In Tuscany there’s no shortage of mysterious places to visit. The ancient haunted castles of Lari and Poppi, a Medieval church in Siena that guards the mummified relic of a venerated saint and the monastic cell of the religious firebrand Savonarola. Tuscany even has its own “sword in the stone”, a 12th century sword that was plunged into a rock by a devout knight, and still there for all to see.
Follow us on a journey of mystery and legend as we explore a more unusual side of Tuscany.
Unusual and eerie places to visit in Tuscany
Haunted Castles around Tuscany
POPPI CASTLE – A visit to a haunted castle might be just what you’re looking for, and in Tuscany you’ll find more than one. And the experience wouldn’t be complete without a ghost. In the hilltop town of Poppi, in Eastern Tuscany, you can visit the majestic Conti Guidi Castle, handsome 13th century architecture equipped with a lascivious female ghost, the passionate Matelda. She was the young and unfaithful wife of the Count Guidi, who seduced and killed hundreds of local youngsters. After one too many disappearances, she was locked in a tower and left there to starve to death.
LARI CASTLE – Lari, a small quiet town south of Pisa, is dominated by its mighty fortress Castello dei Vicari, open to visitors and particularly disturbing because of the underground prisons and terrifying torture chambers. Eerie and hair-raising, these rooms are supposedly haunted by a young dissident who was murdered by the fascists, and a powerful witch who still lets our her desperate cries during the darkest nights.
If you feel like a sleepless night you can book a stay at the Castello Malaspina in Fosdinovo. Legend has it the castle is haunted by the ghost of a young Marchioness, buried alive with her dog because she fell in love with the wrong guy.
The haunts of Savonarola – San Marco Convent, Florence
Moving on from haunted rooms, here’s another dramatic story. We don’t know if Girolamo Savonarola is still haunting the cell where he used to live when he was prior at the San Marco Convent in Florence. The Dominican friar, first took power in the Florentine Republic trying to create a ‘theocratic’ state. In a dramatic turn of events, he was accused of heresy, locked in the Arnolfo Tower in Palazzo Vecchio, brutally tortured and finally burned at the stake in Piazza Signoria.
What is certain is that his monastic cell that you can visit in San Marco Museum, is still filled with his spirit and the memories of this controversial character in Florence’s history. It still contains some of his personal objects, including his rosary. There’s a spot in Piazza della Signoria that remembers the terrible end of the friar, a metal sign indicates where the pire where he burned in 1498.
Saintly remains in Siena – San Domenico Church
Saint Catherine was an extraordinary woman, an illiterate and poor girl whose great faith and convictions eventually led her to become one of Italy’s greatest saints and mystics. She was born in Siena in 1347 and spent her life between her home, the Santa Maria della Scala Hospital and the Church of San Domenico. Here it is believed that the pious Caterina at the age of 6 had her first vision of Christ and decided to dedicate her life to prayer.
If you visit the San Domenico Church today you can still encounter her, or rather her mummified head which is guarded behind glass. The people form Siena believe Saint Catherine still protects her town. Today she’s one of the patron saints of Italy. In Siena you can also visit her birth place.
A sword in the stone and some macabre relics
Did you know that Tuscany has its very own sword in the stone? Not just a dusty legend, but something that you can see toady. A sword (that a recent research has confirmed dates back to the 12th century) is stuck in a rock and surrounded by a fascinating story. Arthurian myth and religious faith mix come together in the life of Saint Galgano Guidotti, a wealthy knight who changed his dissolute way of living to dedicate himself to God.
The sword that he thrust into a rock is still visible today in the Eremo di Montesiepi, a round shaped chapel that his followers built to celebrate the memory of the hermit-saint. In the same room you can see the two severed hands of arrogant monks who tried to pull the sword out and received a divine punishment.
⇒ Nearby, don’t miss the suggestive ruins of San Galgano Abbey.