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During 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).


Picture by Sandro Santioli

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