How to reach
The Fortress of Cerbaia can be reach only by foot through a path in the wood, the nr.48 of the CAI-Prato, from the country of Carmignanello which can be reach from Prato following SS.325 toward Vaiano/Vernio.
The Rocca of Cerbaia, also named only Rocca Cerbaia, dominates the peak of a rocky spur four hundred meters high overlooking the valley of the river Bisenzio. Its origin seems to go back to the beginnings of the 12th century, when the Count Alberti erected on the site a small fortress at control of the ancient road of 'Lombardy', main connection between Tuscany and the northern regions of Italy.
Despite its predominantly military functions, the fortress was also for a long period used by the Alberti family as their usual residence, and this is confirmed from the touch of good manufacture still visible inside the keep.
The legend, surely deprived of foundation, says that in 1285 the Alberti refused the request of political asylum of the great Poet Dante Alighieri, exiliated from Florence. The same Poet made famous one of the descending daughters of the family, Cunizza Alberti, protagonist of an animate sentimental life in the 'Divine Comedy' (Heaven IX, 13-36).
In 1361 the fortress was sold to the Florentine that, due to its important strategic position, garrisoned permanently the stronghold and reinforced its defenses. Rocca Cerbaia has the classical aspect of the italian medieval castle-fence: a mighty Keep dominates from the center two circuits of walled enclosures approximately of square form. The construction, performed in sandstone of which the zone is rich, lies our days in serious conditions of degrade
Nevertheless vast portions of the first wall circuit still remains, with the Main Gate inserted on the south side; just crossed the gate we find on the left the rests of the Chapel of the complex. Between the ruins of the second ward we can notice the cistern, with a barrel coverage, and some other buildings. In the core of the fortification rises the Keep with its central tower, once highest than today, with functions of look-out and are still visibles the breaches of the windows and a piscina on the eastern wall. This was the residence of the castle constable. It seems that this part of the complex has been reconstructed toward the half the 13th century, taking as model the Castello dell'Imperatore (Emperor's Castle) of the near city of Prato. Is not possible to affirm with certainty that this corresponds to truth, due to the actual disastrous condition of the Rocca. Some parts of the ruins, in particular those from the side of the precipice, are yet to serious risk of definitive collapse
In the year 1999 the castle has been bought by the commune of Cantagallo, with the support of the province of Prato, and the the works of restoration and valorization of Rocca Cerbaia started and now are finished.
More info & notes
The Cerbaia Bridge
At the feet of the relief crowned by the mighty Rocca Cerbaia on the river Bisenzio stands an old medieval Bridge simply called Cerbaia Bridge. The bridge has three arches, is constructed in sandstone, it's 5 arms wide (about m.2.30) like the road that lead to its. It's difficult to date it with precision, surely it had origin in the high Middle Ages, its structure and the materials with which it's constructed are common to many other building sited in the zone.
Probably the bridge was there before the Rocca was raised. In the 10th-12th century the bridge of Cerbaia could be a timber structure or a ford, but it existed in the current aspect since the end of the the 13th century. An historical event is put in relation with the construction of the bridge: in the year 1314 the Florentine Republic signed an agreement with the Counts Alberti, owners of the Rocca, to made easier the road connection towards Bologna with the construction of a new passage on the Bisenzio river. The bridge was state totally restored in 1993.