Guide to Valdarno: Castiglion Alberti, Cennina, Duddova and Levane


Guide to Valdarno: Castiglion Alberti, Cennina, Duddova and Levane

An ancient fortification built by the Ubertinis in the 10th century, it can be accessed through a trail bordered by tall cypresses and gnarled oaks.Part of Florentine Valdambra in the 14th century, it was joined to Bucine's communal territory after the Leopoldine Land Reform of 1777. Its past as a military outpost can still be seen, as traces of the ancient castle are still extant in Castiglion Alberti . Described in the 16th century by the historian Scipione Ammirato as "an ancient borough with a handful of dwellings around, which seems to have been an ancient fortress", the village of Castiglion Alberti can be reached through a "white dirt track", bordered by tall cypresses and oak trees. Known as "Castiglione Albertorum" in some fourteenth century documents, the settlement was established in 10th century by the Ubertinis, it remained in their possession for the next four hundred years, when it was sold to the abbey of Agnano and in 1350 was incorporated into the Florentine Republic's demesne. Following many administrative and land reforms, the first of which occurred in 1362, with the establishment of the district of New Valdambra (or League of Valdambra) and the last one in the eighteenth century enacted by Leopold of Tuscany, Castiglione Alberti joined the Podesteria di Bucine (hereinafter municipality), and followed its fate. Arriving into the village, the first thing that can be seen is the bell tower of the deconsecrated church of St. Fabiano and Sebastiano, rising above the treetops. The alert observer will easily spot the traces of the ancient walls that once surrounded the place.

According to Emanuele Repetti's words, written in 1833, Cennina is "a castle with the remains of a fortress, and an ancient parish church".Located atop a hill overlooking the Valdambra, the small hamlet of Cennina - whose existence is stated since AD 1000 - retains even older archaeological evidence - of Etruscan and Roman times. There is no evidence regarding Cennina castle before 1000 AD but it is very likely that this area had been inhabited well before, as pointed out by the toponymy and by the several archaeological findings that have been made in the area. The fortification works of the hamlet took place in 1167, when emperor Frederick of Swabia bestowed upon the nobleman Brandaglio Alberico d’Uguccione the feudal rights over Cennina
Given its favourable position, that is dominating the valley below, whoever comes nowadays to visit the village would have difficulty in believing to the chronicles, which impart the memory of countless skirmishes and fiery battles to secure possession of this castle. As of today a few – if any – parts of the ancient, imposing walls remain to testify about the warlike past of this pleasant village, whose tranquil atmosphere is interrupted, every now and then, by the rustling of birds or by the whistling wind among the trees. The atmosphere becomes even more fascinating at nightfall, when the sun slips beyond the hill crests, and the castle plunges into silence, solitary sentinel against a now forgotten enemy. 

Duddova is a cosy village at short distance from Ambra, whose name is of uncertain origin but some scholars believe it to be of Ostrogoth legacy. Since the 13th century possession of the Ubertinis - a local noble family - it was eventually sold to the Abbey of Badia a Ruoti. Its strong agricultural background - more specifically that of olive pressing - is well recorded thru the ages, and still today some ancient millstones - as old as 400 years - are scattered throughout the village, one in particular in front of the ancient Villa of the guesthouse which once had three mills. Its ancient church, whose building year is unknown – devoted to St. Michael – was completely restored in 1959. Inside there is a fine painting adorning the altar, featuring the Virgin with Child, among St. Romulus and St. Michael the Archangel.  Also noteworthy is the painting's stucco frame, displaying the Camaldolese crest, a clear indication of who had ordered the masterpiece.

Levane is a small village split between the neighbouring communities of Bucine and Montevarchi, on the crossroads leading from Siena towards Montevarchi, San Giovanni Valdarno to Florence. Its ancient core is represented by "Levane alta", that is the originary nucleus, once known as "Castel Leona". The area is famous for some geological findings - specifically geodes - that in the past gained the nickname "Breads of the Devil". Levane is very lively community, built along an important road junction. In the past it was crossed by Strada Regia, which was used by messengers, coachmen and so dear to the foreign noble elites going to Italy for the “Grand Tour”. Of particular note are the mineralogical findings that have been made in the area; already known in the 18th century, these strange geodes gained widespread popularity after the scholar Targioni Tozzetti related the nickname that the populace attributed them, that is “breads of the Devil”.


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