Castle of Nozzano
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Nozzano, a castle on the outskirts of Lucca

The enchanting fortified village of Nozzano stands out at the top of a majestic rocky outcrop that rises to the right of the course of the river Serchio. With its imposing crenellated keep and high towers, this castle represents one of the most robust and famous outposts erected to protect the Lucca area, on the south-western border with the dominions of Pisa. On the opposite bank of the river, a few hundred meters away, there is instead the corresponding Pisan fortress: the Rocca di Ripafratta, which faces the Castle of Nozzano with its watchtowers that proudly rise in the landscape.

Where is the castle

Castello di Nozzano stands as the fulcrum of the homonymous town of Nozzano Castello, located a few kilometers outside the center of Lucca, along the road that connects the district of S. Anna to Viareggio.

History of the Castle of Nozzano

The origin of the Castle of Nozzano is shrouded in legend, which attributes its construction to Matilde di Canossa, the grand duchess of Tuscia and friend of the bishop of Lucca. Documents attest to the existence of the village since the 9th century. This fortress, during its existence, has been destroyed and rebuilt several times due to its position on the border with Pisa, a dangerous but strategic area between the plain of Lucca and Versilia.

Initially built in wood, it was razed to the ground by the Pisans in 1314. Castruccio Castracani rebuilt it some time later, but the Pisans destroyed it again after Castruccio’s death, when they regained control of Lucca. In front of it stood the mighty Rocca di Ripafratta, still visible today, and together with Nozzano they constituted a fundamental communication and defense system that extended from the coast, through the Lucca plain and the Serchio valley, up to the castles of Garfagnana.

After the famous battle of Monteaperti in 1260, the castle became famous for having welcomed the Guelphs expelled from various Tuscan cities. Object of attacks and destructions by the Pisan troops, it was always rebuilt, the last time in 1395 with the addition of a demi-bastion to defend the gate. Thanks to its key position, the castle was used until the end of the 1500s to control the passage of ships along the Serchio towards Lucca. With the decline of the riverways in the plain of Lucca, its military importance faded. In later times, Nozzano was the site of one of the first printing works in Italy.

Castle of Nozzano
Castle of Nozzano (Photo by Mongolo1984CC BY)

The architecture of the fortress

The structure of the castle consists of an elliptical circular wall, which protects the small inhabited center, dotted with towers facing the Pisan enemy. The only access door opens on the side facing Lucca. In the heart of the castle stands a semi-triangular building with massive crenellated walls and two towers, one of which is square and higher, and the other spur-shaped, similar to those of the walls. This structure, known as a keep, was built in several phases during the thirteenth century. Currently, the complex is in an excellent state of conservation and is open to visits by appointment.

Settembre Lucchese in Nozzano Castello

At the beginning of September, the Castle of Nozzano is transformed into a time machine that takes you back to medieval atmospheres. A historic event brings the aristocratic and popular life of the Middle Ages to life through dinners in costume, re-enactments of ancient trades, historical parades and representations of salient episodes of local history.

In the evocative scenery of the castle, guests can savor ancient dishes, skilfully prepared according to recipes from the time of Dante, by experts in medieval gastronomy. The streets of the village are lit up with torches while jesters, fire eaters, minstrels and dancers entertain the public. A fascinating dive into the past.

Along the streets of the village, life flows as in the 1300s, with the representation of ancient trades and shops, markets and inns, among a colorful crowd of characters: citizens and peasants, craftsmen and merchants, soldiers and knights, sellers and buyers, rich and beggars, penitents and sinners. In the taverns you can taste the delicacies of the time and drink the wine of the lands of Lucca, together with the ancient sweets and the delicious flavored wine, the hippocras. Even the currency conforms to the era: at the entrance to the castle, an exchange office transforms Euros into Matildi, Matildini and Sercambi, immersing visitors in an authentically medieval experience.
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