Famous for their size and grandeur, the Aldobrandeschi fortresses have dominated and still dominate the areas of the Maremma and Amiata, around the border between Tuscany and Lazio and Siena’s valdelsa. They are fortifications built or which came into the noble Aldobrandeschi family possession in the Middle Ages. Lombard origin, the Aldobrandeschi descended from the Dukes of Spoleto Hildebrand and Mauringo and were part of the family of the King of Italy Pralinando, Ansprand and Hildebrand. Their domination in the town of Colle Val d’Elsa, Santa Fiora, Arcidosso and Sovana was slowly less, gradually undermined by the Republic of Siena, who won their submission in 1331 after a siege of six months to the city of Arcidosso. Aldobrandeschi feature of fortresses was the construction of a main building, which would carry out the function of manor palace, and an adjoining tower for sightings or, if necessary, defensive actions. Sometimes extensions made the fortress much more complex, allowing to consider it as a real urban castle, surrounded by independent walls and with autonomous buildings linked together. These are the cases of Montemassi Castle and the Castle of Rocchette di Fazio.
Attractive in appearance and antiquities are the fortresses located in three very important villages of Mount Amiata Arcidosso, Piancastagnaio and Santa Fiora.
The fortress that watches over Amiata
The Aldobrandeschi castle of Arcidosso is the oldest state government suburban palace in Italy and one of the oldest in Europe. Here resided the Visconti of Mount Amiata appointed by the Marchese Ugo of Tuscany. It dominates the highest part of the historical center of Arcidosso, with its stone structure and its visitable tower, from which you can admire the beautiful scenery of Mount Amiata. Construction began around the year 860, so just before the Middle Ages, by the Aldobrandeschi family, on the existing foundations of Lombard origin. When, in 1100, it was decided the building of the main tower, there was already a stone building of two floors dating back to 970-995. Other expansions followed this, such as the crenellated city walls and equipped with two towers. The last works were carried out by the Republic of Siena in 1332, a year after the siege that led the Aldobrandeschi to submit. He was later incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in the second half of the sixteenth century, after the final fall of Siena.
The two towers of Piancastagnaio
Joining the Arcidosso fortress there is the one of Piancastagnaio, the country placed on another side of Mount Amiata. Disputed and claimed by many since the eleventh century, this castle belonged to the Aldobrandeschi family until 1303, when it became a possession of the city of Orvieto, and later passed to the Republic of Siena, between 1415 and 1430, when it held the function of home of Captain of Siena. Imposing and majestic, this castle is immediately evident due to its location adjacent to the main gate to the old town. It has a quadrilateral shape, with high walls from which rise two towers, a larger one for the function of formwork, the other smaller and located on the opposite corner, in function of defense of the aforementioned gateway. The fortress of Piancastagnaio also had a circular wall to protect the country, of which now only few remains, including three towers and the smaller doors on the south, Porta Romana, Porticciola and Porta Voltaia.
The fortress become palace
If Arcidosso and Piancastagnaio fortresses have maintained their typical medieval aspect, for the fortress of Santa Fiora it is not so. Built around one thousand in the central square of the country and become the seat of power of the County of Santa Fiora thanks to the division of property of the Aldobrandeschi, it underwent many changes during the sixteenth century, as a result of its passage in the Sforza properties. This new noble family did in fact build new residential buildings and transformed it into the Palazzo Sforza Cesarini. The Sforza remained in control of the Palace even after 1624, when their entire territory became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, as was recognized their own autonomy. The building serves as the headquarters of the municipality of Santa Fiora function, but also has an area for private apartments and since 2002 hosts the Museum of the Monte Amiata mercury mines. It is a massive structure constituted by various bodies of factory aligned and joined together in the course of time. What remains of the medieval building is called Praetorian Palace, born in fact by the modifications to Aldobrandeschi fortress itself. Belonging to the pre-existing medieval structures have remained the Gothic arch and the two leaning towers: the Tower of the Aldobrandeschi and the Clock Tower. The first, a quadrangular section and very impressive, presents wall structures in stone with windows distributed on more levels and a series of slits for defense or attack purposes. The second, lower, has a square section and the clock which takes its name is placed at mid-height. As a result of certain interventions in the nineteenth century, the upper part is much more elaborated than the simple Tower of Aldobrandeschi: it is in fact characterized by a first battlement resting on brackets which enclose blind arches and, above, by a smaller tower, crowned also by another battlement. Finally, there is a bell culminating with a cross.