the Middle Ages, Tuscany was one of the most densely
populated regions and so it was rich of fortifications and
castles. Because of the insecurity of the period, every
urban centre was surrounded by high walls. Every
fortification was in fact constructed to resist the attacks
and states of siege in proportion to the arms of that period; so the
bastions were fortified by merlons to protect the soldiers
and the walls were provided with crenels from where boiling
liquid was poured down on the enemy. The external perimeter
of the fortifications was provided with a "jutted-out"
apparatus to obstruct the support of the enemy's ladder.
The interior was mostly crossed by communication trenches
in wood. Other buildings, which were not really military
but retained desirable by the enemy, such as mills, hospitals
and churches were also fortified as protection.
Evidences of the imposing fortifications as well as the many
castles in the country district have reached the present days in
a good state. Although they kept the solidity of the construction they
were of reduced dimensions relative to the small villages: see the
Palazzo dei Vicari in Scarperia or the individual 'sighting' towers
as for example the Fortress of Radicofani.
The "castle" is also a fortress palace since the
family of the governors or lords of the city lived inside its walls.
Still in Tuscany the need to give a form to power was strongly
felt between the 13th. And the 14th. centuries and so
public buildings were built. Even though they were placed
inside the walls, they had however the characteristics of the
feudal castles placed as a defence of the city in the city walls
(Palazzo Vecchio in Firenze, Palazzo Pubblico in Siena).
As an emblem of power the castle -public palace- is evidently
richer in decorations and refined in each of its parts, also in the
choice of the insertion in the structure of the city. Infact besides
being placed in the centre it also faces the main entrance
on a vast square which shows off the importance of the palace.
Besides the classical characteristics like the tower and
the battlements, the castle was most of the times externally
enriched by decorations in stone and by various coats-of-arms
of the families who had succeeded the government.
The years following the Middle Ages, when a longer peaceful
period started taking place, the castles began losing
their roughness and were adorned also internally. The lords
liked calling painters, sculptors and artists to
their service. These gave lustre and splendour to their dwellings,
and especially for those country castles magnificent gardens started
being built. They reflected proportionally the grandeur of the
castle or villa which they were facing.
In Tuscany there are very beautiful examples of villas
which look like castles, also called "family" castles
(see The Villa).