We turn to the municipality of Pieve Santo Stefano, where the imposing twelfth-century castle of Brancialino looms over Lake Montedoglio, next to which stands the curious church of Santa Maria alla Pace, in Signano. The country church of San Pancrazio, meanwhile, suggests that the surrounding area was evangelised early, and also confirms a strong Byzantine presence.
As the centuries went by and defence and control became more luxuries than necessities, many castles were converted into elegant country residences, while others retained their ancient aspect and their grizzled menace. Many others, however, succumbed to the passing of time, but though today only the ruins remain, they still preserve their original numen. This is the case with the castle of Montedoglio, next to the lake, or that of Montautello, near Monterchi.
Other places with a reigning spirituality are reachable from Pieve Santo Stefano: the sixteenth-century Hermitage of the Madonna del Faggio and the Hermitage of Cerbaiolo, which was founded by Benedictines but was later donated to the Franciscan order. This little hermitage, a place of peace and silence, was built among the fortresses in imitation of the more famous La Verna sanctuary. It was destroyed by the retreating German forces in 1944 and completely rebuilt at the behest of the only nun who still lives there today.
On a solitary hill a few kilometres from Sansepolcro, the Montecasale Hermitage was built in 1192, with its hospice and hospital making it a destination for pilgrims and wayfarers. Thanks to the bishop of Città di Castello, it was donated to Saint Francis, who stayed there in 1213 and again in 1224.