The history of Castrocaro is connected to that of its ancient fortress, whose imposing presence dominates the entire village.  In medieval times it was the main urban center of the Romagnolo hinterland.  In the High Middle Ages, the cliff on which the Fortress was built marked the border separating the Lombard Kingdom from Byzantine lands; in this same period the foundation stones were laid of the tower that still today overlooks the town.  From 1118 the castle was in possession of the Counts of Castrocaro, who transformed it into a solid fortress with crucial strategic importance, so much so that it even hosted Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.  On more than one occasion the Papacy claimed rights to the Fortress, which it however failed to obtain until the death of Barbarossa.  In the 14th century the Fortress was still the object of contention between local rulers and the Papal States, until in 1403 Castrocaro was annexed by the Florentine Republic, remaining an important center of Florentine Romagna until the beginning of the 17th century.  In the following centuries, the Fortress was neither used nor inhabited and was therefore left unchanged.  Since its restoration, which was completed in 1999, it stands as an authentic medieval fortress that has survived the oblivion of time, as if “frozen for centuries.”

The Terra del Sole represents the “ideal city” imagined by the Renaissance, fruit of those Humanists who placed man at the center of the universe.

Like its counterpart Pienza in the Orcia Valley, the town is a rare exemplar of urban design “on a human scale.”  It is a town which still has much to teach us, both for its layout, characterized by symmetry and the use of perspective, and for its intelligent harmonization of space and volume.  The Fortress City was commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici, first Grand Duke of Tuscany, who both named and “designed” the area of the new fortress-city, having visited this border region of his state.  As early as 1 February 1564 he had the lands “where the new Terra del Sole was to be built” surveyed and appraised.  The “Housing Notice” of 18 August 1565 reads:  “It is the wish of His Serene Highness the Prince of Florence and Siena to construct a new town, with encircling walls, gates and fortresses, on a suitable site and strictly in accordance with his intentions.”  The town would become the seat of the Grand Ducal Commissioner in 1579, the year of its inauguration, and later provincial capital of Florentine Romagna, which was abolished in 1784.


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