Casentino is an area of Tuscany that very few tourists have the pleasure of experiencing. This is one of the four valleys of the Arezzo province yet it’s only an hour and a half from Florence by car. Like so much of Tuscany, and Italy in general, this lush valley is dotted with picturesque medieval villages and castles. Today we’ll be exploring one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”, Poppi.
Poppi was made famous in history partly because the poet Dante Alighieri supposedly wrote part of his Inferno here while in exile from Florence. The Casentino area, specifically Poppi, was also the site of the famous Campaldino Battle of 1289. The Guelf forces of Florence (including Dante himself) along with their allies faced the Ghibellines of Arezzo.
Castle Conti Guidi
Its castle would be worth visiting simply for the reason that Dante himself lived here for an entire year and yet this is only one of the many reasons that makes it so special. Poppi’s castle was built between the 12th and 14th centuries by the ruling family at the time- the Guidi nobles.
If it reminds you of Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio, you have a keen eye because it was most likely designed by the same architect, Arnolfo di Cambio. Unlike many of Italy’s castles that are in ruins and require an ample imagination on the part of the visitor to envision their grandeur, Poppi’s castle is perfectly preserved.
Its Rilliana Library is an absolute treasure chest of over 25,000 titles and has gained international acclaim for some of its priceless works. Don’t miss the model of the Battle of Campaldino, the ballroom, and the prison. For a phenomenal view of the Casentino valley, climb the 100 steps up into the belltower.
Other Sights in Poppi
Badia San Fedele or the San Fedele Abbey is another must-see in Poppi. Originally a Benedectine monastery dating back to 1007, San Fedele now holds various tombs of the Guidi family as well as the relics of the patron saint of the entire Casentino valley- San Torello. At the very center of town, you’ll also find the Oratory della Madonna del Morbo.
Poppi is probably the highlight of the entire valley but other beautiful villages include Bibbiena, Chiusi della Verna (where St. Francis of Assisi received his stigmata) and many others.