Are you looking to include a bit of history in your Tuscan holiday? Then head to the Province of Livorno, along the Etruscan coast, where you’ll find many castles and fortresses. Some date to the Middle ages, while others are of more recent construction, but each one has a story of their own to tell.
The Rocca di Populonia is located in its namesake town, which boasts a millennia-old history stretching back to the Etruscan era. Over the centuries, Populonia lost its importance, but it was reborn in the 14th century when the Rocca was built. The fortress is an interesting mix of medieval and Renaissance styles of military architecture, as methods of warfare and defense changed over time. For example, the sides overlooking the cliffs contain nothing more than buttresses – considering it was unlikely that these sides would suffer cannon fire – while the side facing inland is characterized by a semi-circular keep with arrow slits and battlements.
You might like to know that nowadays the fortress is open to the public. You'll have the possibility to climb the tower and walk high along the medieval walls of the Rocca, while enjoying an amazing view over the Gulf of Baratti and the Tuscan Archipelago.
Built as a defensive structure, Boccale Castle protected the area from attacks from the water. The structure sits atop a rocky stretch of coast, its earliest part dating to the 16th century, when the Medici built it as a lookout tower. The building was significantly changed in the late 19th/early 20th century, when it was transformed into a medieval-style residence.
Today, the castle is divided into several residential apartments and is privately-owned, so visits aren’t allowed, but you can catch a glimpse of it, set against the stunning backdrop of the Tyrrhenian Sea, as you drive along the coast.
Unlike other castles on our list, Pasquini, in Castiglioncello, only dates to the late 1800s. Built on the commission of Lazzaro Patrone, the baron was influenced by the neo-Gothic style of the time, using Palazzo Vecchio in Florence as inspiration for his new castle, which you can see in the choice of stone and the imposing tower rising above the centre of the building. The baron sold the castle to the Pasquini family in the 1940s, and it was later handed over to the Municipality of Rosignano.
Today, the castle is used by the cultural association Armunia, who stage artistic events and Artist-in-residence programs.
Like Boccale Castle, Bolgheri's castello is closed to the public unless you are there to visit the winery now housed inside. A visit to the winery will allow you to enjoy one of Italy’s best traditions, winemaking, but will be also an excellent excuse to explore this stunning castle.
Though its origins date to the 1200s, the building we see today comes mostly from renovations in the mid-1700s and in 1895, when the tower and merlons were added. Currently, the castle serves as the entrance to its namesake town, a charming medieval village steeped in the best of Italy.
For a trip off the mainland, head to the Elba Island, home to Volterraio Castle. Because of Elba’s wealth of mineral resources, this particular area atop a high plain with sweeping views over the waters below was important for protecting the land.
The castle was built here in the 12th century and was later fortified by the Pisans in the 1230s when it was included in the Republic’s defense system. Visitors can also see a historic signalling system, which allowed for Volterraio to communicate with other castles along the coast.