Casentino Valley stretches north of the city of Arezzo and holds many, many treasures. From the wonders of Nature to Villages of breathtaking beauty, ranging from the peaks that are filled with snow in winter to amazing rivers where you can bathe during summer. Not to mention the many Castles that centuries ago kept the people of Casentino safe and secure. These often on the border of adverse domains and interests at war!
The “Casentino Forests National Park” is a feather in the cap for all of Italy, world-famous and able to fascinate anyone who wanders into the dense patterns of the forest to have the extraordinary experience of walking among the centuries-old chestnut trees in woods rich in legends, from Badalischio to the Ghost of Telda the Warrior.
This was the land that saw Dante Alighieri while he was writing parts of his Divine Comedy, a guest after his exile at the Conti Guidi Castle in Poppi and a soldier during the famous Battle of Campaldino, fought right near the Medieval Village-one of the Most Beautiful in Italy .
Poppi is developed around the beautiful Castle of the Conti Guidi, which dominates the village and the surrounding hills. The village of Poppi was born in the medieval age, around the 12th century. In this very period the Conti Guidi family settled in the area and began the building of the Castle. From Poppi Castle it is possible to observe the surrounding area in the round. That was a great military advantage – an essential element in times of recurring wars. In fact, this isolated hill was known for its strategic significance since Roman times. It is this particular natural formation that apparently gives the village of Poppi its name, as it would refer to the term “POPLO” , meaning hillock, the etymology of the name.
In addition to the marvelous Castle-inside which it is possible to admire a splendid model of the Battle of Campaldino-Poppi offers a great deal to visitors. First among them is the Abbey of San Fedele, which is located on the opposite side of the village from the Castle. San Fedele is rich in art , and inside you cannot help but be fascinated.
Speaking of fascinating architecture and sacred art, we cannot fail to mention Camaldoli. You will find Camaldoli in the territory of the municipality of Poppi. Indeed, in this idyllic locality set among the heights of the Apennines, you will be spoiled for choice. First we would like to mention the Hermitage of Camaldoli, a hermit monastery founded by St. Romuald around the year 1027. Surrounded by the Casentino forests, the Hermitage looks like a place out of a distant, almost fantastic world of magic and religious veneration.
At Camaldoli you can also take beautiful hikes immersed in the most unspoiled Nature, ending your walk with an invigorating snack. In fact, it is in Camaldoli that you will find the most famous schiacciata in Casentino: from all over the valley you will travel to taste it!
The High Casentino Valley: Pratovecchio and Stia
Pratovecchio and Stia are two of the most picturesque towns in Casentino, but the attractions do not end there. In fact, even in this area you will find traces of the passage of the Conti Guidi, the ancient lords of Casentino. At the hamlet of Romena you will in fact find the remains of the imposing Romena Castle, a fortress that dominated the territory around the 11th century. Also in Romena you will then find the beautiful Pieve di Romena, officially “Pieve di San Pietro.” Legend has it that the Pieve was erected at the behest of the infamous Matilda of Canossa. Regardless of its origins the Pieve, especially after the restorations that followed a ruinous collapse, is one of the most interesting places to see in Casentino.
As for Stia we cannot fail to mention the Castle of Porciano and the Palagio Fiorentino, two fascinating buildings to say the least. In Stia you will also find the Museo dell’Arte della Lana (Museum of the Art of Wool), which is housed in the old woolen mill in Stia, which has come back to life as an exhibition facility after years of neglect. Here you will discover that wool processing has been of vital importance in the Casentino valley since ancient times.
Soci, hamlet of Bibbiena
Speaking of wool processing we can only briefly mention Soci, a small hamlet in the beautiful village of Bibbiena. In Soci the activity of tanning and spinning wool has been documented since the Middle Ages. Still today in Soci is produced , moreover, the Casentino cloth: this very special fabric, which is obtained by a process called “carding,” is famous all over the world.
Not only Parishes and Castles
Casentino, it must be said, offers much more than can be described in a short article like this. We could go on listing evocative places-and we will do so with new articles in the future. Nevertheless, for the moment we feel it is important to emphasize another fundamental aspect now. Casentino Valley ‘s food and wine tradition is mind-blowing. Set on the ancient Longobard border, in Casentino you will find a blend of different culinary traditions. From stuffed pasta to fresh pasta, with unique and inimitable products of excellence. To give just two examples, in Casentino you will find the mountain village of Cetica, where there is a unique and world-renowned type of potato. Furthermore , you can taste the fantastic products of Grigio del Casentino, a breed of P.D.O. pig with extremely tasty meat, which the Casentino people know how to handle artfully.
Don’t miss a tour of the wonderful Casentino Valley
Casentino Valley is thus a glimpse that offers you a unique perspective on medieval and Renaissance Tuscany, which, we repeat, cannot be limited to these few words. This territory must be seen and touched.
Keep reading our in-depth articles to discover the secrets of this enchanting Valley! Casentino will make you fall in love not only for its natural beauty and its historical , artistic and cultural richness, but also for its very rich Eno-Gastronomic tradition. Indeed you will find products of excellence that conquer even the most difficult palates. Trust us at Poggio del Drago, Casentino is an almost obligatory stop for those who want to delve into the heart of Tuscany!