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Important information about the history of Pratovecchio in Casentino was provided in the 19th century by E. Repetti, who gave us some information about the location and history of the village:
"this village is located along the left bank of the Arno river, in a narrow plain between the hill of Romena and those of Lonnano and Casa, intersected by the road from Stia that continues by joining with the provincial road of the Casentino. The Arno river, which bathes its walls, is crossed here by a new bridge across which passes the road from Consuma in front of of the hill of Romena...
... We do not know the origin of the village, even if Pratovecchio was one of the castles of the Guidi Earls of the branch of Battifolle; it is not mentioned before the Camaldolesian nuns established themselves here, where it seems they took some economic domination over the men of Pratovecchio" .
Origins of the name Pratovecchio
Repetti also pointed out that the place name derived from the Latin "Pratum Vetus". The term Pratum-vetus literally means "meadow or old plain" and it indicates the first flat area which the Arno meets after the headlong rush down the slopes of Falterona" .
According to contemporary studies, Pratovecchio owes its origins to the Guidi Counts of the branch of Romena and Dovadola. The castle also belonged to various branches of the Guidi Earls, such as those of Battifolle, Romena, and then to the Dovadola, and finally to the Earls of Poppi:
"Because of weddings and division that occurred in different branches of this family, the domain of Pratovecchio subsequently passed to the Counts of Porciano, Dovadola and Poppi, till, tired of the government of the Guidi Earls, the inhabitants gave themselves spontaneously to Florence, and then with the expulsion of Count Francesco di Poppi, which occurred in 1440, the Guidi domination in the Casentino ended" .
Among the most famous of the Earls to govern Pratovecchio, we mention the Count Guido Salvatico, who was followed by his son Ruggero and then Marcovaldo, his nephew, who in 1334 surrounded the town by walls and moats.
The Guidi Earls also built a monastery of Camaldulensian nuns here:
"At Pratovecchio the history of the Earls Guidi is inseparable from the history of St. Mary and St. John the Evangelist of Poppiena. Indeed, the origin of the town is inextricably linked to the initiatives of local feudal lords" .
It is therefore very likely that Pratovecchio was created around an ancient fortress of the Counts Guidi in the Casentino, who sheltered some Camaldolensian nuns, who sought a safe place because of the bitter disputes which raged in the Casentino between the Counts Guidi and Florence:
"In this precarious situation, the nuns would not suffer the same fate of their sisters of Rosano. The Abbess Sophia, belonging to the family of the Guidi Counts, rallied round to seek a temporary refuge in the Comital Palace of her family. It seems, according to studies (by F. Pasetto) that in the place where Pratovecchio is located, in the 11th century a fortified castle existed, which easily connected with Romena. The hypothesis is that the castle belonged to the Guidi Counts, and that it corresponds to the Castle of Pratovecchio, called 'Cassero' " .
The definition of the castle as "Cassero" appears in a donation of 1392, of the "Annales Camaldulenses," where a document is quoted as being "written in Cassero of the Castle of Pratovecchio" . F. Pasetto reconstructed the ancient history of Pratovecchio like this:
"The original centre of Pratovecchio in Casentino included a fortress built by the Counts Guidi of Romena, on the left bank of the Arno river, just before the bridge, in an area naturally protected from the floods; in fact, a few spikes of rock artfully placed there seem to counter the waters of the river...
... (there is also) a Convent, which was built inside the fortified palace by the Earls Guidi (...) The Camaldulensian nuns came to Pratovecchio around 1134. For an unspecified time, they were forced to wander through impassable places, and formerly they lived in a place called 'Capo d'Arno' " .
See the Pratovecchio travel guide if planning a visit.
1. See F. Pasetto, "I Landino: una famiglia di artisti : vissuti fra Pratovecchio e Firenze nei secoli d'oro della storia Toscana", Calosci, 1998, p. 23
2. See E. Repetti, "Dizionario geografico fisico storico della Toscana", Firenze, 1841, Vol IV, p. 664
3. See C. Beni, "Guida storica del Casentino" , 1908, p. 206
4. See F. Pasetto, p. 52
5. See M. Seravelli, "Le origini del monastero camaldolese di San Giovanni Evangelista a Pratovecchio", in "Corrispondenza", 2010, n. 2, pp. 13-16
6. See "Annales Camaldulenses", Venetiis , 1761, Tomus Sextus, p. 173
7. Pasetto, pp. 23-34