Poppi and Casentino
The Valley of Dante Alighieri, land of nature and historyCASENTINO is the valley north of Arezzo that still has the highest number of well-preserved and still visitable medieval castles and romanesque parish churches, powerful abbeys and monasteries that ruled the region and still retain their original charme. Many towns have Etruscan origins like Bibbiena, Romena and Rassina, but the age that characterizes Casentino is undoubtedly the Middle Ages, time of great landlords and cruel battles. The territory is mostly wooded: part of the valley has become the National Park of Casentino Forests that reaches into nearby Romagna, and that provides the perfect environment for the spiritual retreats of Camaldoli and La Verna. The cuisine is simple and genuine, based on the excellent products of the territory: the red potato of Cetica, the gray pork of Casentino, sheep cheese, porcini mushrooms, just to name a few.
POPPI is a walled hill town situated in Casentino valley north of Arezzo. Its majestic castle can be seen from far off: the Castle of Poppi was originally built by the Guidi family on top of a Lombard tower and successively underwent renovations possibly by Arnolfo di Cambio (1291). The castle, open to visits, is characterized by a beautiful courtyard with bold staircases and wooden galleries that, apparently suspended, connect the various floors. The ground floor rooms are used for exhibitions and the reproduction of the famous Campaldino battle (1289). Its upper floors are occupied by the Rilliana Library with its precious manuscripts, the Main Hall and the Chapel which was totally frescoed by Taddeo Gaddi in XIV century. In Poppi one also admires the S. Maria del Morbo church along the main street and the S. Fedele church at the end of it, built on the main walls (the bell tower originally was a watch tower); there one finds nice paitings by Il Poppi, Jacopo Ligozzi and Passignano painters.
LA VERNA: set on top of a steep cliff in Casentino, the La Verna Franciscan Monastery was founded in 1213 and became the sacred place where S. Francis got the stigmata in September 1224. Its many churches (S. Maria degli Angeli, Basilica Maggiore) and chapels (Chapel of the Stigmata) are decorated with wonderful glazed terracottas by the Della Robbia: the Annunciation in the Chiesa Maggiore and the Crucifixion in the Chiesa delle Stimmate, both by Andrea della Robbia, are two masterpieces. The main square that connects all buildings, provides a stunning view of the valley.
CAMALDOLI is situated in the heart of the great Casentino Forest. The Hermitage was founded by S. Romualdo in 1012, whereas the Monastery was built later on to accommodate the many pilgrims that visited. The Monastery with its Church dedicated to SS. Donato and Ilariano with beautiful paintings by Giorgio Vasari, its Guest House, the Pharmacy with an ancient Galen laboratory and furnishings from the 1540s constitute the main settlement; the Hermitage, set in an isolated spot of the forest, consists of rows of isolated cells – that of S. Romualdo may be visited – and the square with the elegant church dedicated to SS. Salvatore, richly decorated in different times.
BIBBIENA, the Etruscan “Vipena”, is today the main economic centre of Casentino and the most populated town of the valley. Its main square is characterized by the massive Clock Tower - called the Tower of the Tarlati family; nearby Palazzo Dovizi was the residence of Cardinal Dovizi secretary to Pope Leo X Medici. The S. Lorenzo church contains precious glased terracottas by the Della Robbias, and that of S. Ippolito (also called Propositura), which was originally the chapel of the Tarlati castle, shows wonderful paintings by Bicci di Lorenzo and other medieval and renaissance artists. The nearby Sanctuary of S. Maria del Sasso is one of the most interesting renaissance churches of Casentino: rich in beautiful artworks, it was built after one apparition of the Virgin and several so called miracles.
STIA is identified by the nice main square rich in porticos, used in the past as set of the Italian film “Il Ciclone” by Leonardo Pieraccioni. The Pieve di S. Maria Assunta is decorated with masterpieces by medieval and renaissance artists like Bicci di Lorenzo and Andrea della Robbia. Stia is mainly known for its production of Casentino cloth, a typical woolen cloth used to make warm winter coats in bright orange or green.
ROMENA: originally an Etruscan settlement, Romena is most known for the beautiful Romanesque parish church dedicated to S. Pietro, a true gem of medieval art with an elegant apse and richly-carved capitals. Just above it are the ruins of the great Romena castle, one of the most powerful castles of the Guidi counts, mentioned by Dante in the Divine Comedy and loved by Italian writer and poet D’Annunzio.
PIEVE A SOCANA is a really ancient settlement used from Etruscan time to the Middle Ages for various worships, because of its strategic location across important roads. The parish church of S. Antonino a Socana now shows behind its Romanesque apse charming remains of an Etruscan temple, an hexagonal bell tower built on a cylindrical Roman tower and a characteristic indoors with typical Romanesque decorations.
CASENTINO and POPPI in short:
- the medieval castle of Poppi, one of the many castles of the Guidi Counts still intact, with his harmonious stairs, frescoed halls and an imposing presence visible from most parts of the valley
- the Badia of S. Fedele
- the location and museum of the "Campaldino" battle where a young Dante Alighieri fought and where the Arezzo Bishop Guglielmino degli Ubertini died
- the Franciscan Sanctuary La Verna founded in 1213
- the Camaldoli Hermitage and Monastery founded by S. Romualdo in 1012
- Romena medieval parish church and castle, mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy and visited by Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio
- Bibbiena, its Etruscan origins and its Medieval past
- Pieve a Socana and the many medieval parish churches in romanesque style present in the valley
- Stia and its famous Casentino woolen cloth
- the National Park of Casentino Forests
- chestnuts and porcini mushrooms
- the autoctonous "grigio" pork meats of Casentino
- the Abbucciato Aretino Dop pecorino cheese
- the museum of farm culture & traditions
- the art of working wool
- artisans who work wrought iron and stone
GUIDED TOURS IN CASENTINO - TOURIST TRAILS IN CASENTINO - TOURIST GUIDES POPPI - TOURIST ITINERARIES POPPI - GUIDED TOURS POPPI - GUIDED TOURS POPPI CASTLE - TOURIST ITINERARIES CAMALDOLI - TOURIST GUIDES CAMALDOLI - GUIDED TOURS CAMALDOLI - TOURIST ITINERARIES LA VERNA - TOURIST GUIDES LA VERNA - GUIDED TOURS LA VERNA - TOURIST ITINERARIES MEDIEVAL CASTLES AND CHURCHES IN CASENTINO- RELIGIOUS ITINERARIES IN TUSCANY - GUIDED TOURS OF CASENTINO HERMITAGES AND SANCTUARIES
The Secrets of Casentino
Images tell the story of Casentino: exibition at the Poppi Castle until 4th November 2012
Medieval Parish Churches and Castles
Casentino Churches and "Dwellings" dating back to the Middle Ages
Spirituality & mysticism of the sacred Places founded by S. Francis of Assisi
The Campaldino Battle
Campaldino, 11th June 1289
The Castle of Poppi
The ancient dwelling of the Guidi Counts
Camaldoli: Monastery & Hermitage
1012 - 2012: 1000 years from its foundation
La Verna Franciscan Sanctuary
The Terracottas by the Della Robbia
The National Park of Casentino
Through the Casentino forest, mystical place
The "Casentino" Cloth
Local Production of Special Woolen Cloth