and became home to the city’s Mercenary Captain, Baldaccio d’Anghiari. Legend has it that on warm, summer nights, you can still hear the rattle of Baldaccio’s armor as his ghost ‘haunts’ the age-old halls.
The castle was gradually converted into a 17th-century villa; the renovation project preserved the castle’s original tower, which can still be seen today. The structure currently hosts one of Italy’s most authentic, traditional restaurants, a favorite among famous actors, TV hosts, singers, journalists and writers. It was also the inspirtation point for the film "Non ci resta che piangere" by Roberto Benigni and Massimo Troisi.
Toppole Castle was part of the fortification system that defended the eastern side of Sovara Valley. Historical documents indicate that Enrico di Barnabò, part of the Lombards of Galbino, defended Toppole for Arezzo’s Santa Flora Abbey.
In 1142, the castle and its court were ceded to Camaldolese monks, who also received parts of the castles of Pianettole and Valialle. Raniere of Galbino eventually gave the castle to the town of Anghiari, though it later fell under the dominion of Guido Tarlati of Arezzo and became property of Florence.
The Church of San Clemente is located in the middle of the castle’s complex, which dates to about the first half of the 8th century. The apse is the church’s oldest section, as it was originally built with a Greek-cross layout. Close to Toppole, you’ll also find the San Veriano Abbey, home to an important Romanesque church.
Pianettole Castle is a well-preserved structure in the area, a beautiful example of a medieval fortress. The castle vaunts sky-high stone walls and a tower guarding the western gateway.
Among the tower’s treasures, you’ll find wooden attics connected by stairs and a large fireplace on the first floor. The history of Pianettole is linked (at least in part) to the presence of Camaldolese monks in the Tiber Valley; indeed, churches linked to the many castles in the area were frequently donated or dedicated to Camaldolese monks.
Montauto’s origins date to the Etruscan period (from around the 8th to 5th centuries B.C.E.), as this ancient settlement flourished thanks to the territory’s rich copper mines. The castle was once a Roman/Byzantine lookout tower and fell under the rule of feudal lord Goffredo, son of Ildebrando, the man to whom Emperor Otto I awarded property in the Upper Tiber Valley in 967 A.D. The origins of the castle itself date to 1170-80.
St. Francis of Assisi is said to have enjoyed stopping at Montauto Castle during his journeys to and from La Verna. To this end, the robe worn by the saint while receiving the stigmata at La Verna was housed in the Chapel of Montauto until 1503 (the year Florentines conquered the castle using devious methods). At the beginning of the 16th century, all of the castle’s treasures were stolen. It underwent a number of structural renovations following this event, to the point of being almost entirely destroyed.