History of Poppi


See Poppi guide for highlights and historic monuments

Poppi probably derived its name from the Roman family known as "Pupia " who once owned large estates here.

In the Middle Ages Poppi was the seat of the powerful Guidi Counts who ruled in Tuscany until the time of Charlemagne, ruling over 200 castles. The Lordship of the Guidi Counts ended in the 15th century, when the whole Casentino became part of the domain of the Signoria of Florence.

You can still see the residence of the Guidi Counts, built on the design of the palace in Florence now called "Bargello" [A short walk from Piazza della Signoria].

During recent excavations for the reconstruction of part of the walls of the square of the Castle of Poppi, some archaeologists have also suggested a site of Etruscan origin, dating back to 500 BC.

Early documents mentioning Poppi

The first document which mentions Poppi goes back to 774 BC, when the Casentino was donated to the Abbot of Nonantola [1] in a diploma containing the concessions made by the Emperor Charlemagne. The emperor, with the diploma issued in that year, gave the Abbot many possessions in Siena, Pistoia, Lucca and Arezzo. The Guidi Counts of Battifolle, leaders of the Ghibelline party, had their headquarters here from 1191, ruling for three centuries in Tuscany and Romagna.

Also from the same year is a document dated 18 May, in which the name of Poppi still appeared, and in which was quoted a certain Giovanni di Donato Uguccione, who promised to defend the property of the Abbey of San Fedele in Strumi. Another document dates back to the imperial diploma by Henry VI [1165-1197] on March 25 of year 1191, which confirmed the Prince and Count of "Poppi", Guido Guerra V, the title of Count of Tuscany.

According to tradition, the Guidi family had come to Italy from Germany with Otto I (912-973), in about 948, and the Casentino was granted by the Emperor Otto IV (1175-1218) of Germany to the Gualdrada dei Ravignani, wife of Count Guido (called the "Elder"). The powerful and perhaps most famous figure was Guido Guerra, Marquis of Tuscany and adopted son of the Countess Matilda of Canossa (1046-1115).

Decline of the Guidi family

According to the most reliable studies, the decay of this powerful family began with Guido Guerra IV, who had five children:

  • Tegrimo, founder of the branch of Porciano, Modigliana, Urbech and Palagio;
  • Roger, died young;
  • Aghinolfo, founder of the branch  of the Romena and of castles of Montegranelli and Partina;
  • Marcovaldo, founder of Dovadola;
  • Guido the Elder, of the branch of Battifolle and Poppi and owner of the castles of Moncioni and Borgo alla Collina.

All four surviving children inherited after their father's death more than 200 castles. However they are also known because of the conflicts among relatives, which undoubtedly led to their demise. In fact, in 1275 the branch of Dovadola came into conflict with Porciano because of the dominion of the castle of Poppi.

Between 1312 and 1325, numerous lawsuits were brought in the territory of Porciano; there were killings, arsons and robberies. In 1328 Guido of Poppi collided against Dovadola, while William Spadalunga of Bagno di Romagna battled against Aghinolfo II of Romania. In 1351 there were other violent struggles between the Guidi of Poppi and Dovadola and Bandino from Porciano against his sister Margaret, widow of Guadalberto.

1385 is the year of struggles between the Guidi of Modigliana against those of Romena for the contention of the Castle of Corezzo. A few years after, the various families of the Conti Guidi were again fighting for the castle of Montegranelli.

Control of Poppi passes to Florence

In 1440, Florence seized the castle of Poppi and all the territories of the Guidi Counts of Battifolle. The Florentine government passed a complete rearrangement of the whole of the Casentino with the creation of the Vicariate of the Casentino, such as Poppi and Pratovecchio, which was formed from the territories that had belonged to the Counts Guidi of Battifolle.

All communities were authorized to give statutes, but under the supervision of the Florentine magistrates. A few months later the territories of Battifolle passed to the rule of Florence, and each community proceeded to pass the new statutes which replaced the previous regulations.

The local statutes were, in fact, one of the primary means by which Florence was managing the communities of its territory. Through them it promoted a functional self-government, and at the same time every single community was linked to the government of Florence, which approved and corrected these statutes. The statutes are made up of 155 sections divided into 4 books according to the usual pattern, setting out institutions and local offices.

The act of submission by the castles and cities took place in Florence with a procession; the picturesque ceremony, attended by some elders of Poppi, was described by P. Ventrone like this:

"Around the palace of Righiera, there were representatives of the major tributary cities of Florence, Pisa, Arezzo, Pistoia, Volterra, Cortona, Lucignano and Castiglione Aretino, with some gentlemen of Poppi (...) After the act of submission to the Lordship (...) the Captains of the Guelph party opened the procession, preceded by their banner ...

... Then followed the Lords of the Mint with their floats (...) accompanied by Calimala Arts and Cambists (directly responsible for organizing the party), each carrying a torch of wax; then followed the priors and colleges with Podesta and Captain of the Executor orders of Justice (...) In the afternoon, the ‘palio’ took place." [2]

Origins of the name Poppi

The etymology of the word Poppi is still debated by historians and so it is difficult to determine with confidence. Some historians argue that perhaps the name derives from "populus", that is poplar.  Other scholars believe that the name derives from a "Gens Pompilia" (pompilia family) and others from the "Gens Pupia " [this hypothesis is very generally accredited] and, according to others  from "poplo", that is, "hill,  relief".

Finally, according to other scholars, the name of Poppi comes from its shape similar to the stern of a ship.

See also the travel guide for Poppi.

References

1. See G. Caselli, "The Casentino", 2004, p. 14

2. See P. Ventrone, “La festa di san Giovanni ...”, in “Annali di Storia di Firenze” ["The Feast of Saint John ...", in "Annals of the History of Florence", Vol II, 2007, p. 58]