The peace of a contested village

1920x609 castello vinacciano
La pace del borgo conteso

Surrounded by the tranquility of nature, it was the scene of fighting during the Middle Ages.

It is a sheltered, almost hidden place, as if the long and tumultuous centuries of history that took place nearby have made it eager for peace, like a sage who wisely wishes to enjoy the nature that surrounds him. This is the feeling Vinacciano gives at first glance. The small road leading to the village seems to slowly reveal the buildings, to be savored leisurely as they represent the village’s history and the events that are closely interwoven with those of Pistoia and Serravalle. The castle is located between these two towns and is situated along the road that, from Pontelungo, went towards the “via per Montevettolini”. Running parallel to the Via Cassia, it was comparatively less subject to attacks because of its minor fame.

Vinacciano did not officially enter the history books until 998, with the mention of a “curtis vinathiana”. Its place name is connected either to vinum, since the area was well-known for its wine production, or to the Latin term venatio, indicating a hunting area. Immediately, the village became the scene of fighting for its dominion, because, in addition to its strategic position, its qualities were manifold. Already present in the XI century, the church also served as a hospice and a fortified castle was built to protect the location, with the purpose of monitoring and controlling the Valdinievole territory. In the XIV century, these features gave Vinacciano a coveted position. In fact, it becomes prey of Uguccione Faggiola, the lord of Lucca, in his fight against the Blacks and the Guelphs of Pistoia. A few years later, it was conquered, along with the castles of Serravalle and Castellina, by Castruccio Castracani, who wanted to augment the castle’s defenses by fortifying it with a “tower and other walls and palisades”.

After a century of peace, in 1501, there followed a series of bloody episodes, part of the struggle between the Panciatichi and Cancellieri families of Pistoia. The village became first a stronghold of the Cancellieri family and, for this reason, it was later destroyed and burnt by the rival family, whose Villa di Montebuono suffered the same fate. After losing its strategic function, the castle was left to be surrounded by the olive trees, cypresses, and grapevines that seem to protect and defend the spot where the magnificent pentagonal tower stands, the final demonstration of the medieval fortifications. In the second half of the 1800s, the ground floor was transformed into a small chapel for the Arcangeli family, the owners at the time, and the first floor into a funerary room whose painted walls have a faux marble finishing. The tower was incorporated into Palazzo Sozzifanti, previously Palazzo Cancellieri. Its volumes and the horizontal of its architectural features recall the proportions, symmetry, and harmony of classical models. The façade’s is repetitiveness interrupted by a sandstone portal used to indicate the building’s hub; it is also emphasized by the balcony from which the beautiful landscape can be admired.

There are two large portals on the façade— probably the building’s main façade—that runs along Via di Vinacciano. The one on the lower ground floor was used to gain access to the cantinas and work areas; the other, currently walled up, was the entrance to the main floor. A double staircase leads to the main entrance on the first floor. The entrance is characterized by a robust ashlar and is surmounted by the coat-of-arms of the Cerracchi dal Gallo family, the building’s owners for a long time. The sculptural group found between the facade and the base of the tower depicts a lion and a lioness, representing the subjection of the castle and all the Pistoia territory to Florentine rule. The lion, symbol of Florence, looks austerely down at the proud lioness, now conquered. The palace’s mass hides the small village but not the church’s bell tower. Dedicated to Saints Lucy and Marcellus, it was expanded from the pre-existing oratory. The church is characterized by a portico with three pointed-camber arches that leads to the richly decorated ecclesial hall, “modernized” between the XVII and XVIII centuries. The church is a worthy conclusion to a brief visit to the castle. Re-taking the small road leading back to the village, visitors enjoy the serene and peaceful atmosphere that first drew attention to this small, little-known gem set in the hills of Pistoia.

TEXTS

Silvia Anzilotti

Alessandra Corsini

FAI Giovani Pistoia

PHOTOS

Nicolò Begliomini

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