Castels of Gaiole: Castello di Meleto

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TThe Castle of Meleto is located along route 408 which connects the Valdarno to Siena. The origins of the castle date back to the Eleventh century as a possession of the monks of the nearby Vallombrosa Abbey in Coltibuono. The first feudal lord of the castle was a certain Guardellotto, but he soon was stripped off of all his assets due to a conflict that arose with the Emperor Federico I Barbarossa. The emperor entrusted the castle to the local Firidolfi family, which already had several other castles in the area. This gave birth to the Firidolfi branch named “from Meleto”. A subsequent division of the family gave life to the Ricasoli Fibindacci branch that strongly bound their name to these lands.
he Castle of Meleto was one of the main fortifications of the Terziere of the League of Chianti headed by Gaiole, the last bastion governed by the Florentine. The strategic position on a hill gave control of the underlying road connecting the upper Valdarno to Chianti. This fact marked the destiny of Meleto as a theater of constant war between Florence and Siena. Nonetheless, the castle was never seriously damaged.

The martial structure stands out even today, despite the transformations made during the Eighteenth century: the irregular quadrilateral shape with the tower at the center of the quarterdeck, although significantly reduced, shows us a classic example of castle-yard.

In 1478 the castle was occupied by the Aragonese alliance with Siena, but two years later it was promptly recovered by the Florentines who executed important works to strengthen the structure. From the 1480 version of the castle are still intact:

  • The two mighty cylindrical tower fortifications that include original protruding defensive equipment, the brick balconies, arches and corbels, the two northern corners jutting out on the edge of the hill
  • The bastions to the only access road
  • The inclusion of loopholes and thrones, although some have disappeared, along the perimeter of the walls.

With these defensive structures, in 1529 Meleto managed to successfully resist the siege of imperial troops.

In 1700 the castle was transformed into a villa and its defenses partly dismantled. The interiors can be visited through a guided tour. The decorations and frescoes date back to this period.

A must-see is the original theater built in 1742, which still keeps intact its seven original settings.

The Castle of Meleto was owned by the Ricasoli family (currently owning the Castello di Brolio) until about thirty years ago. Today the castle is home to a farm producing wine.

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The map to get to the Castle of Meleto:

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