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Rocca di cerbaia
location_cityHistorical Buildings

Cerbaia Fortress

Today the Cerbaia Fortress still stands imposing and menacing as ever on a hill top between Usella and Carmignanello. Legend has it that it takes its name from the numerous deer that live wild in the surrounding area

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The fortress’s origins go back to the XII century. It was conceded by Federico Barbarossa to the Conti Alberti family who turned it into the epicentre of a defensive line that went along the ‘road to Lombardy’. Between the XII and XIII centuries, the fortress was used by the Conti Rabbiosi family as a bulwark during the struggle to gain power over the Republic of Prato. The most significant consequence of this struggle was the end of the system of feudal power in the area and the banishment of the Alberti family from Prato and the Val di Bisenzio territory. However, the fortress wasn’t always used as an instrument of war. It was also home to Cunizza who spent the last years of his life here, dictating the memoirs of his adventurous life.
The last Count of Cerbaia was Niccolò d’Aghinolfo. He was given 6200 florins by the Republic of Florence to enable him to take possession of the fortress. In the fifteenth century, the fortress risked being dismantled but in 1512 the mayor of Prato re-armed it to defend the city from Spanish troops. In the seventeenth century the fortress passed into the hands of the Novelluccis, a noble family from Prato, and it became part of the Gricigliana estate also owned by the family. In the nineteenth century it became property of the Edelmann family. The last change of ownership happened extremely recently, on the 27th April 1999, the fortress was bought by the Municipality of Cantagallo who intend to restore it to all its former glory.
The fortress is in an advanced state of disrepair but it is nonetheless still possible to appreciate its architectural structure. Of the castle, which was built in local arenaria stone, its still possible to see the lower portal, a cistern covered by a vault and walls that form other buildings such as the chapel. Many windows are still easy to make out as well as several rooms inside. Several historians assert that parts of the fortress were built as far back as the thirteenth century.
Legend has it that on a dark night in 1285, a young Dante came to the door of the fortress asking for a place to stay for the night. His calls went unheard, the draw bridge stayed up and the poor, exhausted young poet was forced to sleep the night in a shepherd’s hut in the valley.
In 1921, the historian V.U.Fedeli wrote; ‘Today, up there, the wind blows and the snake slowly slides his coiled body among the abandoned ruins (…) Everything has changed up there and who knows, maybe a hundred years from now nothing will remain of all this greatness.’ In fact, looking at the state of disrepair that the fortress has fallen into today, the historian’s words sound more like a prophecy. The fortress today is in ruins. Luckily, things are changing and the fortress should soon undergo some long overdue restoration work. The initiative to restore the fortress includes plans to work on the surrounding area too to create a Medieval archaeological park with a network of footpaths and guided tours.
Discovering pristine woods and majestic trees
What characterizes Cantagallo more than anything else is its panoramic, woodsy setting, abundant in charm and bursts of beech and chestnut trees. It is also home to classic conifers and mixed, forested stretches, along with more monument-esque examples of trees, too, such as the centuries-old Faggione di Luogomano (a large beech), the crown of which covers an astonishing surface of ...