The Casentino Valley stretches majestically between Florence and Arezzo
And is engulfed by vibrant green hills and soaring mountains. The entire valley is dotted with vineyards, olive groves, and forested areas. Crystal-clear streams flow from one magical spot to another passing by historic monasteries, Romanesque churches, quaint villages, and medieval towns. There is no better place to catch a glimpse of authentic Tuscan life than in the Casentino Valley.
The climate of the Casentino Valley is directly influenced by the mountains. It can get very cold in winter and snow is a common occurrence on the mountains while occasionally falling on the valley below. In summer, the area can get very hot, although it does cool off at night time, making summer evenings particularly pleasant.
Casentino is the perfect location from which visitors can access the art and culture of the surrounding Italian gems of Florence, Arezzo, Siena and Assisi. It is also close to the sea coast of Romagna with its many recreational facilities and beach front attractions.
Casentino Forest National Park, one of Italy’s largest and best-preserved parks, is located on the Apennine side of the valley. This stunning national park features over 800 km of forestland that is inhabited by diverse animal and bird species.
Casentino’s history can be traced back to the Etruscans, who recognized the important economic role this area could play due to its prime location on the path across the Apennines. Following Roman rule, the Casentino was on the receiving end of many barbarian invasions, and these resulted in the economic decline of the area.
During the Middle Ages, Casentino once again became prosperous, and many large properties and architectural attractions were constructed. Over the next 500 years, Casentino became the home of a prominent feudal family, the Conti Guidi.
Casentino offers visitors the chance to explore a wealth of well-preserved architectural marvels and statutes that date back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period. It is also home to many fascinating religious sites and monasteries. For example, the Franciscan Sanctuary of La Verna, the place at which St. Francis received the sacred stigmata in 1224, is positioned on a lofty crag against a stunning ancient forest background.
In 1012, Saint Rumbold and his faithful followers ventured deep into the Casentino Valley in search of an isolated area in which to pray. They constructed the Camaldoli, a spectacular hermitage monastery, at 823 metres. Today, the hikes on offer around Camaldoli are nothing short of enchanting.
Many magnificent castles can also be found around the area
One of which is Poppi Castle, which stands proudly above the small mediaeval town of Poppi. This majestic castle once belonged to the noble family of Conti Guidi and is now widely regarded as one of Tuscany’s most prolific examples of medieval construction. Today, it is a very popular tourist attraction that is well worth a visit.
Another castle that attracts many visitors is the medieval Romena Castle, which was home to Dante Alighieri when he was exiled from Florence. The first formal mention of the castle was in 1088. It was destroyed by Niccolò Piccinino’s Milanese troops in 1440 and later restored under the Grand Duchy of Florence only to be significantly damaged by Allied bombs in World War II.
There is also Porciano Castle, an 11th-century castle that was constructed by the powerful Counts Guidi in a dominant position overlooking the town of Stia and the Casentino Valley. It is now a private property.