First there was a castle, then a town. The history of Castiglion Fibocchi is all in its name, and in the name of the Conti Guidi, who built their fortress here. The building later passed to the descendants of Ottoviano Pazzi, known as "Bocco". His nickname stuck to the castle, first called "Castrum Filiis Bocchi", and later contracted to Castiglion Fibocchi. All is connected to this castle and its history: even today you come to the town centre through a gate that was originally the entrance to the citadel. Standing on a hill, towering above its surroundings, the fortress sits on one of most important Roman roads, the Cassia Vetus, which shows that the town has Roman origins. Today Castiglion Fibocchi is one of the stages on the "Via dei Setteponti", a panoramic road that links Florence to Arezzo, via the Valdarno.
Castiglion Fibocchi's most important festival, which has
been celebrated for centuries, is dedicated to the sons of Ottaviano
"Bocco" Pazzi and perhaps also to the history of the castle. This is
the Carnival of the Sons of Bocco. Records
of this festival go back to the twelfth century. We read on a marriage document
that Berta di Ardimanno, who was betrothed to Guglielmo di Bernardino, a noble
from the Valdarno, had to bring the date of her wedding forward so as not to
clash with the "Carnevale de filiis Bocchi", which was celebrated
with great revelry before the start of Lent, in this very castle in the Aretine
Val d'Arno. The festival has not continued without interruption, but in recent
memory it has been resurrected and for the last twenty years or so a
"modern" version has been held. The town is swarmed with masks of
every kind, including an original likeness of Re (King) Bocco.
Part of Castiglion Fibocchi is also something of a madhouse.
Gello Biscardo is the hamlet in question, and its reputation derives from
various stories to have pertained to its past inhabitants. Even scholars of
Tuscan traditions have indicated that here "the citizens all go mad
together." Anyone who has taken these claims seriously has mentioned the
use of water from a certain fountain, or particular herbs that the townspeople
consume. Then stories, almost jokes, emerge from this: monkish sootsayers,
matchstick sellers, people who have seen the moon in a puddle...but now that
Gello Biscardo is famous throughout much of Tuscany as the "town of madmen",
its citizens laugh about it, and maybe take a little pride in it.