Serravalle extends over the sweet hills of the Montalbano in a natural frame of a lively and harmonious aspect. The district, characterised by the hilly areas where the villages of Castellina, Serravalle and Vinacciano rise, stretch out with the hamlets of Cantagrillo and Casalguidi in the plains washed by the Stella river. Despite the fact that these lands lack definite references for Roman times and the Early Middle Ages, we know that the Via Cassia, in the Lucca-Pistoia stretch, crossing the Montalbano chain, definitely interested the Serravalle pass. With the XI century the documents become frequent and mention the hamlets of Casale, Castelnuovo and the churches of Varazzano and Castellina, while the castle of Serravalle seems to take on a particular importance only from the mid-12th century, when its strategic position gained the interest of the nearby Pistoia Council who, for its own interests, equipped it with walls and ramparts.
The construction of a stronghold on the highest point of the hill can be traced back to such construction work, of which the single high tower – the so-called Tower of Barbarossa – remains today. In the period between the end of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th century Serravalle lived a moment of great development of the monumental and artistic characterisation that still today makes it one of the most interesting, medieval, Tuscan castles. In these times the castle had military functions, and played an important role in the complex and changing political outline dominated by the opposing factions of the white Guelphs and the black Ghibellines. Later, besieged and then taken by the Luccans led by Morello Malaspina, in 1302 it was, on the leader’s orders, equipped with a new stronghold placed in defence of the pass against the enemy state of Pistoia. After alternating events Serravalle was conquered by the Ghibelline Castruccio Castracani who left Lucca to conquer Pistoia.
With the leader’s death in 1328, Florentines and Pistoians alternated control of the pass, until its definitive submission to Florence. From 1351 Serravalle lived substantially secluded until recent years, interested only by sporadic military episodes, the most important of which dates back to the beginning of the XVI century and caused grave damage to the village. The district of Serravalle has seen in recent years a strong economic impulse partly due to the distribution, in the plains where the hamlets of Casalguidi and Cantagallo can be found, of vegetable and farming production which has supported the more traditional culture of olives and vines. The ancient agricultural tradition is still today diffused in the hilly zones where the more characteristic image of Tuscan landscape survives. Today’s rather prosperous manufacturing sector plants its roots in the consolidated artisan tradition which dates back to the end of the last century. One of the most prosperous activities of the district takes its origins from tradition: the embroidered linen that together with the padded furniture and farming, as well as economically connoting the plains, also imprints on the landscape.
Cover image credit: Silvio Cavini-Benedetti