History and art of the medieval castle of Montalto in Toscana

Montalto

The Early Days

The castle of Montalto in Toscana, also known as Montalto della Berardenga, dates back fully 1000 years.

It was built probably by Charlemagne’s vassal Winigis, first count of Siena, or by his son Berard, sometime before the year 1000.

It remained always faithful to Siena in the long struggle for supremacy between that city and Florence.

Villa toscana

Troubled Times

At the Battle of Montalto between the Sienese and Florentine forces in 1207, the Florentines took 17,000 prisoners and returned chanting “Montaltum factum planum, Montaltum nomine vanum” meaning that the “high mountain” (mons altum) was now flattened and only an empty name.

The descendants of Berard (the Berardenga family), who owned Montalto, refortified it with a larger and higher circle of walls, and it withstood siege successfully in 1260.

Attacks on the castle continued, however, and the population declined over the years. Eventually Siena took ownership of the castle directly, defending it against incursions with great difficulty.

Bed and breakfast

An Independent
City-State

In the early 1500’s Count Giovanni Palmieri convinced Siena to cede Montalto to him on condition that he remain faithful to Siena and defend the castle from Florence at his own expense. Montalto became a Signoria, with its own laws and taxes.

But in 1555, after a brutal siege, Siena and its entire countryside, including Montalto, fell under the control of the Medici family of Florence.

Agriturismo

Renaissance Under the Medici

With all of Tuscany under Florentine rule, warfare ceased and the castle lost its military role. The courtyard was adorned by a Renaissance portico and the Hall of Arms was decorated with the frescoes of rural life that can still be seen today.

The lands were cultivated by sharecroppers producing grains for bread, grapes for wine and olives for oil.

In time, the chapel was moved to its present location in the castle courtyard and restored in neo-Gothic style.

Tuscany resort

Present Times

In 1970 ownership passed to the Coda-Nunziante family, related by marriage to one of the last of the Palmieri.

The Coda-Nunziantes live permanently in the castle.

They have restored the old stone houses, making them available to vacationers as holiday homes, and they continue farming with certified organic production.

Hotels tuscany

Montalto Castle, being right at the border between perennial rivals Siena and Florence, saw many battles and it’s impossible to summarize its rich history in a short page.
For those who would like to know more, there is an article on Wikipedia and two books are available at the castle or online:


Castello di Montalto in Tuscany
Article on the castle's location and history

Read on Wikipedia


Montalto Castle
One Thousand Years of History

40 pages in full color, text in English, a photo book by Paola Coda-Nunziante

Buy on Blurb


Montalto della Berardenga,
Castello di Frontiera

156 pages, in Italian, a history book by Vinicio Nencioni and Paola Coda-Nunziante

Buy on Lulu  •  Buy on Amazon