The castle in Nozzano, from theatre of war to theatre of history
If you catch the train that connects Lucca to Viareggio, looking north just outside the walled city, you can’t miss a particular marble structure with two asymmetric towers, perched on a rocky cliff which dominates the surrounding territory.
It is the Castle of Nozzano, a medieval fortress which was an outpost of the Lucca defence system. A position of great strategic importance, straddling the heatedly contested border between Lucca and Pisa.
Nozzano Castello: between Lucca, Pisa and Viareggio
The landscape is enchanting: surrounded by gently rolling hills, covered in olive groves, vineyards and woods and dotted with fortified hamlets and ancient parishes, practically untouched by recent modern buildings, and visitors have the feeling of being transported back in time.
It’s in an ideal position, with Lucca only a few minutes away, close to the cities of Pisa and Viareggio and nature reserves like the Lake of Massaciuccoli.
A bit of Nozzano history…
Originally the structure was in wood, easy to demolish. Indeed it was first destroyed by Pisa in 1314, then rebuilt by Castruccio Castracani a few years later, but then, after his death and the Pisa conquest of the city, destroyed a second time.
It was rebuilt for the last time in 1395, by the orders of Lazzaro di Francesco Giunigi (father of Paolo Guinigi). The current building dates back to this reconstruction.
The fortress was used until the late 1500s to control the boats along the Serchio river, then its strategic and military importance declined and Nozzano was one of the first hamlets to house the first printers in Italy.
The castle is formed by an elliptic walled enclosure, protecting the hamlet, a small and pretty village which is worth a visit.
If you are in Lucca, or on the road between the city and Viareggio, I suggest you take the time to visit this quiet historical place. The fortress, despite being in a good conditions, can only be visited from outside but it is still an imposing and fascinating landmark.
Il Castello Rivive (every first weekend of September)
If you are planning a trip to Nozzano, I suggest you go the first weekend of September when an extraordinary historical event is held: the hamlet goes back in time to the Middle Ages and medieval social life, both genteel and plebeian, is evoked through traditional food, processions with historical costumes, medieval crafts and reenactments of episodes of local history.
In this unique atmosphere ancient dishes are served, created by experts in medieval gastronomy according to the cookbooks of Dante’s times.
Along the streets, lit by torchlight, there are performances of court jesters, jugglers, fire-eaters, minstrels and dancers and you can mingle with the characters of medieval life: city-dwellers and farmers, craftsmen and merchants, soldiers and knights, buyers and sellers, aristocrats and beggars, making their way between the markets and local inns.
The taverns serve medieval dishes and good local wine from Lucca, ancient puddings and the delicious spiced wine: hippocras.
In order to taste these delicacies you must use medieval coins: if you don’t have any, don’t despair, because at the entrance of the castle at the Officio de cambio, you can exchange your euro into matildi, matildini and sercambi!
An enthralling journey into the past, an event worth experiencing at least once in your life.
The legend of the well
In the castle there is also a very deep well. It is said that in 1263 the Pisan army laid siege to the castle for many days and the soldiers in the castle ran out of food.
They managed to reach the city through the well, which was connected to the river Serchio, and gather more supplies. The Pisan soldiers, however, discovered this escape route and blocked the entrance, which lead to the death of many Lucchesi.
Legend says that on rainy nights in November you can hear the wails of the ghosts of the soldiers coming from the depths of the well.
Written by Marco M.