A wonderful fortified village deep in a big forest area in the municipality of Monte San Savino, the castle of Gargonza overlooks the Chiana valley from north west. To reach the castle, one should go along the SS73 Senese Aretina that from Monte San Savino goes up to Palazzuolo.
The first information about the castle dates back to the mid 1100s. In the 13th century it was a fief of the Ubertini family, one of the most powerful families in Arezzo, but its strategic location between the territories of Arezzo and Siena led to the many conflicts for its control between the cities of Arezzo, Siena and Florence.
According to the tradition, in 1304 Dante Alighieri, an exiled white guelph, took part in a political assembly in Gargonza together with ghibellines from Florence and Arezzo. A plaque over the main door to the hamlet remembers the episode to this day, with the indication that the assembly was in 1302, the year of Dante’s exile; other documents report 1303.
In 1307, the castle was attacked by the army of Florence but the besieged avoided the defeat by spreading the news that soon the army of Arezzo, with the help of the bishop Napoleone Orsini, would launch a counterattack. The following year, though, Firenze managed to capture the castle that soon went back to the Ubertinis who sold it to Siena in 1381. Four years later the Florentines conquered it again.
In 1433, a rebellion broke out and Florence responded by destroying the majority of the city walls, leaving the fortress and its keep unharmed. After the reconstruction, in 1466 Gargonza adopted its municipal laws.
In 1546 the castle was sold by Cosimo I de’ Medici to the marquises Lotteringhi della Stufa.
In 1696 it was passed to the marquises Corsi Salviati, who turned the whole castle with a specific military use into a thriving farming estate, using the sharecropping for the cultivations. The small municipality lived until 1774, when it was united to Monte San Savino.
In 1907, when Bardo Corsi Salviati died, his assets were given to the count Giulio Guicciardini, his grandson. After the 2nd World War, the farm fell and its population fled to the plains and other bigger cities. Gargonza remained almost completely uninhabited but the abandoned village was recovered in the 1970s by Roberto Guicciardini Corsi Salviati that, maintaining the mediaeval traces turned the castle into a spreaded hotel residence among the most exclusive in all of Tuscany. Already in 1972, the first restored houses were open for rental.
A trip to Gargonza offers the chance of exploring a grand and fascinating past just walking along the alleys, taking a rest in the small square with its octagonal well, looking at the mighty keep with its merlons and the remains of the city walls and the gate. The church of st. Tiburzio and Susanna is from the 13th century but its current aspect derives from the restoration of 1928. The building, over the entrance, has a lunette made of terracotta that represents “Madonna with child and angels” made in the 15th century.
Nowadays, Neri Guicciardini Corsi Salviati continues the tradition of hospitality in Gargonza with the same passion that his aristocratic family has always had. The ones that choose to rest inside the hamlet can rent the ancient farmer’s houses that have been restored, have a cocktail under the shadows provided by the keep, try the local cuisine in the restaurant that once was the guest house and have a swim in the panoramic pool.
The jewel that Gargonza is, open for weddings, meetings and cultural events, represents the capacity of renovation, preserving the mediaeval characteristics but giving the most modern comforts.