The Casentino is a peaceful and verdant region in North-Eastern Tuscany, Italy. Velvet valleys and thick forests form a beautiful backdrop to the small towns, hamlets, ancient churches and monasteries that dot the region. Here life is simple, slow, and truly beautiful.
Poppi with its impressive castle is the most attractive town, while the famous monasteries of La Verna and Camaldoli attract spiritual seekers from all over the world. Nature lovers will love it for the many hiking opportunities in the Foreste Casentinesi National Park, where the Arno river has its source, while foodies will appreciate the mouthwatering handmade tortelli di patate.
Discover Casentino, Tuscany, Italy – The highlights of a magical land
The Casentino Valley lies at the foot of the Appennino Tosco-Romagnolo, in the Arezzo province. From Florence you reach it via the scenic road SS70 over the Passo della Consuma. This is a beautiful stretch of road that rises slowly into the mountains, fringed with tall forests that are verdant and full of life in Spring and Summer and alive with the hues of autumn in late October through November.
Casentino invites travellers to take things slowly. To walk in its forests of pine, beech and maple trees, to breathe in its fresh air and take in all the magic of an ancient land full of fascinating stories and sights.
Casentino Highlights and Main Attractions:
POPPI – Officially one of Italy’s most beautiful borghi, Poppi sits atop a ridge that dominates the surrounding landscape of low rolling hills. Its handsome Conti Guidi Castle is visible on the approach to the town, and immediately gives one the idea of the power it once held over the area. The castle is well worth a visit to see its magnificent courtyard and some frescoes. The historic centre is made up of porticoed lanes and has a couple of interesting churches.
STIA – A small pretty town with a large porticoed piazza and the beautiful church of Santa Maria Assunta that has a charming Romanesque interior.
BIBBIENA – This is the chief town of modern Casentino, with a couple of nice streets in the historic centre, where you can visit the San Lorenzo Church. Just outside the town, you find the atmospheric sanctuary Santuario Santa Maria del Sasso.
PIEVE DI ROMENA – This Romanesque country church is a real treat. Located in a beautiful spot near the ruins of the Castello di Romena, the highlights are the perfectly preserved 12th century capitals, depicting animals and monsters. Very peaceful atmosphere in a place that invites contemplation.
⇒ See all the attractions in the Arezzo province in Eastern Tuscany.
ROMENA CASTLE – The Castello di Romena was one of the most powerful in the Casentino, Today only three towers are left, set in the midst of a beautifully verdant spot. It has a connection to Dante who stayed here during his exile from Florence and mentioned it in his “Inferno”.
FORESTE CASENTINESI NATIONAL PARK – The Park is one of Italy’s most important forested areas. Various hiking trails allow the visitor to immerse themselves in nature and discover a land where nature is respected and cherished. You can hike Mount Penna, explore the area where the Arno river has its source on the Mount Falterona, or enjoy the stunning beauty of the ancient Lama forest. In Autumn this is the top spot to enjoy the delights of fall foliage. At the verge of the park are two of Casentino’s famous monasteries, La Verna and Camaldoli.
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The Spiritual Side of the Casentino
LA VERNA SANCTUARY – The Franciscan Sanctuary of La Verna is one of Italy’s most famous pilgrim’s destinations. Set high up on a rocky outcrop, the monastery was built on the spot where Saint Francis received his stigmata. Immersed in thick forest, it’s a truly mystical place where you can see the places that were dear to the saints and visit the chapels and churches decorated with splendid Della Robbia glazed terracottas.
CAMALDOLI MONASTERY – A few kms. from Poppi, the Benedictine hermitage and monastery of Camaldoli is the other religious ‘hot spot’ of the Casentino. Beautiful nature and tranquil forests awaits the pilgrims that come here to enjoy the monks’ hospitality, visit the churches and the ancient Antica Farmacia, the ancient pharmacy where they sell their traditional remedies.
How to get there
A car is the best way to explore the area and really appreciate its landscapes and sights. To get to the Casentino, the most scenic drive is taking the SS70 over the Passo della Consuma, a mountain pass which is a favourite rest stop for excursionists. It’s a beautiful (and pleasant to drive) road that passes through endless forests. Taking the motorway A1 Firenze to Arezzo is a longer and less interesting drive.
If you’re travelling by public transport your best bet is the small railway that links Arezzo to Stia, Poppi and Bibbiena.
⇒ Check out our Two day Road trip to the Casentino.Photo by Sailko – Opera propria, CC BY-SA 4.0, Collegamento