The Castle of Gaville (Figline)

The Castle of Gaville (Figline)

The Castle of Gaville is perched on a sandstone spur in the hills around the town of Figline Valdarno, between the stream of Cesto and the gully of San Cipriano. People have lived on the site since antiquity.

The castle’s position has long been strategically important, both as a defensive fort and as a settlement. The area was a crossed by various Roman roads that connected Valdarno and Florence.

The Cassia Adrianea probably passed through Gaville and an artery of this road led to Lucolena and Badia Montemuro in Chianti.

Archeological finds near the church confirm the existence of a Roman settlement during the Imperial Period.

The hills around Figline, like those in Chianti, are dotted with Etruscan and Roman remains. Place names cited in documents from the Middle Ages also hint at Gaville’s Roman past: the first documents to mention the Parish Church, from the second half of the XI century, call it, “S. Romolo in Cortule”, with “cortule” being a remnant from Roman agricultural organization that lasted until around the year 1000 BC.

Fragments of stones unearthed over time and now incorporated into the wall that surrounds the church suggest that there may well have been an earlier place of worship on the site.

There are at least two documents that confirm the castle’s importance in the twelfth century. Both are legal acts that were drawn up inside the castle, the first from 1154, in the archives of Abbey of Coltibuono and the second from 1171, in the archives of the Abbey of Passignano.

The castle was long in the possession of the powerful Ubertini family from Gaville, who, along with other families with Lombard origins, were staunch Ghibellines. Francesco Guercio de’Cavalcanti, who lived in the castle, is remembered by Dante Alighieri, in the seventh Bolgia of the Inferno, dedicated to the fraudulent.

The foundation of the Piviere di S. Maria in Figline and the domination of the area by the Florentine Republic from 1289 onwards, which saw the settling of “new lands” in Valdarno (the towns of San Giovanni, Castelfranco and Terranuova were founded at this time), meant that the power of the Ghibelline families waned.

The importance of Gaville also ebbed, although the process was neither immediate nor peaceful. The Ubertini, together with the Cerchi, the Pazzi and the Guidalotti families were the leaders of several skirmishes, until in 1302, after an attack on the castle of Ganghereto, Florence condemned to death many of the troublemakers.

The castle wasn’t destroyed, but the area had lost its military importance and the town became a small rural community, as it is today.

As the importance of the castle diminished, that of the Parish Church began to grow, but that is another chapter!