Casentino, the upper valley of the Arno, is traversed in its entirety by the river, and enclosed by the mountains of La Verna, Camaldoli, the Alpe di Catenaia and the Pratomagno range. Its position, in the north-east of Tuscany, made it a region of transit, of ancient pilgrim routes between the Tuscan and the Emilian Apennines. The Etruscans had one of their sacred sites on Monte Falterona: the Lago degli Idoli. The district was also subject to the military incursions of Florence, and it was at Campaldino, in 1289, that the Florentine Guelphs inflicted a bloody defeat on the Arezzo Ghibellines.
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Its history is closely connected with the Guidi Counts, who governed the valley up to the mid fifteenth century and built numerous castles such as those of Poppi, Romena, Porciano, Montemignaio and Castel San Niccolò. Casentino is also a land of spirituality: in the silence of the fir and beech woods, which are now a natural heritage of the Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, lived St. Romuald who founded his order at Camaldoli, and St. Francis who received the stigmata at the Sanctuary of La Verna. The religious architecture includes many Romanesque churches, such as the parish church of Socana (with an interesting Etruscan altar behind the apse), that of Romena and the parish church of Stia. Mountain villages such as Talla, Ortignano Raggiolo scattered along the mountainous crest of Pratomagno, provide excellent starting-points for walks and excursions on foot, on horseback or by mountain bike. Canoeing can be practised on the Arno, and golf in the green valleys around Poppi. Famous artists and men of letters were born in the valley: Cardinal Bernardo Dovizi in Bibbiena, and the great master of perspective, Paolo Uccello, in Pratovecchio. It is a land of ancient traditions, which still remain in the local crafts and cuisine: the “Casentino cloth”, a wool woven in characteristic bright colours such as orange and bottle green, wrought iron, wood and worked stone. The culinary tradition offers simple dishes such as scottiglia, acquacotta, and potato tortelli, as well as cheese and ham.