Lastra a Signa Town Walls

How to reach

Lastra a Signa is in the outskirts of Florence, in the lower Arno valley. Can be reached from the city passing through Scandicci or following the Motorway FI-PI-LI.

History

Lastra a Signa, a toponym derived from the presence in this area of numerous stone caves, was until 1200 known as Lastra dei Gangalandi, from the name of the family that had its lordship. The origin of the settlement dates back to the year 1000, the fief of the Cadolingi di Fucecchio. Lastra became soon a strategic point in the rapid spread of Florence due to its position, at the center of the valley of the Arno towards Pisa, useful to have access to the sea (at that time the river was navigable). The first fortifications of Lastra were two castles, the first on Mount Cascioli and the second on Mount Orlando. Later, a powerful fortification was erected where today is the city center. Lastra a Signa withstand Florence at least until 1365. In this year, the historical notices tell us of a Pisane siege on Lastra, and this makes us suppose that the city was under Florentine control. A few years later, in 1377, Lastra was encircled by a new walled, crenelated, and towered enclosure.

This walls have an irregular semi-trapezoidal shape, with the two greatest streets crossing inside it forming a 'T' with at each extremity the three gates: 'Fiorentina' at southeast, 'Pisana' at northwest, and 'Portone di Baccio' at southwest. The walls were completed between 1400 and 1403, and their construction transformed Lastra into the strongest Florentine outpost against Pisa. Currently, three sides (northwest, northeast, and southeast) are practically intact and endowed with eight square towers, while the southeast one has almost disappeared. All the walled enclosure is gifted with not homogenous gifts of machicoulis (projection from the wall made of stone but here without openings to enable the defenders to fire upon an enemy directly below), and also the great Florentine architect Filippo Brunelleschi, in 1426, took part in its construction. Lastra a Signa is considered the first example of Tuscan tardo-gothic city walls endowed with machicolation on the whole perimeter.

Starting from where the Fiorentina Gate stands, which was destroyed during the last world war, we can analyze the southeast side of the walls. It was realized using irregular stones with the classic external profile constituted by scarped wall-redondone (a frame in stone)-main wall-machicolation-parapet. The merlons of the tower in the middle of the curtain are a reconstruction. On the southwest side, we find the 'Portone di Baccio', a recently restored enormous fortified structure and main city gate without the inner front. The northwest side has the same characteristics as the southeast side, with three towers and the Pisana Gate. On the northeast side, many houses are leaned against the inner side of the walls but externally is the best conserved, with four towers and complete machicoulis.

More info & notes

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