Cittadella. The residence of Lords and Princes


In 1399 Gherardo Appiani, Lord of Pisa, decided to spend the rest of his life quietly, leaving the chaos in Pisa to Gian Galeazzo Visconti.  He chose to retire to Piombino, introducing to it the independent Signoria.  Besides the capital city, the Signoria included Populonia, Suvereto, Vignale, Scarlino, Buriano, Badia al Fango and the islands of Elba, Montecristo and Pianosa.  Two years later Valle and Montioni were added.

In February the same year, Gherardo and his court arrived in Piombino by sea.  He settled in the fourteenth-century palace of the Piazzarella, now known as Piazza Giovanni Bovio. Because of the turmoil in the city, he was advised to look for a safer place for his family to live and this led to the construction of the Cittadella.

The construction began in the 1560s, when Jacopo Appiani III brought the architect and sculptor Andrea di Francesco Guardi to Piombino. Francesco Guardi was born in Florence but lived in Pisa.  He indicated the hill of Santa Maria as the place to build the residence of the Lords and began the work of excavation and construction.  The hill was reinforced on the sea side with six sturdy bastions, one of which holds the Hundred Stairways. Subsequently the architect conceived the idea of a mansion that opened onto a square with five wings: the first was the mansion, sadly destroyed in 1959, the garden, the courtiers’ palace, the Chapel and importantly, the tank for the water supply.

The Palace for the courtiers and the amenities is currently the site of the Archaeological Museum of the Territory of Piombino, which includes artefacts from the Stone Age to the present day.

The tank, with its well curb, is a precious relic of the fifteenth century, as shown by the date (1465) engraved on the east side.  In the remaining three panels are carved the Lords’ profiles: Jacopo Appiani III, his wife Battistina Campofregoso and his son the future Lord Jacopo IV.

The Chapel is a true Renaissance gem. The facade is reminiscent of the perspectives of Leon Battista Alberti, with whom Guardi worked on the Malatesta Temple in Rimini.  There are some Gothic elements, such as the rose window and the wave patterns at the gable peak.

The interior of the chapel has undergone some changes that altered its original appearance: in the eighteenth century, the wooden truss roofing was replaced by a vault. Elisa Bonaparte Baciocchi, last Princess of Piombino, brought a sixteenth-century altar from Lucca to replace the original altar and the Guardi altar piece in 1810.

The two marble plutei are the originals which now lean against the walls: they divided the small temple into two parts, defining that of the officiates.  The emblem of the Aragon-Appiano and a vase with acanthus leaves are carved into the plutei. At the centre of the altar there is a polychrome glazed terracotta work by Benedetto Buglioni from the early sixteenth century, depicting a bust of the Madonna and Child,.

In the early 1570s, in order to defend it, there was a high tower at the Citadella entrance on the side facing the City, with a draw bridge.  In the first half of the sixteenth century the north front of the Citadella was reinforced with walls and towers designed by Leonardo da Vinci.