The Castle of Radicofani, the last stage in Tuscany of the via Francigena
Radicofani is a town in the Province of Siena located in a beautiful panoramic position on the southern border of the Val d’Orcia. The village rises at an altitude of over 800 meters above sea level from which it enjoys a wide view that sweeps over the entire valley and goes from Monte Amiata to Lake Bolsena and Lake Trasimeno. Traveling in this area of Tuscany you can easily spot, even from a great distance, the tower of the fortress of Radicofani which dominates the village and the surrounding area from above. The fortress is in fact the symbol of Radicofani and has represented for centuries an important control point on the Via Francigena and on the borders between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States.
The history of the village, the story of Ghino di Tacco
The first news of Radicofani dates back to the year 876 when its original nucleus, Callemala, is mentioned as a garrison on the Via Francigena. Along the course of the whole Middle Ages, the village and its fortress were at the center of numerous disputes because of the strategic position that allowed to monitor such an important road and also for the proximity to the border between the territories of the Republic of Siena and those of the State of the Church. Between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries the castle was part of the possessions of the Monastery of San Salvatore del Monte Amiata but, during the fourteenth century, it changed hands in various circumstances (often following armed clashes), before the submission to Siena of 1405. From that moment Radicofani was part of the Sienese territories until 1559, when the Sienese state was absorbed by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
The story of Ghino di Tacco, a rebel Sienese Ghibelline, who took possession of the fortress of Radicofani in 1297, fits into this whole story. Ghino di Tacco, considered a sort of local Robin Hood, made the fortress his hideout from which he organized various acts brigandage to the detriment of travelers. Its peculiarity was that, apparently, it did not completely rob the unfortunate and even grace the poorest of them. In short, it wasn’t exactly like Robin Hood who stole from the rich to give to the poor, but it was better than many other bandits!
The exploits of this character, who lived between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, are also remembered by Dante Alighieri and Boccaccio.
“Ghino di Tacco, a man very famous for his cruelty and his robberies, being expelled Siena and at feud with the Counts of Santa Fiore, raised Radicofani against the Church of Rome and taking up his sojourn there, caused his swashbucklers despoil whosoever passed through the surrounding country.”
(Boccaccio, Decameron, Day the Tenth, The second Story – Payne translation from Project Gutemberg)
What to see in Radicofani, guide to the visit
Radicofani has a clearly medieval aspect, with solid stone houses overlooking narrow and irregular streets. Walking through its streets and squares you will find some buildings of considerable interest such as Palazzo Pretorio, now the town hall, which can be recognized for the coats of arms on the facade, the Chiesa di San Pietro and the Chiesa di Sant’Agata, which rise in a central position a few meters from each other, the Palazzo della Posta, a Medici villa located on via Cassia, born as a hunting lodge of Ferdinando I and then adapted as a customs first and then a hotel, Bosco Isabella, a fascinating garden defined “romantic and esoteric”, and finally the highlight of the visit: the Rocca di Radicofani.
Chiesa di San Pietro
The Chiesa di San Pietro is a beautiful Romanesque building overlooking from a short flight of steps one of the central squares of the town. Documented since 1224, the church assumed the title of parish in 1578. San Pietro has fairly simple and linear forms; externally it has maintained a Romanesque appearance despite the interventions it has undergone over the centuries, while internally it has a Gothic imprint that is expressed especially in the arches that mark the spaces.
The church preserves a beautiful patrimony of works of art, among which some highly valuable crockery stand out. Among the various works you can admire a statue of the Annunciation and two Madonnas with the Child and Saints from the school of Andrea della Robbia, a wooden statue, Madonna and Child, attributed to Francesco di Valdambrino and the centerpiece that is the Crucifix with the Magdalene, attributed to Benedetto and Santi Buglioni, located on the high altar.
Chiesa di Sant’Agata
A stone’s throw from the Pieve di San Pietro there is also the Chiesa di Sant’Agata. It is an eighteenth-century building built on the site of a medieval building of which clear traces remain in the masonry of the facade. Inside we find a sixteenth-century wooden Crucifix, the wooden group Madonna, Saints Saturnino and Agata and the village of Radicofani and above all the masterpiece Madonna and Child, Angels and Saints made by Andrea della Robbia.
Rocca di Radicofani
Also visible from several kilometers away, the Rocca di Radicofani stands out in the blue sky with its imposing crenellated tower. The complex stands on a large overhanging relief in the middle of a thick pine forest that divides it from the inhabited center. Restored several times over the centuries, the fortress fell into disrepair during the 1700s but was restored in 1929.
The Rocca di Radicofani is composed of an original nucleus with a tendentially triangular plan, which includes the keep (the result of the twentieth century reconstruction) and a second circle of walls, which entirely surrounds the oldest structures, with some powerful angular bastions.
Finally, inside the keep there is the Museo del Cassero focused on the history of Radicofani and its castle. Developed along the three floors of the tower, the museum displays the archaeological finds found in this aree that allow you to have information also on an Etruscan settlement that occupied the hill of Radicofani at the end of the Bronze Age.
For all information on timetables and tickets to access the Rocca di Radicofani I recommend you visit the official website.
What to see and what to do near Radicofani
Since we are in the wonderful Val d’Orcia, there is no shortage of things to see and do! To begin with, in the municipal area of Radicofani I suggest you pay a visit to the medieval village of Contignano. In all probability inhabited since Roman times, this village has its main point of interest in the Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta. Inside the church you can admire various works of art.
The other towns that you absolutely must visit in the area are Castiglione d’Orcia, where another fortress awaits you (or rather two if you also consider that of the nearby Rocca d’Orcia), Montalcino, and here a tasting of Brunello wine is a must, the beautiful San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza, the “ideal city”.
How to get to Radicofani
By car: to get to Radicofani you have to take the A1 highway to the Chiusi-Chianciano Terme exit and then follow the signs for Sarteano and Radicofani on the SS478.
Public transportation: the closest railway station is Chiusi; from there it will be necessary to take two buses, the first one to Sarteano and the second one to Radicofani, in order to reach the village.