The Castle of Poppi

The majestic Castle of Counts Guidi is the symbol of Poppi and of the Casentinese Middle Ages.

The site was firstly mentioned in documents from the second half of the 12th century, when it was already linked to the Guidi family, to which the Emperor Henry VI with an imperial permit confirmed the jurisdiction and the property of several castles, including the Poppi one.

The mansion is in Piazza della Repubblica, in the upper part of the town. It was erected between the 11th and the 12th centuries, but it was restored from 1274 by the Count Simone Guidi, who converted the fortress into a stately home. The artisan who operated the restoration is unknown, probably it was made by Lapo di Cambio and Arnolfo di Cambio. The castle was under the ownership of the Guidi Family until 1440; in that year Count Francesco was exiled and Poppi became a vicariate of the Florentine Republic. On the left of the asymmetrical façade, the bust of Dante Alighieri remembers the most renowned guest of the fortilice. The poet exiled from Florence spent some time here, hosted by Count Guido di Simone, around 1310.

After admiring the grand tower, restored during the 19th century, there is the entrance of the castle, passing on the bridge over the moat and next to the small tower called “Munizione”, from which there is the courtyard. Inside the courtyard on the ground floors, there is the chance to look at the wooden walkways, the fifteenth-century staircase, the arcs, the jail, the stables, the sculptures and the various coats of arms of the Florentine vicars. On the first floor there are the Party Room, where the Town Council is held today, and the Rilli-Vettory Library, which has an historical part, with 25000 books, incunabula and manuscripts, and a modern and contemporary part with 50000 books. On the second floor there is the Chapel with the cycles of frescoes that portray the “Histories of St. John Baptist”, the “Histories of st. John the Evangelist” and the “History of the Virgin”. Inside the chapel there is also a frescoed polyptych with “Madonna enthroned among saints” and the cross vault with the “Evangelists from the pulpit”.

The paintings, dateable to the 1330s, are attributed to Taddeo Gaddi, one of the main coworkers of Giotto.At the second floor there are also the decorated noble rooms and the Hall of the Battle of Campaldino with the three-dimensional representation of the well-known battle between Guelphs and Ghibellines that took place in the fields on the north of the castle on the 11th of June 1289. The Guelphs, guided by Florence, moved against the Ghibellins, led by Arezzo, crossed the Consuma Pass, in order to reach Arezzo via the Casentino valley. As soon as the news reached the city, the Ghibellines organised the defence of the Guidi and Ubertini castles from sieges and the countryside from the raids. The Aretinians, outnumbered, promptly attacked the centre of the army with their cavalry, the “feditori”, followed by other cavaliers and infantry. The Guelph Feditori, amongst which was also Dante Alighieri, received the charge and then enclosed the enemies. In the meantime, Guelph crossbowmen and bowmen, protected by the big shields of the Pavesarii, shoot at a close-range.

The conduct of the cavalry reserve was crucial in turning the tides of battle. Corso Donati’s cavalry charged on the Ghibelline flank dividing cavaliers and infantry. Count Guido Novello instead decided to flee the battle with his reserve cavalry inside the castle, this led to his title “coward of Campaldino”. The Bishop of Arezzo Guglielmino degli Ubertini and the noblemen Buonconte da Montefeltro and Guglielmo de’ Pazzi died with honour.

The castle of Poppi is open for visits all year long and in its rooms are held conferences, shows and important art exhibitions.

Battle of Campaldino