How to reach
The Castle rises over the homonymous suburb in the commune of San Romano in Garfagnana. From Florence e can follow the motorway A11 until the exit 'Lucca' , then the SS12 called 'of the Abetone and the Brennero' and finally the SS435 of the Garfagnana until Castelnuovo. Here we find the indications for San Romano and for Verrucole.
The hamlet of Verrucole rises at the center of the high Garfagnana Valley and its castle, also known as Fortress, is considered the most important medieval testimony of this area. Traces of ancient settlements on the site are constituted by numerous Neolithic era tombs, by a necropolis of the ancient people called 'Liguri' (near San Romano) and by the Roman Via Clodia (Clodia Road), but the first written records goe back to the Middle Ages. The territory was divided and contested between two feudal lordships: the counts of Bacciano, whose castle does not exist any more, and of the most powerful Gherardinghi, that had their center of power in the castle of the Verrucole until the year 1285.
With the decline of the feudal power the area of San Romano became a free commune, but soon the expansion of the near city of Lucca in the Garfagnana with the intention to control the passes and the roads towards the north of the high Serchio valley led to the submission of Verrucole castle. For the successive centuries Verrucole did not know peace: contested between Florentines, the marquises Malaspina and the Dukes of Este it was often center of skirmish and battles. The last battle was in the 1520 when, under the Estense control, it was besieged by the Florentine army. Finally, from the second half of the 16th century, the Dukes consolidated their dominion on the valley and the castle remained under their control until the unity of Italy.
All the history of the high Garfagnana passed between the walls of Verrucole. From its position on a relief approximately 600 meters high it is possible to dominate the Alps Apuane, the Apennines and greater part of the bottom of the valley. Its origin is clear in its medieval forms: it was originally formed by two nucleus at the extremities of the hill :the 'Rocca Tonda' (Round Rocca) to the most elevated southern vertex and the 'Rocca Quadra' (Square Rocca) to north. The Round Rocca it's also original ancient nucleus probably of the 11th century, constituted from a massive keep with octagonal shape (it is similar to the not far Castle of Aghinolfo) approached with a long stair in stone, inside there were the rooms of the gentleman on two levels. The remains of the kitchens and other locals facilities can be still seen. At the foot of the stair rose the castle's chapel of which we can still admire two columns with carved capitals. The keep is at the south side of a walled enclosure surrounding the inner courtyard. Two curtains with battlements leave from here towards north and, perfectly following the margins of the crag, reache the opposite extremity.
Here rose the 'Rocca Quadra', the strictly military nucleus of the castle, today totally gone and replaced by two bastions erected by the Estensi where the Constable maintained a small garrison with light artillery until the second half of the 1600. In this part of the castle there're also some galleries, used also as stores for gun powder. The two nucleus are joined together by two walled curtains, endowed at the center with two towers with semicircular form, loop holes and of watch walk. The area enclosed between the two 'Rocche' constitutes the inner ward, where also other buildings, now gone, were placed. The western curtain is has only gate for access to the complex, endowed with a breteche.
Abandoned for years and reduced to ruins and overgrown with vegetation, so much degraded to fear a definitive collapse of the structures, the castle of Verrucole is today opened to the public after a six years of careful restoration that have brought it back to its ancient scenic beauty. In the distance its walls, endowed with nearly perfectly intact battlements, seems to pay homage at its power. Walking through the few hundreds meters that separate the castle from the village, where it is necessary to leave the car, we can,t imagine what to expect at the top of the hill: breathless sight of all the surrounding area, the Apuane Alps, the Apennines and the Gagafgnana. Personally I think Verrucole is one of the most beautiful medieval castle in Tuscany and a perfectly example of successful conservative restoration. I' do not fear to paragon it with some of the famous Cathar castles of southern France, for example Peyrepertuse.
More info & notes
Il progetto Fortezza Verrucole Archeopark prevede la ricostruzione della vita all’interno della Fortezza sotto forma di museo vivente. così com’era quando era abitata in passato. Gli ambienti sono stati riallestiti come potevano presentarsi alla fine del XIII° secolo e grazie alla presenza guide-reenactors si scoprono storia e vita della Fortezza e nella Fortezza. Oltre alle visite guidate vengono proposte attività di laboratorio pratiche indirizzate sia ai ragazzi si agli adulti.
Sito Ufficiale: http://www.fortezzaverrucolearcheopark.it/