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The castle of Aghinolfo rises above the country of Montignoso, around three kilometers south from the center of the city of Massa in the northwest of Tuscany.
Montignoso is one of the smallest communes of Lunigiana (the name of this part of Tuscany), but has always played an important part in history. This is thanks to its position on top of a hill from which it dominates the valley below which is crossed by a stream. Its position also allows it control the Tyrrhenian coast which is only four kilometers away.
The Castle is first mentioned in documents of the year 753 A.D., when the Longobard king Astolfo made gift to one of his brother-in-law, the abbot founder of the abbey of Nonantola near Modena, of a piece of land in this area. From the name 'Aghinolfo' came out the clear Longobard origin of the castle, even if it's not sure that its foundation was been effected by the King in person or by a vassal of him, while it's certain that the zone of Montignoso belonged at that times to the crown.
Certainly the castle was the most powerful of the valley and shelter for all the populations of the zone in case of danger. Clearly traces of the fortification of that time haven't yet remained, having it been reconstructed many times in the following centuries.
The descendants of Aghinolfo remained in possession of the castle up to year 1376; subsequently the fortification passed to the city of Lucca, that provide the reparations and necessary improvements, for making it a strong outpost against the gangs formed by the soldiers of fortune and the various Republic enemies that infested the area, were performed.
Thanks to the writings of Giovanni Sforza, historian of last century, we have an exact description of the aspect of the castle in 1494, when it was given to Charles VIII king of France. On the fortification rose two tall towers, calls one 'tower of S.Francesco' and the other 'of S.Paolino', and the walled area was extended for around an hectare. This area was divided in three fortified enclosures.
In the first ward were 43 buildings, used as refuge by the inhabitants of Montignoso during the periods of war or as storehouses in time of peace. In the second enclosure, that was accessed through a drawbridge, there were other 87 houses while in the third and last, on the top of the hill, rose up the core of the fortification.
This was constituted from a big octagonal tower, the 'Mastio' or keep, connected to a round tower by a stone curtains. Between the endowments of the castle there were a big cistern that collects rainwater and provided water supply for the fortress, a chapel, a mill and a secret passage that brought outside from the tower.
It doesn't result that the mighty fortification has been ever conquered, but the lack of works of maintenance and the years of abandon have reduced it in a ruinous state. In the 16th century the malaria struck harshly the zone and caused a strong decrease of the population, but the castle suffered the hardest damages from the 1799 when, after it was abandoned by the Lucchesi in consequence of the Giacobine invasion, the inhabitants began to steal the wood of the beams, of the doors and windows, the stones and the bricks of the curtain walls to use them in their own houses.
Some time after the new Lord of Lucca, Carlo Ludovico di Borbone, bought the castle with the intention to restructure it, but this remained only an intention ever put in work. Today we are still able to admire the mighty ruins on which fortunately from the autumn of 1998 started an important work of restorations.
On April 1, 2001 the castle was finally returned to the local community and visitors after a long restoration carried on by the Municipality of Montignoso with a project entrusted to the architects Nicola Gallo, Antonio Silvestri and Andrea Tenerini. Inside, a glass floor showing the stratigraphy of the original flooring and some ancient objects found there. For the occasion inside the restored keep was also made a multimedia permanent installation that explains the development stages of the castle with animated reconstructions. In 2008, also the last restoration work was finished, making possible to access the 'archaeological park' built inside the outer walls of the castle.
More info & notes
Visits at Castello Aghinolfi - Montignoso.
Phone: +39 0585 816524 (Monday to Friday from 9.30 am to 13.30 pm)