A hidden rural outpost

The story goes that Castell’Azzara got its name from the fact that it was supposedly won during a game of zara (a dice game) by the Aldobrandeschi family.

For centuries, the surrounding area was contested and attacked, with factions fighting to acquire the advantageous Rocca Silvana and its cinnabar deposits. The Rocca’s high tower and walls are all that’s left of the imposing rural fortress, and it’s no longer possible to go inside. However, it’s easy to get to on foot and offers an incredible view of the valley below.

Villa Sforzesca is another unmissable stop. Abandoned following the death of Cardinal Sforza (who built the villa in the 16th century), it was subsequently restored and can now be visited inside and out in the small town of La Sforzesca.

A maze of winding streets and tantalising glimpses of the countryside fill the old town of Castell’Azzara, providing an interesting contrast to the footpaths through the lush surroundings. The Grotta del Sassocolato is also nearby, a fascinating cave which is easily reached on foot.