Welcome to the Middle Ages. For over a thousand years, the walls of this castle have been silent witnesses to intriguing stories, rivalries and plots. They have seen hundreds of children grow and enjoy the merriment of court games, and could tell us about stories of true love and secret love affairs. They would also be able to tell us about the horror of bloodshed due to revenges and retaliations, as well as countless Christian wedding celebrations and Pagan festivals.
These walls bear the weight of years and years of fascinating history – maybe that is why they are so thick!
It is amazing to think how many important people they must have seen go by, and how many more they will see yet. If you would like to, guests of Tornano, you could form an important part of Tornano’s recent history.
The “curtem” of Tornano was first mentioned in July 790, during the seventeenth year of Charlemagne’s rule in Italy. A document has been discovered, stating that three Lombard brothers (Atroald, Adonald and Adopald) donated Tornano to the Monastery of St Bartholomew in Ripoli (Florence), which was founded by their great-grandfather, Adonald.
On January 23rd, 1167, it appears in a decree that is still kept in the Brolio archives that the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa deprived Guarnelotto (or Warnellottus), Lord of Tornano, of all his ownership rights over the castles of both Tornano and Campi. It also appears that Guarnelotto was found guilty of capturing an imperial messenger (“pro gravibus malefici que contra nastram coronam commisit”); the emperor subsequently gave these castles to his general, Ranieri of Berlingero.
Guarnelotto was notorious for his cruelty: as the owner of two important areas, Tornano and Campi, he controlled one of the busiest routes and exacted a tribute from all passers-by with his unrelenting brutality.
He ignored the imperial decree. At the famous meeting of Sienese and Florentine representatives on December 11th, 1176, at Pieve San Marcellino in Avane, the southern Chianti region passed under the control of Florence (from Burna to Castagnoli). Guarnelotto, who was present at this meeting as a local lord, made it clear to the Florentines that despite this decree, Tornano would stay firmly under his own, as well as Siena’s, control.
Guarnelotto and his heirs managed to maintain his freedom for another sixteen years, until October 4th, 1217, when he was forced to make a shrewd political move. The Lord of Tornano changed sides and sold his castle with all its annexes to the Bishop of Florence. Eight days later, the Bishop of Florence (by a special transfer act) restored to Guarnelotto and his relatives all their goods, which were sold as “emphytheusis” under an oath of loyalty to the Bishop and to the city of Florence.
Hostility was brought about between the two cities due to several raids of Florentine soldiers into the lands of Siena. In the year 1230, troops from Siena invaded the Gaiole in Chianti region by means of retaliation against the treason of Guarnelotto (i.e. the false auction to the Bishop of Florence). They thought it was their right to take Tornano from the enemy’s army that was seen to be camping at Monteluco di Lecchi. Thus, after climbing over the southern walls, they took Tornano, and Ranieri Pulce, who was the first to climb the walls, was given the mural crown by public decree. The Siena troops attacked again for the final time in 1251, which seemed to be the final straw for the Guarnelotto family, and what ; in fact, they moved to Florence for good.
The Ricasoli Firidolfi family subsequently took over Tornano. Within the walls of Tornano castle, there used to be an ancient chapel that became part of the Pieve di St. Marcellino Parish Church. Following the 1427 census, the St. Quirico Parish Church in Tornano boasted thirty-two inhabitants, divided into five “fires”, or families.
During the devastating Aragonese invasions in 1453 and 1477, the people of Tornano never surrendered, and the castle was impenetrable. Invaders were held at bay and the castle remained beautifully intact, unlike most of the castles in the Chianti region (including the powerful Brolio), which were badly damaged or destroyed.
Castello di Tornano has belonged to the Selvolini family of Florence since the 1970s. This family has transformed the Castello into a beautiful place of accommodation, and it now stands as a flagship within the Chianti region and beyond.