Castiglion Fibocchi, the Medieval hamlet of Bocco

Castiglion Fibocchi lies along Setteponti road in Valdarno, at the slopes of Pratomagno, just across Ponte Buriano, the bridge painted in La Gioconda by Leonardo da Vinci.

Its story is in its name. This Aretinian Castle, built by Conti Guidi, passed to the sons of Ottavio Pazzi, called Bocco. Hence the name of Castrum Filiis Bocchi now becomes Castiglion Fibocchi. 

Everything in this ancient village is linked to the name of Bocco, churches, ancient doors and events such as the Carnival of the Sons of Bocco, the Venetian Baroque Carnival which every year in February plunges this Medieval village into magic.

A journey between past and present

Once arrived in Castiglion Fibocchi from Arezzo or from Valdarno we find ourselves in front of the Porta Fredda, which leads to the old town. Since the Twelfth century it is the entrance to the castle.  Across this threshold, a lot of architectural wonders wait for us to find.

The city hall was the house of lords. All in hammered stone, it is three stories tall and it is made unique by the very tall clock tower and by a Guelph crenellation. A Medieval jewel.

The Church of Saints Peter and Ilario is in the heart of Castiglion Fibocchi and it was born as a chapel in 1300, but in the mid Nineteenth century it was completely rebuilt and expanded.

Inside it hosts the ancient remains of the famous Eighteenth century warlord Alessando Dal Borro and a part of the astonishing fresco illustrating the Enthroned Virgin and Child painted at the end of the Fifteenth century.  A very fragile masterpiece where stands out an uncommon Virgin with a sullen face which seems to snort.  An image of a celestial mother definitely human, work by Agnolo di Lorentino, son of one of the most loyal coworkers of Piero della Francesca.

The sight, which can be admired by the hill where Castiglion Fibocchi stands, is truly extraordinary. From here sunsets take our breath away and all the area is surrounded in the gaze.

This strategic position has made  Castiglion Fibocchi a very important village in the land of Arezzo since the Roman period. Here, indeed, the Cassia Vetus, a road built by the Romans in the Second century before Christ, passes through.

Castiglion Fibocchi city hall
The city hall was the house of lords.

Il Big Bench, la grande panchina panoramica che abbraccia Arezzo con lo sguardo

For those who love to walk in search of unforgettable views, there is a stroll with a giant bench that cannot be missed. It is the Big Bench, work of the artist Chris Bangle. How can we arrive there?

Just out of the village of  Castiglion Fibocchi,  there is a road that climbs up toward the slopes of Pratomagno. It runs in the middle of oak woods until the ancient Romanesque parish church of Saint Quirico. Here, overtaking the ruins of the parish church, it carries on its walk until the oak wood prune, until the broom bush where the dirt road broadens itself forming a natural terrace above the hamlet of Castiglion Fibocchi.

We approach the big bench. Here you can sit and admire an extraordinary view, a view of the little historic town of Castiglion Fibocchi where the clock tower of the ancient city hall and the bell tower of the church of Saints Peter and Ilario soar.

Farther we can see the Arno which passes under Ponte a Buriano and the city of Arezzo with its Dome on the top of the hill nearby the Medicean Fortress.

Sitting on the giant bench, you will be in the middle of two of the four valleys of the Province of Arezzo: on the right-hand corner the Valdarno, the Valdichiana in the front and in the back, beyond the Pratomagno range, the Casentino. If the weather is fine you will certainly see even the Trasimeno Lake in Umbria but close to Arezzo.

Big Bench Castiglion Fiobocchi
Dalla collina dove si trova la grande panchina si gode di un panorama unico

The Venetian Carnival of Bocco’s Sons

Between the Medieval buildings of  Castiglion Fibocchi, the ancient people of Bocco’s sons have got up from a long dream every month of February for almost one thousand years, for animating the historic streets of the village and gifting us with a feast for the eyes. Here the timeless glamour of the magnificent and full of mystery Baroque masks are linked to the Medieval village atmosphere.

This is the Carnival of Bocco’s sons which is staged by hundreds of Castiglion Fibocchi inhabitants artfully masked with precious cloth, crystals, stones, feathers, headgears and paper mache masks every year. This is a marvelous exhibition able to bewitch adults and children with its shapes and colors.

Every year more than two hundred Baroque masks are hand made by the craftsmen and by the inhabitants of the little Aretinian village.  All of those parade in celebrations, dances and exhibitions to celebrate the very old village carnival tradition.

In this way, Bocco’s sons get back in celebration along the streets of Castiglion Fibocchi, as a golden river which cuts the green Valdarno hills at the feet of Pratomagno. The only place in the world where the Venetian Carnival atmosphere embraces the Medieval Tuscan soul.

Gello Biscardo with its crazy people and its magic spring

Gello Biscardo is just four kilometers away. It is the only hamlet of Castiglion Fibocchi. This little hamlet is famous for its olive trees and its excellent extra virgin olive oil, which is famous in all the Tuscany.

But it is famous also for the legend of its crazy people, the joker inhabitants and their adventures. Who were these characters? Did they really live? It is very hard to say because there is no historic document which tells about them.  The hamlet itself, which celebrates its memory with a lot of ceramic tablets which gather the tales written in.

There are a lot of telling streets with Goliardic episodes and country stories. We do not exactly know exactly how many of Gello’s crazy people there were nor in which period they lived.  The legend tells about a family of seven crazy brothers sometimes or other times about all the village which became crazy because of marriages between cousins and crossbred blood. 

The mystery of this madness increases with dialect scattered on the Gello’s hamlet houses, preserving  these stories. 

In Gello there is even a magic spring, whose waters seem to bring to about unusual and very creative behaviors. On the spring there is a plate reciting proudly about all the madness of this village and its inhabitants:  

“This is the spring of the crazy people from Gello, and if we are a bit crazy it is even for that. We have always drunk this water and certainly this does not help our mind. Every time we drink it we are happier and we forget about the world’s pains. And you who are passing by and are going to drink this water you will have your mind a bit more confused but your body in a better health, and your heart will be more peaceful if you look a bit further…after… maybe you will realize that the madmen are not always the others but that a bit of madness is inside all of us. Now sit in front of the spring and listen to us while saying that we will probably be mad, with just a bit of brains but maybe it is why we like the world and we are even happy to be the crazy people from Gello”.

There the manifesto of the Crazy People from Gello is served. The joy of watching the world with different eyes, with lightness.  Here in Gello all the Contrary Marys of the world are welcome, creative people and those who are always ready to smile and to remember that beyond being wrong and right there is no better thing than a bit of madness in order to be in this world.

Whether we want to remain in the magic of the Carnival of Castiglion Fibocchi, or we climb up until the five hundred meters above the sea level of Gello Biscardo, this is truly a journey which should be done by those who want that encounter between past and present which is able to gift us with unforgettable experiences.

The crazy people spring
In Gello there is even a magic spring, whose waters seem to bring to about unusual and very creative behaviors.

 

Find out more:

The Big Bench in Castiglion Fibocchi

Castiglion Fibocchi