Tuscany: Two Castles, One Revelation

8 08 2012

This is the second in a series of articles about my recent trip to Italy. Enjoy!

Views from atop Castello di Broli. With a vantage point like this, advancing enemies can be seen from miles and miles away.

It’s always a bit of a pleasant surprise when you find out that so-and-so shares mutual friends with you:

Oh, so you know him too!”

Oh my, how do you know her as well?”

...we’ve all had moments like these. That little spark of affinity when you realise that your paths have crossed with someone else’s; when you find out that your are not a lone island but rather one of many interweaving, intersecting tributaries; when you appreciate the fact that however vast the world may seem, we are not separated by as much distance as we may originally thought. This may seem to you like a timeworn fact, but to me, it made all the difference on my recent Tuscan Castle Tour.

We had two castles down on the list for that day’s tour: Montessori Castle, picked because there was a geocache there; and Castello di Broilio, chosen because it was ‘highly recommended’.

The ruins of Montegrossi castle.

The castles couldn’t have been more unlike. Montegrossi, an 11th century fortress, stood dilapidated, in ruins, overgrown with weeds. No signposts indicated its existence, and we only reached the ruins after climbing up an obscure footpath. Castello di Brolio, on the other hand, stood proud and majestic, immaculately maintained, a potent symbol of wealth, power and status. This was a fully functioning castle, with a chic osteria at its base, a winding dirt road lined with cypresses and conifers leading up to the gates, and a lovely garden to stroll through.  Nothing suggested any kind of connection between the two disparate castles. And yet, as I soon found out to my amazement, the two castles do in fact share a mutual history. In Facebook-speak, they share mutual friends.

Castello di Broli…and this is just one part of it!

It turns out that the Ricasoli family (owners of Castello di Brolio), when they first arrived in the region, had at first lived at Montegrossi Castle before moving in to di Brolio. Despite the two castles being entirely dissimilar, here was an unmistakable link drawing the two together. In Facebook-perspective, both castles shared a mutual friend in the Ricasoli family.

Inside the ruins of Montegrossi. The Ricasoli family had lived here when they first arrived in the region, before moving into Castello di Brolio.

It’s fascinating, really, how seemingly contrasting elements can actually have close links. It’s almost  like a spider web, or tangled tentacles of an octopus. You may start off on one lone spoke of the web, or one solitary tentacle of the octopus, thinking you have no connections with those around you. Yet as you dig a little deeper and probe a little further, connections start to appear one by one and before long, a whole cobweb of an intricate system has emerged. That’s when you realise that though you may be but a speck in this world, you are also latched on to a highly network – a network which, unless you explore relentlessly, you will never fully appreciate.

And that is my revelation from my little Tuscan Castle Tour.

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