Castles in the Air(Don McLean) - Exploring Poppi,Casentino Valley,Italy -21st May 2016

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May 21st 2016
Published: May 25th 2016
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The forecaster predicted it and they were spot on. This morning has dawned absolutely perfect for exploring the Casentino Valley that we are staying in.

The sun peeping over the mountains to the east quickly burned off the haze that hung in the valley where Poppi is located and by the time we were ready for a late breakfast it was warm enough to sit outside in the gazebo to eat our breakfast.

Making the most of the warm sun we got up to date with our washing and then headed out to top up the groceries supplies for the next few days by driving the short distance to the next town of Bibbieno where there is a Co-Op supermarket.

As we parked Peggy we noticed an African guy walking up to other shoppers either parking or preparing to load their groceries into their car. He left us alone but as we looked back to where the car was parked we noticed he appeared to be looking in windows of other cars and we wondered if the car would be safe where it was. With nothing in the car of any value we decided to leave it where it was and in any case the car is fully insured with no excess if he did try to damage it.

The supermarket was very busy or at least gave that appearance. Italians love to meet their friends, neighbours and whoever else in the supermarket and in their Latin way talk in loud tomes and throw their arms around to those they know who they meet, often in the middle of the aisles!

So it is a matter of carefully negotiating the basket on wheels that you tow behind you that we use when shopping here and always looking ahead for the easiest path to get to what you want.

Shopping over we returned to the car park and were pleased that the African guy, who looked fairly imposing, had gone.

Or so we thought!

As we were loading the three bags of groceries into the boot of the car he suddenly appeared from nowhere and started to approach us talking in Italian (he had been here long enough to learn the language).Thankfully he didn’t come up close to us like he appeared to when we had seen him approach others earlier when we arrived.

We tried to ignore him and got into the car as quickly as possible and drove off. We wonder whether we might start to see more of this as we head further north to where more of the recent migrants have taken themselves to find a new life.

Lunch was an omelette accompanied by the fresh baguette and then time to sit back in the shade of the gazebo, admire the view that we don’t think we could ever tire of and in between did a bit of reading.

By mid afternoon we were ready for some exercise and decided that the town of Poppi below us had some interesting places to explore.

The town is in two parts. On the flat is the newer town with a small shopping area which includes a number of bars and a restaurant.

Then there is the old town which is situated on a small hill above the Arno River and topped by a castle.

From our apartment the old town is probably the most prominent feature in our line of sight and we were surprised that there as may streets in the town which are not visible from our location. This is because the houses and other buildings are packed and stacked together so that it looks like there is no room for anything else.

We had two options to get up to the castle, either by road that wound its way upwards of a direct pedestrian track with steps that went virtually straight up from the river. We chose the steps taking several rests on the surprisingly steep climb. We can see why people built their fortress on the top of the steep hill as any invaders would have been too tired to fight by the time they got to the top!

The Madonna del Morbo, a church in the middle of the sloping square is of a rare hexagonal design with a tall dome. It was built in the mid 1500’s and has a painting behind the altar of the Madonna and Child with a young St John the Baptist which is very prominent in the small church.

We carried on to the highest point and the castle which was built in 1191 and owned by the Guidi family who ruled the valley for centuries.

It is a very impressive building which has been very well maintained and exploring it gave us an insight to the history of the valley from the time it was built.

The castle has three levels with the middle one having the largest of the halls being a ballroom which today is used for weddings and can be hired for other events. The local council also conduct their meetings there. If you were a councillor or the mayor in this town you would always be reminded of the history you are representing attending meetings in this very grand room.

Within the castle there are several frescoes that have been revealed after being plastered over some centuries ago and they add to the feeling of history you get as you have a chance to admire them.

The views from the castle were expansive although we couldn’t quite pick out where our apartment was located yet we could clearly see the castle from there. We deduced it was something to do with the clearer view looking down into the valley than the angle we were looking up from the valley to the hills.

The town streets are cobbled as they would have been when it was established and we strolled our way down to the Abbazia San Fedele which is an abbey attached to a monastery. The abbey was being prepared for a ceremony or festival tomorrow. The interior wasn’t of particular note except for the stained glass window at the rear of the church which was of quite vivid colours and detail.

From there we returned back down the hill but this time on a cobbled path that made normal walking difficult as we picked our way over the uneven stones on a fairly steeply sloped path. How the people all those years ago when the path was constructed ever got on without the benefit of modern footwear that grips as you need it to, is beyond us!

Back at the bottom we found a cafe/Gelateria that was doing a steady trade in the warm and pleasant afternoon temperatures and got ourselves a couple of gelatos, Gretchen her usual chocolate and for me a flavour that was new to me,Nocciola which is hazelnut but without the traditional chocolate flavour that you can have added to it. The gelato in the cone had a couple of hazelnuts included and had just that hint of hazelnut flavour which in itself is quite delicate.

There were groups of locals there from women who had gathered to have a good old chat(usually its men you see in groups especially during the week) to a group of late teenage boys who had gathered to have their gelato. We wondered whether if this was in New Zealand whether you would see a group of half a dozen teenage boys at the ice cream shop.

We took a walk through the new town and then got back in the car and headed back up the hill to our apartment to again sit and admire the valley below us over a beer and a glass or two of wine until the sun set behind us.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


3rd February 2022
Poppi Castle at sunrise

Similar tower in Chosta, Sochi, Russia
Looks like tower on Achun mountain in Sochi . Also high range building to see surroundings. Аrchitectural style similar, view over Black Sea coast. Chosta is italian part of russian black sea coast line. Visit photo of Achun mountain tower.

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