Farm house in Tuscany - Chianti Holiday Apartments at Cabbiavoli

More Complete History of the Castle of Cabbiavoli


"Miscellaneus history of Valdelsa"
Don Socrate Isolani, September 20, 1946
Part I

This aristocratic Villa, in which I took an interest in 1930 on the occasion of various archaeological finds in its grounds, belonged to Signora Ester, the widow of Brandini of Castelfiorentino. Situated at around three kilometres from this village from which one can reach by a public road the hill of Mozzano, as it is called, where there was the ancient Pieve di Castelfiorentino.

The Court of Elsa, known since the 8th century, was the seat of the Longobard Lords, comprising the territories of Castelfiorentino and Certaldo.

Various authors, working on the name of Cabbiavoli, claim that it originates from Gabii aula, that is, the Court of the Gabii family. Equally it could be a later corruption of the name Caput-aulae, that is, Centre of the Court, as taken from an inscription of 1592, of which we will speak later.

In 1924 the Marquis Bonifazio, founder of the family of the Counts of Alberti, married the Countess Waldrada, sister of Rodolfo II, King of Borgogna, from whom, as well as the title of Duke of Spoleto, he obtained vast possessions in Val di Bisenzio, in Maremma, in Val di Pesa and on the right bank of the Elsa, from Monterappoli as far as the borders of the territory of Poggibonsi. A large part of these lands went by division, to Count Alberto the Elder in 1070, who assigned this territory, as far as Pesa, to the Court of Elsa, which remained at the centre.

Count Alberto however, had accumulated many debts and to cover these had sold, in 1098 and 1113, many properties in Val di Pesa and others on the highest hills of Valdelsa, to the Abbey of Passignano. To complete his ruin, he fell, in 1118 into the disfavour of the Emperor, to whom he had shown scare fidelity and not a little rebelliousness. For this reason all of his possessions were confiscated and the Court of Elsa was assigned to the Imperial Power of San Miniato.

At that time, for almost forty years, the abandoned buildings of the Court of Elsa fell into complete ruin, until in 1155 a very young grandchild of the Count, also called Alberto, re-obtained all of those vast possessions that used to belong to his grandfather and which had not been sold off.

By now the Court of Elsa, as well as being in poor condition, was no longer a secure place, both because of the sales by his grandfather and because, during the confiscation, Timignano and Castelfiorentino were passed to the Bishop of Florence and therefore to that Republic: from being Caput-aulae, thus the centre of the Court, it became a border area. For this reason the Count built his residence, the sumptuous and well equipped Castle of Certaldo.

Upon the death of the Count, his children, by the agreement of 1208, divided up the vast possessions and the Val d'Elsa, with the hostelry of Castelfiorentino passed to Maghinardo. Because of this the construction of our Castle, I believe, should be dated from 1210, as the inscription on the wall in the Chapel of the Villa confirms.

Once the Castle was built, it logically maintained the name of the buildings on the nearby plateau, that is Caput-aulae, from which comes Cabbiavoli.

Major fortifications were added when it became the regular residence of a branch the Alberto Counts, because of the numerous divisions which occurred in that already rich and powerful family that had owned up to forty castles. The Alberto Counts were still living there in 1592, the years in which Count Alberto di Antonio restored and furnished the Chapel in that well appointed manner.

We do not precisely know when the Alberti Counts departed from or otherwise rid themselves of this villa, but it was certainly after 1600. From them it passed to the Mingardi family, who in 1734 or a little earlier and handed the castle to Giovanbattista Quaratesi. From the Quaratesi, the Castle and its annexes passed into the ownership of Cammillo del Mosca, Cavaliere di Santo Stefano and the last of that family. His widow sold that property to Signor Armando Arno' di Livorno. There were no children of this marriage, therefore the couple adopted a certain Antonio Casimiro. Antonio Casimiro married Zaira Tessieri from this matrimony Alice was born, but died at the age of 15, in 1871 and also the aforementioned Signora Ester, born in 1857.

Signora Ester, the only heir, married Signor Leopoldo Brandini di Castelfiorentino. In 1916 she became a widow with a good number of children, among whom Cavalier Arrigo, who had much affection for the land at Cabbiavoli and who died on 22nd March 1935 at the age of 48.

In April 1941 Signor Bruno Burgassi, owner of the well known distillery at Castelfiorentino, bought this property with the Villa of Cabbiavoli and on 28th February sold it to Signor Mario Puccioni, a worthy and energetic industrialist from Valdelsa.

An update on the castle's history
Cesare Puccioni, January 24, 2009
Part II

On the 28th February 1946 the history of Cabbiavoli by Don Socrate Isolani ends, but with some errors. Cabbiavoli was sold by Bruno Borgassi, not to Mario Puccioni, but it was acquired under the name of my mother Maria Avanzati Bernardi.

My father knew Cabbiavoli well, having passed a part of his childhood here. He was born at Castelfiorentino on October 14th 1902 , son of Cesare Puccioni and Alice Brandini.

The Puccioni were a family that had made its fortune in the second half of the 19th Century, first of all as merchants of cereals and later as industrialists. My great grandfather Luigi, the father of my grandfather Cesare, built in 1888 at Apparita' at a few kilometres to the north of Castelfiorentino, a sulphuric acid and chemical fertilizer factory. In fact the fortune of the family was made by my grandfather Cesare, an intelligent strong-willed person who, although only educated to elementary level, succeeded single handedly in creating the factory at Apparita' and in operating it in a distinguished manner.

Cesare Puccioni married Alice Brandini, a marriage that appeared to be little approved of by the wife's family. The Brandini were one of the prime families of Castelfiorentino, owners of a fine house in the city, various farms and a bank. Aristocrats since many generations, they were probably not happy that their eldest daughter married a man, certainly gifted, but little educated and definitely not of their social standing. The name of Alice was given her by her mother Ester Gotti Pellegrini, wife of Leopoldo Brandini, in memory of her little sister who died at the age of 15 and was buried, as Isolani writes, in the Chapel of Cabbiavoli, by the side of her father Antonio Casimiro. Ester Gotti Pellegrini was the last of this family, and therefore brought the property of Cabbiavoli into the Brandini patrimony,

As I recall, my father Mario knew Cabbiavoli well, having passed his summer holidays as a child in that Villa, which belonged to his maternal grandmother. Furthermore, several of his Brandini uncles were more or less of the same age, since his grandmother Ester had 9 children, of which his mother Alice was the first. I do not think I am mistaken if I say that my father, who was certainly not a lover of the countryside, bought Cabbiavoli because it reminded him of his childhood and I would not exclude also out of a sense of spite for his maternal family.

My father, in 1947, immediately undertook major works that consisted in the restoration of the building, but unfortunately also in the demolition of certain parts of the old hamlet, such as the farm and the barns. The Villa took on thereby its modern aspect, certainly more beautiful and ostentatious, but it lost its charm as a fortified rural hamlet.

Notable developments in agriculture were made by my mother with the construction of a new farm with modern cellars and the planting of new vines and olive groves, turning it into a model farm.

In 1967 there was acquired by the Giachetti family, an estate of roughly 25 acres, originally sold out of necessity by the Brandini's, thereby recreating the entire holding, to which were later added other acquisitions, consolidating the property, among which, at the end, the house of Santa Maria Spazzavento, bringing the farm up to its present 115 acres with 8 farmhouses.

In 1996, with the intention of giving a purpose to the various farm buildings that the property owned but by now were uninhabited, unused and beginning to deteriorate and to collapse, since the farm workers had abandoned them, it was decided to restructure them for the purpose of "agriturismo" (Farm holidays).

The success brought by this initiative, but perhaps more out of love for this place, convinced us to restructure and bring up to date the Castle of Cabbiavoli, after more than 50 years since the alterations made my father. The structure has kept its original sub divisions, but works of consolidation were carried out.

To all these lengthy and patient labours, my wife Cecilia dedicated herself, giving her time and care and to whom we owe the final result.

The management is done directly by my family, with my wife Cecilia and my daughter Ginevra trying to give to our guests the sensation of being at home and among friends.

We can claim that we have done a good job, now that we are in the third year of operation, and we have bestowed upon our guests, some of whom are especially well known, such us the godmother Julia Roberts, a satisfaction and a love for this place that persuades them to return and became friends of ours, much to our great delight.

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