In the countryside about 15 km from Città della Pieve we find the village of Salci, a place where time has stopped but that, in this virtual tour of Città della Pieve, deserves special mention.
Salci, was a fortified town whose earliest records date back to 1243, the year chosen by Frederick II to define the boundaries of the possessions of Castel della Pieve, is located on a solitary hill that appears in front of you when you least expect it and when you see it you cannot believe your eyes.
The village, abandoned now for thirty years and in serious degradation, boasts a strategic location, within the territory of Orvieto and thence within the Papal States, is next to the border with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the Marquisate of Castiglione del Lago. The peculiarity of Salci was not only this: built in the fourteenth century by the heirs of the leader Bandino Bandini was, with the papal investiture of 1568, an unusual example of the Duchy castle.
The tiny medieval enclosure of about three hectares enjoyed, in fact, the feudal prerogatives, it possessed a local prison and a military garrison autonomous from Castel della Pieve; the lord had power to levy taxes and tolls, to authorize markets and fairs (an important one was that of 6 November in honour of the patron saint San Leonardo di Noblac), and to coin money.
Located between Siena and Orvieto, along the adjacent path of the Via Francigena, the village was chosen as a stopover by merchants and pilgrims en route to Rome, but, it being wedged between two large states, made it a pleasant refuge for smugglers and those sought after, often not disinterestedly tolerated by the Dukes.
The main access to the castle complex is the Orvieto Gate, a square tower with Guelfi battlements of pointed arches. To the right stands a crenellated building with entrance to the ancient patrol path, to the left a building once the seat of the military garrison of defense and customs and agricultural product storage.
The parking lots are not paved, but still just dirt and grass. The two courts are separate by the clock arch gate, topped by a Renaissance portico with three arches, called “spirits”, and joined by an open corridor that connected the ducal palace with the church.
On the right stands a long series of ancient houses (once premises of shops and a tavern and inn) that end highlighting the buttresses of a religious building. On the left, the square is bordered by the low building, once used for accommodation of the military garrison.
The side façade of the ducal palace closes the courtyard and is characterized by a series of single windows with a pointed arch. Past the arch the building shows the main pediment that opens to a smaller square.
You immediately notice the “Loggia of the Spirits” (covered walkway), a symbol of the architectural transition from the medieval to the Renaissance taste, when the castle took on the role of manor house: it served to allow the ducal family to reach the church undisturbed.
The palace connects with the tower on the corner at the Siena Gate, the second main entry on the Siena-Orvieto route. The open area is circumscribed by a series of homes with a higher building, a circular well with roof tiles and a wooden latticed door.
After passing the corner, the rectory and the smaller church of San Leonardo rise, rebuilt in the seventeenth century, with three pinnacles at the top and a tall pointed bell tower of baroque type. The building has a single nave divided into four bays by arches and covered with barrel vaults and is dedicated to San Leonardo di Noblac (di Limoges)(or Confessor), the patron saint of slaves. It preserves some seventeenth-century paintings donated by Bonelli and others by Vittoria di Mirafiori, daughter of Vittorio Emanuele II, and above all there is a fresco of the Annunciation by Pomarancio.
In the church the ceremony was held for taking possession of the feif by the lords, as well as other family celebrations. Over time Salci has been in the possession the Bandini family and the family Bonelli – Crescenzi. In 1886, Vittoria di Mirafiori, became the owner of the village, and she built a Gothic castle in its vicinity.