North of Arezzo, the Casentino Valley unfolds as a mosaic of natural wonders and picturesque villages. Here, the Apennine mountains are blanketed in snow during winter, while ancient castles narrate a history of conflict and dominion. The famous Casentino Forests National Park is a gem for Italy, admired internationally. Walking through its dense forests, one can sense the history and mystery that permeate these lands: from the majestic chestnut trees to legends like Badalischio and the valiant Telda the Warrior. These lands were also the backdrop of Dante Alighieri’s life, where he sought refuge and inspiration, and valiantly participated in the Battle of Campaldino near Poppi…
Counted among ‘Italy’s Most Beautiful Villages,’ Poppi is dominated by the imposing Castle of the Conti Guidi at its center, overseeing the village and green hills. Established in the 12th century, the Conti Guidi family was responsible for constructing this and other Casentino castles. Its elevated position offered an unmatched viewpoint, making it a site of great military value. The area was valued for its strategic geographic features even in Roman times. It’s believed “Poppi” comes from “POPLO,” meaning “Hill.” Yet, the wonders of Poppi don’t end with the Castle. Inside, one can discover a detailed model of the Battle of Campaldino. Nearby, the Abbey of San Fedele unveils itself on the opposite side of the village, housing art and architecture treasures that amaze all visitors.
Camaldoli, in the Mountains of Casentino
Speaking of art and sacred architecture, Camaldoli, a small town in the municipality of Poppi, is a true jewel. Nestled among the Apennine peaks, Camaldoli offers numerous attractions. Notably, the Hermitage of Camaldoli, founded in 1027 by Saint Romuald, seems to emerge from the Casentino woods as a place suspended in time, imbued with spirituality and mystery. However, Camaldoli is not just about meditation and spirituality. Here, nature walks rightly conclude with local delicacies, notably the famous Camaldoli flatbread, remembered by all who have had the pleasure of tasting it.
Pratovecchio and Stia: Casentino’s Blend of Past and Modernity
Among Casentino’s wonders, Pratovecchio and Stia certainly hold a place of honor. Like Poppi, these regions still bear the marks of the Conti Guidi’s presence. In Romena, the ancient Castle, or what remains of it, tells a story of border skirmishes, bandits, and knights. Not far away, you’ll find the beautiful Pieve di San Pietro, or simply “Pieve di Romena,” said to have been built at the behest of the famous Matilde di Canossa. This sacred place, renovated after a tragic collapse, is a precious treasure of Casentino. In Stia, the past blends with the present: from the Castle of Porciano to the Palagio Fiorentino, history is palpable. And let’s not forget the Wool Art Museum, located within the old wool mill, restored after years of neglect and disuse. Here, you’ll find documents and exhibits telling the long history of wool processing in the Casentino valley.
The Village of Soci in the Municipality of Bibbiena
In the context of wool processing history, it’s obligatory to mention Soci, a part of the picturesque village of Bibbiena. Here, since the Middle Ages, tanning and spinning arts have flourished, leading to the invention of a unique product still in demand today. The famous Casentino Cloth, which undergoes “Wool Carding,” traditionally done by hand with thistle spines, has gained international fame. Today, this fabric is exported worldwide from Soci!
Casentino Valley : Not Just Architectural Wonders
Casentino has much more to offer than can be covered in a brief text like ours. We will surely talk more about these lands, but for now, we can’t overlook the incredible culinary heritage of Casentino. Located at the once Lombard boundary, the area boasts a mix of culinary traditions, ranging from stuffed to fresh pasta, with distinctive and irreplaceable products. For instance, in Cetica, you’ll find a globally renowned type of potato. Moreover, we must suggest you don’t miss the chance to savor delicacies made from Grigio del Casentino, a D.O.P. pig breed, majestically enhanced by the hands of Casentino’s salumi producers.
Discover the Magic of Casentino Valley
Casentino is a window into ancient and Renaissance Tuscany, too vast to be fully described in a few words. It deserves to be experienced in person. As you continue to browse our articles, you’ll discover more hidden wonders of this region and other sights in Casentino. You’ll be surprised not only by its idyllic aesthetics, historical, and cultural value, but also by its gastronomic delights. Follow Antiche Mura’s advice: Casentino is a key destination for those seeking the essence of Tuscan tradition!