Guide to the discovery of Serravalle Pistoiese

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Serravalle Pistoiese, one of the most beautiful medieval villages in the province of Pistoia

Serravalle Pistoiese is one of the most beautiful medieval villages in the whole province of Pistoia. The center is located in a hilly area on the border between the Valdinievole and the plain that extends between Pistoia and Florence. This is an area that was densely inhabited during the Middle Ages and in fact in the surrounding area there are several centers that preserve buildings and monuments dating back to that period. Serravalle is no exception and with its castles and churches it represents one of the most interesting destinations to visit in this part of Tuscany.


In Roman times and in the early Middle Ages, little was said about this area, but what is certain is that the ancient Via Cassia passed through Montalbano below Serravalle, on its way between Montecatini and Pistoia.

Serravalle assumed strategic importance only from the 12th century, a period in which the Municipality of Pistoia built some fortifications here, such as the fortress of which today only the solitary tower of Federico Barbarossa remains. Serravalle experienced its maximum splendor in the period between the end of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th century, a period during which almost all of its monumental palaces were built. In this phase, Serravalle became one of the most interesting fortified medieval villages in Tuscany.

At the beginning of the fourteenth century, Lucca conquered the Castle of Serravalle and began the construction of the Rocca Nuova. Subsequently, in 1351, the castle was conquered by Florence and from then on it definitively became part of the Florentine territories.

What to see in Serravalle Pistoiese

The main monuments to visit in Serravalle Pistoiese are the Torre del Barbarossa, the Rocca Nuova, the Church of San Michele and the Church of Santo Stefano.

Torre del Barbarossa

Built by the Municipality of Pisa in 1107, this tower is called Torre Longobard or Torre del Barbarossa. In reality there is no evidence regarding a link with the Lombards or with the emperor Frederick I Barbarossa. If for the Longobards a presence in the area around the end of the sixth century is at least documented, as far as Barbarossa is concerned, there is no connection with Serravalle, therefore the name “Torre di Barbarossa” remains a half-mystery.

Located on top of a hill, with its extraordinary 42 meters of height, this tower covered a role of primary strategic importance. From its top it was in fact possible to control the whole Valdinievole up to the pass that led to Florence, as well as the whole area up to Lucca and also to the sea: each marching army was thus sighted several days in advance.

Rocca Nuova

The Rocca Nuova or Fortezza di Castruccio is a mighty fortress with walls and towers which was commissioned by the Lucchesi in 1302 after having conquered the castle of Serravalle. The works began under the supervision of Uguccione della Faggiola, who was commissioned to build the fortifications on the Valdinievole side. It is also called the Castruccio Fortress in honor of the famous Castruccio Castracani who in 1327 became Lord of Lucca.

Located on the opposite side of the Torre del Barbarossa, the Rocca Nuova still retains a large part of its walls, a large central tower with a hexagonal base and another pair of smaller towers. The complex is open to the public and can be visited free of charge.

Rocca Nuova in Serravalle Pistoiese
Rocca Nuova in Serravalle Pistoiese (Photo by Alexmar983CC BY)

Chiesa di San Michele Arcangelo

Among the notable buildings of the medieval village we find the Church of San Michele Arcangelo. Built in the Romanesque era, between the 12th and 13th centuries, the church has a single nave ending in a semicircular apse. Inside are preserved a fresco with the Miracle of San Biagio (14th century) and a triptych, Madonna with Child Enthroned and Saints, by Bartolomeo di Andrea Bocchi (1438).

Chiesa di Santo Stefano

The second church to visit in the historic center of Serravalle is the one dedicated to Santo Stefano. Built in the early 13th century, this church has been remodeled many times over the centuries. If on the outside it has medieval forms, on the inside it is noted that the style changes decisively, veering towards a decidedly more Baroque aspect. Among the various works conserved inside the church of Santo Stefano, we find a sixteenth-century panel with Christ in mercy between two angels and the symbols of the passion, and two glazed terracotta statues, Sant’Antonio Abate and San Ludovico da Tolosa, made by workshop of the Buglioni.

What to see around Serravalle Pistoiese

The Valdinievole, and more generally the province of Pistoia, is rich in interesting historic villages of medieval origin but also in important spa towns, some of which enjoy international fame. As for the villages, I suggest you read the guides on Montecatini Alto, Pescia, Uzzano and Collodi. If, on the other hand, you want to relax at the spa, Monsummano and Montecatini Terme are the right places for you.

How to get to Serravalle Pistoiese

Serravalle Pistoiese has a railway station which, however, is not very close to the historic centre. In any case it is regularly connected with Pistoia and the other main centers of Tuscany thanks to a public transport service (bus or train).

By car you can easily get to Serravalle Pistoiese using the Firenze-Mare motorway (A11) to the Pistoia exit if you are coming from Florence or the Montecatini Terme exit if you are coming from Lucca.

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