Castello di Gargonza rests steadfastly at the end of a small “white road”, Strada Communale di Gargonza, a narrow branch off of the serpentine Strada Statale Senese Aretina (S73) in the woods of the southern Chianti Mountains in Tuscany. Not far west of stunning Monte San Sevino towering high above the A-1 superstrada in the Val d’Chiana below, and east of tiny Colonna di Grillo at the S73 interchange with the E78 expressway, Gargonza soars skyward about half-way between the A-1 and Siena.
Fleeting glimpses of the castellated tower through the forest give the only hope of eventual arrival. Soon, however, travelers arrive at a ridge top clearing below the Castle, flanked by a country inn and an ancient house.Those are virtually all that remain of the part of town and its industry that lay outside the walls centuries ago.
After peace was achieved in central Tuscany, this was an agricultural estate for centuries, then abandoned after World War II’s conclusion convinced many rural residents and agriculturalists to move to the cities for work.
The inn is a converted agricultural building, now the La Torre di Gargonza Ristorante, and across the parking lot is a large swimming pool. All are part of the bed and breakfast plus vacation rentals operated inside the Castle village wall by its owner and restorer par excellence, Count Roberto Guicciardini Corsi Salviati (information on rentals, conferences and weddings can be found on-line at www.gargonza.it).
The Castle is also the home of the prestigious Gargonza Arts program, introduced by Count Guicciardini at the urging of its current head, Professor Michael Faust, supported by InterArtes e.V. Cologne (the program’s brochure in .pdf format is accessible on-line via www.gargonza-arts.com ).
Rather than drive around and up to the castle walls on the steep and narrow stone paved cartpath, leave that and the limited, tortuous parking near the hilltop to the few residents and guests. Instead, park by the inn and walk up around the northeast side of the oval-shaped walls under the shady tree canopy.
You will soon reach an impressive gate through the medieval wall.
Guelphs and Ghibbelines
Historical records indicate that Gargonza was probably founded in the early 1100’s, with much of what is visible today constructed in the 13th Century, the tower, castle keep, town wall, a Romanesque church and about thirty houses. Gargonza was the scene of several battles in the lengthy wars between the Guelphs and Ghibbelines because of its prominent location.
Inside the wall, the imposing Torre rises out of the old piazzetta, flanked by a few well-kept Renaissance palazzi and the nearby small Romanesque church. On our visit, silence was broken only by a solitary artist carrying her portfolio from the keep across the piazzetta.
We were impressed by the excellent restoration and maintenance, and the peace and quiet, and would consider it as a retreat and hub for future explorations of Tuscany and Umbria.
When you travel between Siena and Arezzo, Cortona or Perugia, take a little time to travel back seven centuries to the beauty and peace of Castello di Gargonza and a respite from the bustle of the highways and cities to reward yourself with a little…
Dolce Far Niente.