Posted by: Debra Kolkka | August 13, 2021

Dante goes to Poppi

Poppi is a delightfully named town in the Casentino area in the province of Arezzo, in Tuscany. It is about 40 kilometres east of Florence and 30 kilometres north east of Arezzo.

The impressive Poppi castle sits high on a hill and has its origins between the 7th and 8th centuries when the first wooden buildings and a cistern were built. The castle was built by the Guidi family in the 10th century. The architect of the castle is said to be Arnolfo di Camaiore who also designed the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It is easy to see the similarities.

It is everything you would expect of a castle. It has a tower and steep walls enclosing a courtyard with a well. The walls were once surrounded by a moat and had a drawbridge with a stone building at the entrance. It is still there and is now the ticket office for the castle.

Once inside the castle you enter a large internal courtyard with a magnificent stone staircase built in 1470 to replace the older wooden one.



I would love to have this lion at the foot of my stairs and the snake winding its way up the railing…perhaps I should just move in.

The walls behind the staircase are covered with the coats of arms of Florentine families that ruled Poppi in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Leading off the inner courtyard is the Guidi family chapel, covered in frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi, a pupil of Giotto. These frescoes date from the early to mid 1300s. It astounds me that they are so well preserved and still vibrant.


A walk outside on this level reveals the outer walls of the castle and magnificent views over the countryside below.

The upstairs balcony railings are impressive.

Upstairs on the first floor is the beautifully decorated ballroom. These rooms always make me want to go home and paint my walls. I wouldn’t mind the Della Robbia as well. This room was set up with rows of chairs. It is good to see these wonderful buildings being used on a regular basis.

Another room is devoted to war machines. All kinds of killing machines were used in fighting and sieges. There are the Roman catapult, the onagro, the trebuchet, the scorpion, the staircase and the ram.

Next door is a room dedicated to the Campaldino battle that took place on the Casentino plain on June 11th 1289. The scale model of the battle has more than 4,000 hand painted tin and lead toy soldiers illustrating the line-ups at the beginning of the battle.

A model of an earlier version of the castle is on display.

There is also the Rilliana library with a collection of 25,000 ancient books. The library was built after the death of count Frabrizio Rilli-Orsini in 1828. He donated his huge collection to the community of Poppi. Photos were not allowed, but it is a must visit section of the castle.

We climbed the 104 steps to the top of the tower which was reconstructed in the 19th century after it was struck by lightning. The tower was a prison and a lightning rod was installed in 1786.


The reason for our visit was to see the exhibition of art relating to Dante. The works come from the Uffizzi in Florence to celebrate the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante, poet, writer and the father of the Italian language. Dante has a connection with Poppi. During his exile from Florence he was hosted by Count Guidi for one year. He is said to have composed his 33rd canto of the Inferno during this time.

The exhibition is dedicated to the Divine Comedy. There are illustrations by Federico Zaccari  from the 1600s, one by Nicola Monte and  a couple of more recent works by Beatrice Goretti from 1903.

No matter which angle Dante is viewed from he looks stern. I have never seen a smiling statue of Dante anywhere.

We walked through a lovely park in front of the castle to the where we had lunch in the garden of the Albergo Casentino.

On the edge of the town on a wall we spotted this whimsical sculpture.

I was most impressed by this balcony garden.

And these steps ending in mid air.

Poppi is a lovely town and the castle is spectacular. Here is a post I wrote after my first visit… Pop into Poppi

I said in my previous post, it is worth visiting Poppi for the castle alone, but the countryside around it is spectacular…a great day out.


  1. Loved this area. I miss Italy sooo much and always look so forward to your posts!

    • It is a very pretty area. I am looking forward to cooler weather so I can travel a bit more.

  2. Magnificent!

    • The castle is amazing. Its continuous use means it is in great condition.

  3. Really wonderful! I wouldn’t mind being “imprisoned” there….

    • It is a fabulous castle. We had to show our green pass to get in, a first for me.

  4. Thank you for a most interesting post. I haven’t heard of that town or castle. I have been following your extended sojourn in Italy with snow injuries etc. We have a house in Granaiola and are most anxious to get back. I understand italy is near 80% vaccinated. You can imagine the frustration here in Australia!

    • The town is lovely, but aside from the castle it is fairly empty. I think Italy is around 60% vaccinated with both jabs. The government is hoping for 80% soon. I too, am frustrated by Australia’s rollout. I doubt I will be home until mid next year.

  5. What a fascinating post Debra – amazing the places, historical facts you reveal to us via this wonderful blog. The stairwell, in the castle, alone could take up a whole posting. Kinda takes your breath away…love the whimsical sculpture; the contrast of ‘now’ and ‘then’ really shakes things up; the affect is wonderful. The blunt ending of a stairwell, the grim reminders of war and strife, all captured in this small town by your clever mind and camera. Staggering! Many thanks.

    • I love this castle. This was my second visit and I saw even more this time. The library is fascinating. Some of the old books are open in glass cases so we can see the contents…simply stunning.

      • Open books – glass cases. Makes me think of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, when it came to town, years ago to the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). To me, the most exciting item in the exhibit; security guards breathing down your neck if you tried to get closer and closer….such historical wealth and riches; so welcome in this crazy world of ours! Go back, again, soon!

  6. Glad to see you are out and about now. Looks like a lovely village with a lot to explore and enjoy. How fascinating about the history of the town with Dante. Thanks for sharing such a beautiful and perhaps lesser known place 🙂

    • Dante got about! He is said to have visited one of the villages of Bagni di Lucca and he is buried in Ravenna. Poppi is a lovely town, but as I said in the first post I wrote there are many empty houses in the main street of the town. It seems a shame that is is so abandoned when it has much fo offer.

  7. What a lovely tour and photos of Poppi you shared with us Debra.
    Loved them all & agree with you about the vivid colours of the frescoes
    After all the centuries. Wish travel was OK for all of us as Poppi would definitely be a destination. Lucky you to be confined in beautiful Italy.

    • Poppi castle is wonderful and I would happily return to see it all again. The battle recreation was amazing, so much work involved to put it all together and the library is worth another visit alone.

  8. Savanw@ TUSCANY, ITALY. POPPI in The News.
    Uffizi on tour
    Much of Tuscany’s appeal is its timelessness, so when something innovative happens, like 2021’s Uffizi Diffusi (Scattered Uffizi) project, take note. The brainchild of director Eike Schmidt, the idea is to disperse Renaissance works, along with visitors who would typically flock to Florence, to some of the region’s ancient towns, beginning with the hilltop villages of Poppi and San Godenzo. Meanwhile, Tuscany’s famous thermal waters will get new attention with the summer reopening of the Grotta Giusti Thermal Spa Resort (now a Marriott property) just outside Monsummano Terme, and the opening of the Sense Experience Resort in the southern coastal Maremma area, surrounded by just over 12 acres of private park and pine forest and providing access to a private beach.
—Julia Buckley

    • I think Uffizzi Diffusi is a great idea! I think our village applied to be part of it. There must be hundreds of works in storage that could be shared and be seen by more people.

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