The medieval village of Castel Focognano in Casentino
Castel Focognano is a municipality in the Casentino, which is located about 25 km away from the provincial capital of Arezzo. The main center of this municipality is the town of Rassina which is located in the valley floor of the Arno river, but the municipality takes its name from the historic village of Castel Focognano which is located in a beautiful hilly position from which it dominates the valley below. Up to 1778 Castel Focognano maintained its primacy but on that date the seat of the podestà was moved to Rassina which in the meantime had developed thanks also to a more comfortable position in the valley floor.
This area has been inhabited since Etruscan times, and in fact many artifacts dating back to that historical period have been found here. Particularly ancient and rich in history is the center of Socana where an Etruscan temple dedicated to Tinia and Minerva was found. Also in the same locality, numerous artifacts have been found which document the occupation from the Roman era. A cylindrical tower which had signaling functions also dates back to the Roman period. Also in Socana we find a church, which was built on the remains of the Etruscan temple during the High Middle Ages. Subsequently the church was rebuilt several times until reaching the current one.
In the middle of the Middle Ages, around 1000 AD, a fortified castle with double walls was built, from which the town of Castel Focognano takes its name, which was originally owned by the Giannellini family. In 1322, after a violent siege by the Arezzo troops, the territory of Castel Focognano fell under the dominion of the bishop Guido Tarlati. In 1404, Castel Focognano and the surrounding area became part of the Florentine possessions. In that period the village became the seat of an important Podesta office, administered first by the Medici Grand Dukes and then by the Lorraines.
What to see in Castel Focognano
In the ancient village of Castel Focognano there are still the remains of the original medieval castle, destroyed by Bishop Tarlati in 1322. The most important element of these fortifications is the Torre di Ronda, which today houses the Documentation Center of Casentino rural culture . In the village there are also the church of Santi delle Sante Flora e Lucilla and the ancient Palazzo Podestarile, easily recognizable by the coats of arms on the facade. Among the places to visit in the area, the Pieve di Socana and that of Sant’Eleuterio a Salutio are certainly worth a visit.
Centro di documentazione della cultura rurale del Casentino
The Casentino Rural Culture Documentation Center is part of the Casentino Ecomuseum. The objective of the center is to collect elements relating to the socio-economic conditions of the population of the region, thus documenting the traditions, beliefs, customs and habits, as well as the changes that man has caused to the environment over time.
The exhibition is divided into three sections: the first is dedicated to work in the woods and fields, the second concerns pastoralism and transhumance, while the third section focuses on wool processing.
Chiesa delle Sante Flora e Lucilla
The church of Saints Flora e Lucilla probably dates back to the 9th century, but it underwent continuous changes over the centuries until the renovation at the beginning of the 20th century, when the facade was rebuilt.
Inside we find a beautiful fifteenth-century polyptych depicting the Pietà between the saints Giovanni Gualberto, Nicola, Giacomo Maggiore and Bernardo degli Uberti attributed to Mariotto di Cristofano and a Madonna and Child, glazed terracotta, probably the work of Santi Buglioni.
Pieve di Socana
The Pieve di Sant’Antonino in Socana that we can admire today is only the last chapter of a very long story that began 2500 years ago. In fact, the church stands on the site that once housed an Etruscan temple from the 5th century BC. Some remains and an altar, a large altar 5 meters long and 4 meters wide, were found of this temple.
A first Christian church was built between the 7th and 9th centuries, while the current one, in Romanesque style, dates back to the Middle Ages (11th-12th century). This church has been remodeled several times over the centuries, but its Romanesque features are still clear. Among the particularities of this church, the curious bell tower should be highlighted which is cylindrical in the lower part, while in the upper part it is hexagonal.
Pieve di Sant’Eleuterio
Founded in late antiquity, the Pieve di Sant’Eleuterio was rebuilt between the 11th and 13th centuries in the Romanesque style that we can still admire today. The single-nave interior preserves two 17th-century paintings depicting the Virgin of the Rosary (Domenico Nannoni, 1619) and the Circumcision (Tommaso Gorini, 1644). In the sacristy there is a canvas with San Francesco by Bernardino Santini, to which were once added a Sant’Eleuterio, by the same author, which has been lost, and the Holy Trinity by Michelangelo Vestrucci which is now kept in the Superintendency of Arezzo.
What to see in the surroundings of Castel Focognano
In Casentino there are many villages rich in history and monuments that deserve to be visited. If you want to know more about this region, I suggest you read the articles on Stia, Raggiolo, Bibbiena, Subbiano and above all Poppi with its extraordinary castle.
How to get to Castel Focognano
Castel Focognano is located about 35 kilometers away from Arezzo and 65 from Florence. There is a railway station in Rassina and it is connected to Arezzo both by train and by bus. From Rassina, a bus service takes you to the historic center of Castel Focognano.
To reach the city by car from Arezzo you will have to take the Regional Road 71 Umbro-Casentinese and continue on the Provincial Road of Zenna to your destination. From Florence you have to take the S.R. 67 of Passo del Muraglione up to Pontassieve then take the S.R. 70 of Passo della Consuma up to Bibbiena, then SP 142 up to Rassina and from there follow the signs for Castel Focognano.