Situated where Tuscany and Liguria meet, you can feel the overwhelming peace here, especially at sunset. Dipping behind the rolling hills, the sun’s rays illuminate the juicy oranges and tomatoes that have just ripened a few hours earlier. Here, you can admire a different landscape from each side, with views of the sea, mountains and valleys. The best view is from the terrace of Malaspina Castle, where Bianca, unhappily in love, lost her life and where Dante Alighieri himself hid.
Follow the mystery
Somewhere atop a mountain
The road to the castle is very steep and dangerous. Two cars coming in opposite directions have no chance of passing each other on this road. You have to swerve, although the locals seem to have got the hang of it. It feels like forever to the top of the hill. And yet it’s only 10 kilometres, albeit up some of the steepest hills we’ve seen. At the top, we pass through a stone gate and are greeted by the castle’s host, who hands us the keys to a private chamber. Yes, a chamber; there are no rooms in castles, so at least once in your life you can feel like a prince or princess. Suddenly, a black cat appears, winding around the visitors’ legs. They don’t yet know how important this seemingly ordinary pet is here.
A night in Dante’s arms
Although he was a literary genius, Dante Alighieri also had a colourful history of fraud and financial abuse. Sentenced to a fine and exile from Florence for two years, he chose not to pay the fine, which only made matters worse. The writer was eventually banned from returning to the city for life, spending the rest of his days wandering around many Italian cities. In 1307 he arrived at Malaspina Castle, whose owner was an old friend. The Marquis did not refuse him shelter and gave him a room for a while, which is known to this day as the Stanza di Dante. The small bed and the toilet beside it look exactly the same as they did more than 700 years ago, when the author of the Divine Comedy first used them. And if visitors to the castle are brave enough, they can lean over this bed after dark to allegedly hear Dante’s heartbeat. There are not many daredevils brave enough, especially as the chambers and corridors are lit by flickering lanterns, giving you a chill of uncertainty.
The host always encourages you to visit the castle alone as the place has an aura of mystery and horror. High ceilings, oil paintings, numerous suits of armour and weapons are there to explore. The Malaspina family have great confidence in their guests and literally leave everything at your fingertips.
A dog, a boar and bloodstains on the ceiling
In the 17th century the castle was inhabited by Bianca, daughter of the Marquis Giacomo Malaspina. Bianca was well aware that her life would inevitably follow the rules of her social position at the time, and that her role was to strengthen the family’s influence and multiply its wealth. She also knew that the decision to marry her off had been made long ago. And yet. The young girl had enough courage, or recklessness, to defy social norms and follow her heart. And it began to beat intensely for the estate’s groom. How did this happen? When did the young people develop a deeper relationship? Did their love have a chance? We can only guess.
Their teenage love aroused indignation, especially in aristocratic circles, which strictly adhered to the norms of the time. If the Marquis Giacomo wished to retain his position and not become the object of scandal, he had to do everything possible to prevent this relationship. But rumours spread quickly. And those repeated in whispers aroused the most emotion.
Meanwhile, Bianca, who cherished every moment spent with her lover under the cover of night, continued to meet with him. The attentive eyes of envious observers remembered every detail of the meetings, and their awakened imagination only fuelled the need to report everything to the Marquis. The girl’s father knew of all the lovers’ trysts. Finally, he decided to act.
The groom, whose name is long forgotten, was banished from Fosdinova forever, and Bianca was sent to a convent. But these events were only the beginning of what became a tragic finale. Whether it was her unwillingness to deny her feelings for the boy, or some other inexplicable circumstance, on her return the girl was locked in the dungeons and tortured. Finally, she was walled up alive in the highest tower, along with a dog (a symbol of fidelity) and a wild boar (a symbol of rebellion).
Walking around the castle, you can sometimes see stains on the ceiling. These are supposedly Bianca’s blood, along with that of the animals that accompanied her in her misery. Some say this is just a legend. But what is certain is that during the restoration of the castle, archaeologists found the remains of a woman and animals in the highest tower.
It is said that Bianca can be found roaming the castle after midnight. She is looking forward to meeting her beloved. If you encounter her, don’t be afraid. The black cat mentioned at the beginning is said to be the girl’s father, who makes sure that the lovers never meet. He never enters the house, but can be seen on the walls, as if guarding his property against an uninvited guest. His yellow, piercing gaze can inspire fear. Or perhaps it’s just an ordinary animal that likes the castle? Who can truly say?
Unique volumes and a journey into a mysterious past
During the day, Castello di Malaspina has impressively adapted to the expectations of the modern traveller. The B&B offers far more than comfortable bedrooms. In the small dining room you can enjoy a hearty breakfast prepared with products from the local farms. Everything is organic, healthy and made with natural ingredients. Sitting at the table you can admire Liguria and the sea that appears on the horizon. The public lounge is also unique, with a library and many publications about the castle, often unavailable even to Italian archives. A working knowledge of Italian will be useful here, although after a night walk around the castle, it seems that the walls themselves tell visitors their history. Among the books you’ll find Dante’s Divine Comedy, whose worn condition suggests that it is one of the most popular items on the bookshelf. Spending a night here can completely change the way you look at a place you are seeing for the first time. There are not many guests and this intimate setting allows you to get to know it thoroughly.
Occasionally, parties and weddings are organised in the castle, whose unusual surroundings attract guests in search of a unique setting.
Does Malaspina Castle have more secrets within its walls? Or are they just there to attract tourists? The inhabitants of Fosdinovo pass on the mysterious and sad story of the Malaspina family from generation to generation. t is certainly worth spending at least one night of your Tuscan itinerary in Fosdinovo to travel back in time to the mysterious and dark past that has marked the history of this place.