Gaiole, Barbischio, Capannelle, Cancelli, Castello di Montegrossi, Badia a Coltibuono

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The Chianti Castles route

La Strada dei Castelli del Chianti

Yellow Itinerary

- Gaiole, Barbischio, Capannelle, Cancelli, Castello di Montegrossi, Badia a Coltibuono

Gaiole is mentioned as an important market centre of the area as early as the 11 C in the documents of Badia a Coltibuono and the State Archives of Florence. Even the archive of Siena has two contracts for the purchase of cattle in 1292 between inhabitants of Cacchiano and Tornano, signed "in foro de Gaiole". Presently Gaiole is a village spread out along a valley bottom, distinguished by the Massellone torrent that passes through it, spanned by a number of large and small bridges. It doesn't lack remains of its past, with some mediaeval buildings in the upper part of the village, among which is a stone tower that probably used to be a mill.

Barbischio as seen from Gaiole

From the southern end of the town, a road on the left of the Massellone torrent diverges in the direction of Barbischio, which is immediately visible. This village is very picturesque, with the small houses clustered around an old tower on the top of a hill that seems to block the valley. This place is amply documented in the maps of the Abbey of Coltibuono since 1010, when it was handed over to the Abbey which was itself a property of the Ricasoli family. It was certainly a castle from 1086 onwards, when it passed to the Abbey of the Cassinesi of Florence. They held it until Frederick II handed it over to the Guidi family from Battifolle in the first decades of the 13 C. In the middle of the next century, the citizens rose up in revolt against the misgovernment of Count Guido di Battifolle and submitted to the Florentine Republic, which however returned to them to the count on account of the services he had rendered to Florence. Next Barbischio returned to the possession of the Ricasoli family but always remained under the sovereignty of Florence, except for a short occupation by the Aragonese in 1478. The parts of the castle that still exist are the ruins of a tall stone tower, which has been restored and made available for public enjoyment thanks to a operation which was certainly audacious but sufficiently in accord with modern principles of restoration.

Going back and taking an unsurfaced road from the centre of Gaiole leading eastwards, you climb rapidly, passing by Le Capanelle, a farmhouse converted into an agricultural concern. In its cellar you can still see the foundations of a mediaeval tower destroyed during the war. If you continue climbing, you reach the main road coming from Gaiole, very close to the pass, after which you descend to the Valdarno. The impressive ruins of the Castle of Montegrossi dominate on the right. The castle can be reached via an unsurfaced road on the right. At the beginning of this road, you will find Cancelli, which was originally certainly an outpost of Montegrossi, which then became a farmhouse, and from which a very well-preserved, high, stone tower emerges.

Continuing, you pass beneath the shadow of the castle of Montegrossi which is reached along a path climbing through the woods. It was know for centuries as Montegrossoli, and it is mentioned for the first time in a 1007 document of the Abbey of Passignano. In that document it is also called "Poggio Rodolfo", as it was a possession of the Ridolfo's descendents, from whom the Firidolfi and the Ricasoli families stemmed. Only in 1102 it is explicitly mentioned as a castle. The Firidolfi placed it at the disposal of the empire, but then it was definitively occupied by the Florentines at the end of the 12 C, after two previous attempts. It was occupied several times by the enemies of Florence, by the imperial soldiers in the mid-13 C, by Florentine refugees in 1304, by the Sienese in 1378, but always for a short time. Today, a very high and mighty building in the form of the stone keep survives. Probably it does not date back to a period before the 13th century, as you can infer from gothic-arched door that opens into it.

Badia a Coltibuono

From the pass on the main road, opposite the road heading to Montegrossi, another road begins and very soon reaches the Badia a Coltibuono through a splendid wood. Apparently an oratory dedicated to San Lorenzo arose here first, built by Geremia dei Firidolfi, between the end of the 8 C and the beginning of the 9 C. It did not have an easy life and was completely impoverished by 1037, when the descendants decided to restore it and transform it into an abbey and entrust it to the Vallombrosan movement. This movement had arisen a short while before, as a reaction to the corruption that dominated in large parts of the Church hierarchy, and was expanding rapidly. In 1049 the patrons made their first endowment which allowed the abbey to acquire a large property. It prospered continuously and expanded until the end of the 12 C but, in the next century, with the changed political, economic and social situation, its decline began, accelerated by serious conflicts with the family of the patrons. From then on, it was drawn definitively into the orbit of Florence, which officially took the Abbey under its protection in 1239. However, this did not save it from the consequences of the war and of the financial tributes exacted by both the Church and the Florentines which accelerated its economic decline. The temporary fall of the Medici family at the end of the 15 C completely eliminated the patronage of the Ricasoli family. The calm after the seizure of Siena and the end of the system of commendatory abbots restored a new period of economic prosperity for the abbey that was more or less continuous until the Napoleonic suppression of the religious orders.

Brown Itinerary - Pieve di Spaltenna, Vertine, Uliveta, S. Donato in Perano, Vistarenni
Red Itinerary - Tornano, Morelline, Cacchiano, Monte Lodoli

Yellow Itinerary

 - Gaiole, Barbischio, Capannelle, Cancelli, Castello di Montegrossi, Badia a Coltibuono
Violet Itinerary - Vertine, Meleto, Rietine, Castagnoli, Starda, Monte Luco della Beraredenga, Montecastelli
Orange Itinerary - Campi, San Sano, Monteluco di Lecchi, San Polo in Rosso, Galenda, Le Selve
Blue Itinerary - San Giusto a Rentennano (alle Monache), Lucignano, La Torricella, Castello di Brolio

Anna Maria Baldini

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