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Il Castello di Strozzavolpe
location_cityHistorical Buildings

Strozzavolpe Castle

Strozzavolpe Castle is situated on a plain on the Cassia road, not far from Poggibonsi

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Strozzavolpe Castle provides the classic backdrop for a classic legend. The castle was owned by generations and generations of the same family until it ended up in the hands of a famous Florentine lawyer. The castle was built in 1154 and its name ‘Strozzavolpe’ most probably comes from ‘Scoriavolpe’. It was built by Benuccio da Salimbeni and then sold to the Florentine Adimari family.
The present owner has carried out some important restoration work in order to bring the castle back to its original splendour. Anyone driving past, either on the Cassia road or the motorway, can’t help but notice and admire its authentic protective walls, classic drawbridge and majestic stone arch. This is a castle straight out of the pages of a fairy tale. Around the edge of the castle are several ancient buildings which, while they are not as old as the castle itself, are nonetheless of historical importance. Many myths and legends surround Strozzavolpe Castle, including stories of romance and bloody battles. The owners won’t confirm the suggestion that the castle might be haunted, although they certainly don’t deny the strange legends which have grown up around the it. One such tale tells of the ghost of a wolf which roams around the castle when there is a full moon.
It is said that when Bonifazio, Duke and Marquis of Tuscany, decided to construct the castle here, he didn’t care about the fact that there was a strange wolf which lived in the area and which even the most courageous knights were afraid of going near. He and his men hunted the wolf, although not even the most skilled huntsmen were able to get near the animal. The oddest part of the story is that the huntsmen claimed that the wolf kept its distance from the men by spitting flames from it mouth. The prince finally managed to catch the wolf by setting a trap hidden in the woods and then strangling it. The prince’s satisfaction didn’t last long as the court wizard told him that the castle would only survive as long as the wolf’s body. Thinking he could find a way to survive this curse, he had the wolf’s body embalmed and filled with liquid gold. He then had the body hidden in a secret place in the castle’s foundations and charged three knights with the duty of guarding the spot for the rest of their lives. Centuries later, the tale continues, a builder was working in the depths of the castle when he came across the treasure that was the gold-filled body of the wolf. No sooner had he laid his hands on it though, the three knights burst out and stole away with the wolf – hiding it in another secret place. Even today, when the moon is full, people claim to have spotted a large wolf prowling round the area and diving into the dry ditch that circles the castle.
‘Strozzavolpe’ means ‘fox strangler’ and it would seem that the wolf at Strozzavolpe Castle personifies the constant need to defend the castle. The central part of the castle and its vast rooms are decorated with ancient carvings. One of these rooms is the ‘Camera Rossa’ (Red Room), where Cassandra Franceschi was found in a compromising position with one of her husband’s (Giannozzo da Capparello) pageboys. Capparello pretended to turn a blind eye and then had the room sealed and left them to die there in each other’s company. Their cries can still be heard all over the castle, but especially in the room itself. An agitated ghost is often said to be the result a terrible crime, such as this, committed in the past. The spirit of the unfaithful Cassandra has not been soothed by the passage of time and still roams the castle today.
The land around Strozzavolpe Castle is equally rich in legend, such as the ‘casa delle suore e dei frati’, or the ‘house of the nuns and the monks’, where rattling chains and banging on the walls can be heard. It seems as if the wandering spirits are possessed and are filled with an urgent need to make themselves heard – perhaps in order to tell their stories. In 1970, while a team of builders were working in the castle, two interesting things took place. First, one of the battlements seemed to have been freshly rebuilt and the builder who had been working in that area disappeared. They took the battlement apart and discovered a tube inside containing a burnt parchment with an inscription in Gothic characters. The inscription described the story of a buried treasure. It was then discovered that the builder who had disappeared had in fact left town for an unknown destination with his whole family. Had he found a treasure in the castle? We may never know. The legends that surround Strozzavolpe Castle and the tales of ghosts and haunted rooms bring up a fundamental question: are there really troubled spirits who are anxious to contact us or, is it simply us human beings who are anxious to try to forge some link to the past and the dead?
A land of fortresses and castles cloaked in legends
Poggibonsi, the Valdelsa, has ancient origins, and it doesn’t take long to see this when you get to town. The area is abundant in traces of history, parish churches, imposing castles and fortresses, all just a short walk from the modern atmosphere of a city. Immersed in a park, you’ll find the Poggio Imperiale Fortress, built on the commission of Lorenzo the Magnificent but never completed. ...