La Valdichiana

La Valdichiana

Storie dal Territorio della Valdichiana

Tag: castles

The burg of Farnetella

The Valdichiana has large territorial municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants, but also some peculiar burgs that might go unnoticed by tourists or even by citizens themselves. In our journey…

The Valdichiana has large territorial municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants, but also some peculiar burgs that might go unnoticed by tourists or even by citizens themselves. In our journey through the places of interest of the Valdichiana, today it’s the turn of Farnetella, close to Sinalunga, Scrofiano, Rigomagno.

Farnetella is a small burg that still keeps the fascinating medieval features – and it’s 419 m above sea level. It is structured around a castle with four parallel burgs and four main streets – and it there are only 140 inhabitants. Around the village traces of the walls can be seen, as well as a semicircular defensive tower. Farnetella centre is San Giovanni Square (Piazza San Giovanni) and Farnia Square (Piazza Farnia). The English oak, a part of the Oaks family, is the symbol of the burg and it’s likely that this was the origin of the name of Farnetella.

Farnetella origins can be traced back to the 6th century. The first document dates back to 1175 A.D., with whom Siena ordered the Scialenga Counts to return Farnetella castle to the Barotti Counts – an evidence of the antiquity of the village, it’s probably earlier than Rigomagno. It was during that period, that the Valdichiana was affected by the splitting of great noble families and it was affected by the construction of many castles and residences, which can be traced back to the origin of Farnetella.

The Castle of Farnetella was built on a hill called Castelvecchio and it was a noble possession together with San Gimignanello, Montalceto and Castiglioni, near Rapolano; These lands were owned first by Barotti Family, later by Cacciaconti Family. In 1271 A.D. Farnetella was accused of treason by the Republic of Siena, for hosting some Ghibellines: according to the law, the castle was burned to the ground by the troops of Camollia. The pleas of innocence on the part of the inhabitants of Farnetella were so persistent that, in 1295 A.D., Siena allowed them to return to live in the reconstructed court a hundred meters further downstream.

The alleged treason was not the only dramatic moment for Farnetella: in 1324 A.D. the rebellious Guccio Tolomei sacked it and burned it down. The inhabitants were forced to rebuild the village and provide the burg with wider walls which allowed it to resist, in 1554 A.D., the assault by a contingent of Charles V’s army. Farnetella remained an independent municipality for a long time, but at the end of the 18th century it was annexed by the nearby municipality of Sinalunga.

The current appearance of Farnetella is due to Adolfo Ferrari, owner of the estate in the 19th century. In December 1889 began the construction of a large residential building for richer visitors – however, it remained incomplete; the Villa and the main body of the castle still characterize the appearance of the entire burg. There are still preserved frescoes, antique furniture and a wooden dining room inside of them, done by sculptor Giovanni Sammicheli.

For a list of owners and other historical curiosities, please visit Farnetella website.

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The Castle of Sarteano

During our journey throughout Valdichiana’s hamlets and fortresses, we couldn’t miss the beautiful Castle of Sarteano, a location of great touristic value, also famous for hosting important events and festivals….

During our journey throughout Valdichiana’s hamlets and fortresses, we couldn’t miss the beautiful Castle of Sarteano, a location of great touristic value, also famous for hosting important events and festivals.

Both the castle and the hamlet of Sarteano maintain their medieval appearance: the town is built around the base of the fortress which, from the top of the hill, grants a wide view on all the surrounding territories. The castle is built on a massive travertine boulder and it is surrounded by a park of centuries-old holm oaks.

From the keep of the castle it is possible to admire the whole Valdichiana, the mount Cetona and the lakes of Chiusi and Montepulciano.

It is a fundamental landmark to anyone who intends to visit Sarteano, because of its incredible panoramic view.

CastelloSarteano2

The castle of Sarteano is also an interesting location for all those who are into medieval history, since the extremely good conditions of its structure.  For example, it is possible to admire a whole branch of the city walls, built by the Republic of Siena, embracing the central keep and two round-based towers. The drawbridge, that leans above the ruins of the ancient moat, is also fully intact; the iron door bears the crests of the families of the captains who lived in the keep.

Through a secret spiral staircase it was possible to reach the basement, from which it was possible to access some etruscan subterranean vaults, which represented a way of escape to the country in case of siege.

Sieges represented the most important part of the history of this castle: the fortress held a fundamental defensive function. Many failed siege attempts have been recorded, such as the sieges conducted by Ladislao of Naples in 1409, by the troops  of the fortune captain Giacomo Piccinino in 1455, Cesare Borgia’s attempt in 1503 and the siege perpetrated by the spanish army in 1552. Thanks to the thickness of its walls ( about 7 metres), the total lack of windows and a secondary drawbridge to reach the first floor, the castle was considered unconquerable. It had to surrender only in 1555, to the troops of the Maragliano Marquise, after the fall of the Republic of Siena.

The history of the castle of Sarteano is millenary: we can read about it in documents dated 1038, when it was used as an administrative center for the stipulation of deeds, donations and assignments. In the beginning it was ruled by the Counts of Manenti, but because of its strategic value on the limit between Orvieto and Perugia, both the castle and the hamlet of Sarteano joined Siena in 1379.

The modern appearance of the castle is due to a restoration occurred in 1469 by the hands of Siena, which made it more suitable to host military garrisons and to allow defensive patrols up to the lateral towers.

CastelloSarteano1

When its property passed to the Medici family, the military function of the castle slowly decayed.
In 1617, Grand Duke Cosimo II gave it as a gift to Brandimarte Fanelli, in perpetual property to him and to all his male descendants. The Fanelli family owned the structure up to 1997, year of its acquisition by the city of Sarteano.

After a long restoration intervention, the Castle of Sarteano has been opened to the public in 2004, and it is mostly used as a location to host cultural and food related events, which usually involve the whole hamlet. For example, it recently hosted a representation of Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”, or the medieval fantasy festival “Civitas Infernalis”.

Due to the integrity of its structure and to the memories of the ancient sieges recalled by the fortifications, the Castle of Sarteano is a recommended landmark to visit, not only for medieval enthusiasts. It is also well advised a visit to the hamlet, because of  the many events and festival that may interest both tourists and residents during the whole year.

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