The Tuscan surroundings

The Castle of Poppiano

The castle of Poppiano is in Via Poppiano in Montespertoli. In medieval times Poppiano was part of Florence’s defense system, surrounded by three rings of walls, on a knoll with natural panoramic terraces. It was built around 1000 and was mentioned for the first time in 1199, when it belonged to the Guicciardini family, owners to this day. The name comes from the Roman gens Papia and Poppea. In 1359 Giovanni Acuto set up camp here on return from the battle of Fosso Armonico. It has belonged to the Guicciardini family for nine centuries and was damaged during the assault on Florence in 1529 (as the owner at that time, Francesco Guicciardini, recalled) and was transformed into a villa in the 18th century; it was radically restructured in the neo-gothic style in the 19th century, after the earthquake of 1812. The restoration was based on the Guicciardini family’s designs in their other residences between Val di Pesa and Val d’Elsa, according to an 18th century trend.

The castle, situated on high ground and surrounded by the ancient village, has an “L” shape, with a small tower in the intersection of the building block. The crenellated first floor was constructed in the 1800s, in the neo-gothic style. The entrance is via a stone stairway on the south side. The villa’s chapel dates back to 1930 and is in the square opposite the villa. A small lemon house is under the terrace bank.

The Castle of Sidney Sonnino

The Castle of Sidney Sonnino is at 10 via  Volterrana North  in Montespertoli, in the province of Florence. This medieval castle was formerly known as the Castle of Montespertoli, yet today is simply called Sonnino Castle. It belonged to the Ghibelline counts Alberti, the lords of the area until their extinction in 1393. It was then passed on to the Machiavelli, who already owned various estates across the territory, and finally to the Sonnino family since 1830. The most famous period was when Sidney Sonnino lived here and hosted numerous personalities of the time: Francesco Crispi, Giovanni Giolitti, Gabriele D’Annunzio, Umberto I of Savoy, Victor Emmanuel III. Important reforms and agricultural innovations were prepared during that period.  Many works of art found today in the museums and churches in the area come from the castle, most notably a Mary and Child by Filippo Lippi, which is now at the local museum of sacred art, as well as a wooden cross by Taddeo Gaddi, now located in the San Lorenzo Church in Montegufoni.

Today the castle is in the center of a farm and it is possible to organize events there. It also conserves, besides various relics, the archives with all of the Sonnino’s correspondence and documentation regarding the preliminaries and events leading up to Italy’s entry into war in 1915, as well as those of the Paris Conference and Treaty Versailles in 1916 and 1918 respectively. The tower remains as the most ancient part of the complex, dating back to the 13th century, placed on a knoll that overlooks the surrounding valley. Some 17th century buildings were added to it.

The Montegufoni Castle

The Montegufoni Castle is situated in Montgufoni, a small hamlet in the district of Montespertoli about 20 km from Florence. Montegufoni rises over the old Via Volterrana, the arterial road that connects Florence to Volterra, and following the final submission of Volterra by Florence (1472), assumed strategic importance for the commerce of mineral resources and salt. The castle originally belonged to the Ormanni family, who Dante Alighieri cites in the Divine Comedy.