The area della Rocca (Fortress) constitutes the original nucleus of the medieval village of Santa Maria a Monte. The presence of a fortified enclosure, undoubtedly the oldest defence system in the area of the Lower Valdarno, is attested even before the year 1000.

Archaeological excavations have brought to light numerous construction phases that have characterised the evolutionary history of the site: from the pre-Roman settlement (8th-1st centuries BC) to the first religious building of the Longobard era (8th century) dedicated to Maria Assunta, as well as a burial place of a member of the Longobard ecclesiastical dynasty.

The medieval village of Santa Maria a Monte is characterised by numerous underground tunnels, communicating tunnels dug directly into the tuff that formed a veritable underground city. This hidden route may have served as a kind of water supply network for the inhabitants both in times of peace and in the event of a siege. Running beneath the dwellings, the tunnels passed under the castle’s three circles of walls: a secret network to get from one circle of the walls to the other without being seen by enemies.

During the Second World War, the underground passages were used as air-raid shelters. Partly walled in or sealed off to prevent access by the Nazis, they have undergone profound changes that have not altered their undoubted charm. Privately owned, they can be visited on special guided tours.



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