Radicofani: bandits, spectral taverns and beauty
In the Orcia Valley, near Siena, Radicofani is a beautiful medieval town where Ghino di Tacco, a Tuscan bandit well known for
his truculence and his high-handed deeds, settled in 1290.
In his “Decameron”, Giovanni Boccaccio explains:
being banished from Siena, and at enmity with the Counts of Santa Fiore, raised Radicofani in revolt against the Church of Rome, and there abiding, harried all the surrounding country with his soldiers, plundering all wayfarers (“Decameron” X, 2). He soon took control of the town, his
bestial hands – as Dante defined them – carrying out constant raids. Yet he was considered a “gentleman” bandit: Boccaccio’s novella, for example, tells the story of how he kidnapped the Abbot of Cluny but ended up curing his stomach ache, and receiving in return the opportunity to reconcile with pope Boniface VIII.
English author Charles Dickens also once passed through Radicofani, although his description of it is rather grim:
we came to Radicofani, where there is a ghostly, goblin inn: once a hunting-seat, belonging to the Dukes of Tuscany. It is full of such rambling corridors, and gaunt rooms, that all the murdering and phantom tales that ever were written might have originated in that one house. There are some horrible old Palazzi in Genoa: one in particular, not unlike it, outside: but there is a winding, creaking, wormy, rustling, door-opening, foot-on-staircase-falling character about this Radicofani Hotel, such as I never saw, anywhere else. The town, such as it is, hangs on a hill-side above the house, and in front of it. The inhabitants are all beggars; and as soon as they see a carriage coming, they swoop down upon it, like so many birds of prey (Charles Dickens, “Pictures from Italy”, Chapman & Hall Ltd., London 1913).
Welcome to this beautiful town: and don’t worry, Ghino di Tacco is long gone and things have completely changed since Dickens visited…