Discovering Casentino among forests, castles and sanctuaries
The Casentino is an area located in the northern area of the province of Arezzo, characterized by the presence of mountains covered with large forests that gradually degrade to the bottom of the valley where the first part of the river Arno flows. The great river that bathes Florence and Pisa, was born right in the mountains of the Parco nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, to be precise on Mount Falterona, one of the main reliefs of the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines. Apennines mark one of the natural boundaries of the Casentino, separating it from Romagna and Mugello, while the Pratomagno complex divides the valley from the Valdarno Superiore.
The history of man in Casentino has its roots in prehistory and Etruscan times as evidenced by the archaeological finds of the Lake of Idols. During the Middle Ages, the Casentino has seen a series of really remarkable castles and some important monastic complexes that still today are among the main points of interest of the whole area.
Casentino: where to go?
- Castello di Porciano
- Eremo di Camaldoli
- Castello di Romena
- Pieve di Romena
- Santuario di Santa Maria del Sasso
- Santuario della Verna
Developed in medieval times as a market town, Stia is one of the main centers of the Casentino valley bottom. The village preserves several interesting monuments such as the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta and the Palagio Fiorentino, a beautiful neo-Gothic building characterized by a crenellated tower. In Stia there are also some museums such as the Ski Museum, the Museum of the Woods and the Mountain and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Castle of Porciano
Porciano is a small village dominated by the imposing tower of the castle that was the counts Guidi, one of the many pertaining to this powerful feudal family. Inside the castle is the Museo del Castello di Porciano, a small collection of agricultural and domestic artifacts.
Eremo di Camaldoli
The Eremo di Camaldoli is located in the Parco delle Foreste Casentinesi, surrounded by a magnificent forest of fir trees, far from any form of disturbance. It is a large monastic complex founded by Saint Romualdo shortly after the year 1000, one of the main spirituality sites in all of Tuscany as well as the mother house of the Benedictine order of the Camaldolese. Among the various buildings of the Hermitage are the chiesa del Salvatore, the cell of San Romualdo and the Library where there are 5,000 volumes of great value.
Castle of Romena
The Castle of Romena is a striking military complex located in the municipal territory of Pratovecchio Stia at an altitude of 610 meters. Documented since the eleventh century, this was one of the most important among the castles that the Counts Guidi had in this area. We are talking about a truly monumental work, just think that the castle was equipped with three circles of walls and 14 defensive towers! Today of the castle you can still admire some parts of the walls, three towers and the keep.
Pieve di Romena
The pieve di San Pietro a Romena is a marvelous Romanesque building built around the middle of the 12th century. A church full of charm characterized by a beautiful apse enriched by two orders of arches and, inside, by a series of capitals decorated with human and zoomorphic representations in addition to geometric and vegetal elements.
Poppi can boast of being listed among the most beautiful hamlets in Italy, a title that is fully deserved if we consider the quality of the historical and artistic heritage enjoyed by this center in Casentino. Among the various points of interest we can certainly mention the chiesa di San Fedele and the chiesa della Madonna del Morbo but the monument that more than any other stands out is the sensational Castello dei Conti Guidi. The castle, built starting from the XIII century, boasts an extraordinary state of conservation, several works of art and a very important library with over 25,000 volumes.
The main economic center of the Casentino, Bibbiena is famous for the production of the Panno Casentino, a traditional woolen fabric usually produced in green or orange colors. During the visit to the village, the Museo Archeologico del Casentino certainly deserves a special mention; this museum exhibits many findings coming from various sites, including the Lago degli Idoli, and various eras from Prehistory to the late Roman age.
Santuario di Santa Maria del Sasso
The Santuario di Santa Maria del Sasso is just one kilometer from Bibbiena. According to tradition, in 1347 an apparition of the Virgin took place here following which it was decided to build a church. During the following century the present complex was built, which in addition to the church is composed of a cloister and a series of structures all around it.
As well as Poppi, also Raggiolo is part of the club of the most beautiful villages in Italy. The center rises on the slopes of the Pratomagno, in a fascinating environmental context, among endless expanses of chestnut woods. And the chestnut is one of the distinctive elements of this village as you can learn by visiting the EcoMuseo della Castagna.
Santuario della Verna
We close this review of the 10 places to visit in Casentino with another symbol of spirituality: the Santuario della Verna. According to tradition, it is here that in 1224 St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata; and it is precisely to the patron saint of Italy that we owe the birth of the Sanctuary. It is a suggestive complex of considerable dimensions in which some buildings stand out, such as the Basilica Maggiore, the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the corridor of the Stimmate and the Chapel of the Stigmata.