History of Cetica, Italy

See Cetica guide for highlights and historic monuments

The place name "Cetica", in the oldest medieval documents, is referred to as "Curtis Cedeca" - or "Cedica", as we read for example in a diploma of Otto III [980-1002] dating from 1002:

"We confirm all the possessions, that is the castle of Signa, Grumolo Castle, the court of Caccerini, the Court of greve, the Court of Monte Domine, the Court of Gignoro, the Castle of Luco (...) the Court of Cedeca and Monte Molignaio] [1].

"Luco, 'Cedeca' [= Cedica = Cetica] and Monte Molignaio are routinely mentioned in the Imperial diplomas of Emperor Otto III of 1002 [2], of Henry II, of Conrad II, of Henry IV [1074]" [3].

This has also been confirmed by recent studies:

"Cetica, is one of the castles (...) confirmed to the monastery [of Santa Maria di Firenze] by Otto III in 1002. Since the cartulary regarding the donation of this village has been lost, we do not know who were the old holders and whether they were also in this case the Marquis of Tuscany " [4].

The transition in the name from "Cedeca" to "Cedica" to "Cetica" must have occurred between the late 12th and early 13th century, since in a diploma of Emperor Henry VI [1165-1197] dating from 1191, the place name is mentioned as "C-i-eticam":

"The diploma of Henry VI presents a series of place names such as Stiam, Lonanum, Battifollem, 'C-i-eticam'" [5].

Later, the town was mentioned in a document dated 1240 as "Cetica[m]", that is in a donation to the Guidi Counts by Frederick II [1194-1250], written in Faenza in September 1240 During the siege of Faenza:

“In the name of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, We, Frederick II, by favor of the divine mercy Roman Emperor and king of Sicily, with this privilege [grant] to the Marquis Uberto Pallavicino, Vicar of the Holy Roman Empire in Lunigiana and neighboring lands and to Countess Giovanna, his sister, (...) Monteacuto Castle with all its appurtenances, curiae and district and in full the following villas, that is Cetica, Spalanne" [6].

The Guidi Counts were lords of Cetica for many years; Cetica [with Pagliericcio and Castel San Niccolo] was ruled by Count Guglielmo Novello, and the Guidi county was then held for nearly a century (1150 ca.-1230 ca.).

Then the Guidi Counts met various financial problems:

"In fact, after a couple of examples of good availability of cash, in the middle years of the 11th century, we have evidence of the indebtedness of the Guidi around 1100, when five documents refer to the financial difficulties of the family (…) This difficulty could be explained primarily by an uncommon need of money imposed by the military effort deployed in those years, in person and on the side of the Countess Matilda of Canossa, in the context of the Investiture Controversy " [15].

To all this we must add the grueling struggle with Florence, which in those years tried, successfully, to oust the Guidi Counts from the Casentino. For the need to effectively counteract Florence, some branches of the Guidi Counts supported the German emperors, who rewarded them with important fiefs in Casentino:

"the honorific privilege granted by the Emperor Henry VI to Guidoguerra (written near Naples, May 24, 1191), mentioned one of the most important fiefs, Mutigliano, with its fortress and castle, and with all his court; this donation was faithfully reproduced by the oldest diploma of Frederick I to Guido Guerra (September 1164) (...) In the diploma of 1240 Guido and Simon Counts were invested ‘the middle of the castle of Gyrone', where the word ' gyro' means the fortress with its walls and lower orders of ramparts which surrounded it, almost like a powerful acropolis above the 'castrum '" [16].


"a diploma granted by Frederick II to Count Guido da Romena in 1247 confirmed him in all the rights granted to his father and grandfather over certain castellanies, including Partina in its entirety, as well as shares in other castellanies" [17].

Cetica in the Midle Ages

In the Middle Ages the road links to communities such as Garliano and Cetica had an immense strategic and military importance. Towards the middle of the 14th century these lands were under the dominion of Count Galeotto di Guglielmo, called "Novello", of the branch of the Guidi Counts of Modigliana, Poppi and Battifolle. Later, some communities, such as Cetica, rebelled against this Count, submitting itself to the authority of Florence.

The acts of submission were written in 1349 and they led to the birth of the small town of Castel S. Nicolò:

"At the same time the so-called ‘comunelli’ [small communes] developed (Pieve Socana, Salutio, Borgo alla Collina, Cetica), where it should be noted that, usually, in all mountains (for example, in the Lunigiana), (...) the feudal lords asserted themselves along with the formation of free small communes (…); however, their autonomy was very limited" [18].

The characteristic of this structure was probably due to the fact that the communities of the Valley of Solano had enjoyed, already under the dominion of the Guidi, some autonomy. Thus emerged the so-called "Comunello" [small Commune] of Cetica which was constituted by two districts of St. Angelo and S. Pancrazio.

Each district elected its representatives, among the most prominent was the governor, who represented the community in the government of the commune of Castel S. Nicolò. Cetica was entitled to certain privileges and responsibilities, such as control of the mills and ironworks , the so-called "pasture" (mountain pastures) and "terratici" [mixed areas with forest and arable land], and profits of some business.

In the 15th century Cetica was taken and destroyed by Niccolò Piccinino [1386-1444]:

"Niccolo Piccinino, in fact, after the surrender of Bibbiena (...) with his troops took Cetica sacking it and imprisoning men" [19].

The small town of Cetica lasted until 1776, when Grand Duke Peter Leopold reorganized the administrative structure in Tuscany and Cetica became part of the municipality of Castel S. Nicolò.

Origins of the name Cetica

With regard to the etymology, almost all scholars agree about the fact that Cetica derives from the Latin verb "Caedo" [= to cut], because of this area was subject to deforestation:

"Cetina (Cetinella, Cetinaia, ‘Cetica’) is a derivation in '-ina' of 'caedita', feminine past participle (...) attributed by Serra to the nomenclature of deforestation" [7].

Other scholars are not so sure about this hypothesis:

"The place name 'Cetica', near Castel San Nicolo (Arezzo) in Pratomagno, is obscure in its relations with the Latin root 'caedita' (from 'caedit-ica') and S. Pieri considers it in this way [8][9]. In fact, “S. Pieri (1928) lists it several times as one of many Tuscan place names of alledegly Etruscan origin (...) (e.g. Botina, Cetica)” [10].

According to the theory of the Etruscan derivation of Cetica, the place name would have relations with some aristocratic Etruscan names and also with the watercourses:

"The many Etruscan place names of cities ending in '-na' (Alfi-na, Ceci-na) expressed at the beginning the membership, or rather, the subordination of a city to an [Etruscan] 'gens' (Alfiana, Alfina, Ceiena) (...) Then they were used to designate waterways, with the evident intention to indicate the membership of these rivers to an Etruscan 'gens' (Ceiena, Volturna [hence the name of the river Volturno])" [11].

In fact, it was observed that:

"with regard to the Etruscan evidence of Falterona (...) we remember that since time immemorial at Cetica there remained alive the popular custom to immerse themselves in the waters” [12].

This "lectio difficilior" of the etymology of Cetica instead seems to have a good chance of being correct, because Cetica was famous since antiquity for the therapeutic properties of its waters. In this regard, C. Beni observed that:

"on the side of the Casentino mountains which are directed from Consuma toward the mount called ‘Tre Confini’ [Three Borders] (…) in a small and narrow valley, called" Ferriggine ", is situated the famous Bath of Cetica (...) The sublime virtues of the Bath of Cetica were already celebrated by the famous Giovanni Ebreo in his book 'On the virtues of the Baths of Europe', in which it is said 'that the bath of Cetica cures every type of scabies; it takes away the pain of gout and nerves and dissolves bladder stones [(urinary calculi] " [13].

A. Zaccagni-Orlandini added that:

"another source of different kinds of virtue, but certainly not inferior, would be located near Cetica, in a place called the 'Piscine', where there was a very frequented bathroom since ancient times; but in 1205 the water disappeared because of a landslide; 482 years later, in 1686, a small pond reappeared; there is no analysis of this water, but the ease with which it heals skin diseases shows that it is of a sulphurous origin" [14].

See also the travel guide for Cetica.


1. See J.F. Böhmer, "Regesta Imperil" Böhlau, 1956, Vol 3, Part II, p. 140-141

2. See ‘Carte della Badia”, I, p. 46

3. See L. Schiaparelli et alii, “Le carte del monastero di S. Maria in Firenze (Badia).: sec. X-XI”, 1990, p. 340 e 271: Cedeca, See Cetica

4. See M. E. Cortese, “Signori, castelli, città: l'aristocrazia del territorio fiorentino tra X e XII secolo”, Olschki, 2007, p. 5

5. See M. Bicchierai, , “Lontano dalle città. Il Valdarno di Sopra nei secoli XII-XIII. Atti del Convegno [Figline Valdarno -Montevarchi 9-11 novembre 2001], a cura di Giuliano Pinto e Paolo Pirillo, Roma, 2005, p. 89, nota 16

6. See Ph. Hiltebrandt, "Kurie römische Preussen und die in der zweiten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts" in "Quellen Forschungen und aus und italienischen Archiven Bibliotheken", Rom, 1908, p. 312 ff.

7. See “Centro di studi chiantigiani”, “Il Chianti: storia, arte, cultura, territorio”, 1992, p. 73

8. See “Toponomastica della valle dell'Arno”, Roma, 1919, p. 371

9. See" Romanistisches Jahrbuch ", 1957, p. 54

10. See H.J. Rizzo, "Romance and Italic. Linguistic studies ...", 1980, p. 143

11. See C. de Simone, “Il nome del Tevere. Contributo per la storia delle più antiche relazioni tra genti latino-italiche ed etrusche”, in “Studi etruschi”, Olschki, 1975, n. 43, pp. 119-157, pp. 148-149

12. See “Il Lago degli idoli: testimonianze etrusche in Falterona”, 1989, p. 27

13. See C. Beni, “Guida illustrata del Casentino”, L. Niccolai, 1889, p. 225

14. See A. Zaccagni-Orlandini, “Corografia fisica, storica e statistica dell'Italia ...”, Firenze, 1841, Vol. IX, pp. 138-139

15. See S. M. Collavini, “Le basi economiche e materiali della signoria guidinga (1075 c.-1230 c.)”, Olschki, 2009, p. 317 e 324

16. See V. Ragazzini, “Modigliana e i conti Guidi in un lodo arbitrale del secolo XII”, L. Matteucci, 1921, p. 18

17. See T . Casini, "The Minor Rural Aristocracy and Great Lords in Thirteenth-Century Tuscany: Three Cases from the Entourage of the Guidi Counts", in "Journal of Medieval History", 2011, 37, p. 188

18. See “Pubblicazioni dell'Istituto di geografia dell'Universita di Roma”, 1961, p. 23

19. See M. Bicchierai, “Ai confini della Repubblica di Firenze.Poppi dalla signoria dei conti Guidi al vicariato del Casentino (1360-1480)”, Firenze, 2005, p. 25. See also M. Porcinai, “Cetica. Storia, vicende e popolazione di una comunità rurale del Pratomagno”, Stia 2006