La Rocca has a square shape; on the corners there are towers and in the center there was a main tower (or male) with lanterns and a bell for signals.
There are no signs of rainwater collectors even if the fortress certainly had them. Under the hill there are two that were most probably used for the fortress.
The construction was equipped with merlons, drawbridges and ditches as can be seen from the drawings and prints by Sercambi, Warren, Gianchi, Mazzoni.
The building and the towers consist mainly of tuff. There were dungeons and other rooms used for this role. The towers changed names and denominations depending on whether the domain belonged to Lucca, Genoa or Florence. The complex also included a guard house, a forge and a stable. The Rocca was accessed through a large door. The keep was divided into three floors (low, medium, high); the one on the ground floor consisted of a large vaulted room supported by a pillar. The first floor was accessed via stairs: here there were three rooms with windows to the east, to the west there was a fireplace. You went to the top floor with a stone and wood staircase. The keep also had the role of a pantry with foodstuffs, supplies, ammunition and also housed a tavern.
The first restoration dates back to 1384. Since 2017, the Rocca di Sala has been undergoing restoration to bring it back to its original state: 500,000 euros have been invested by the Province of Lucca.
In 1408 a noble residence was built inside the Rocca, Palazzo Guinigi, which hosted various important figures of the time: dukes, grand dukes and notables. Work on the building continued for several years, the roof was modified with chestnut wood and the loggia was paved. This palace came to be one of the most beautiful architectures of Versilia. Several letters testify to the beauty of the villa, its appearance, its characteristics and the pleasure of staying in it.
It housed various rooms: the study, the “cambora”, the kitchen, a small room, a large hall, a sacristy, a chapel, a pantry with oil, an oven and other rooms. In the courtyard of the structure there was a cistern for rainwater. In 1523 some changes were made to the rooms reserved for soldiers.
In 1408, as soon as it was built, it hosted Ladislao, king of Naples, and his wife Ilaria of Cyprus. In 1437 Nicola di Gio was castellan for the Republic of Genoa, in 1459 Iacopo de Axereto and in 1484, after having been at the center of the battles between Florence and Genoa, he definitively passed to Florence which dedicated itself to the restructuring and restoration, not only of the Rocca and the walls, but also of the palace. To trace the appearance of the building and the fortress, we can refer to the numerous drawings and prints of the time conserved in the State Archives of Lucca and in the State Archives of Genoa. From these documents it can be seen that the big difference between the fourteenth-century complex and that of the fifteenth century is Palazzo Guinigi.
In 1494 Charles VIII lodged in this place and then Mons. Marco Antonio di Beaumont stayed here who had come to Pietrasanta to bring aid to the Florentines (15,000 men) in the war against Pisa. Then Pandolfo Acciaiuoli, a Florentine nobleman, and Carlo Dei stayed at the Villa, as well as all those who had to view the works for the fortification carried out in those years. In the year 1529, however, we know from some testimonies, this place was already in a state of complete abandonment as described in a letter from Giannozzo Capponi: the building almost looked like a ruin.
In 1535 Francesco del fu Gio Guidetti dei Rucellai was castellan.
In 1536, Charles V stopped at the palace after returning from the Tunis enterprise, and in June 1538 six cardinals accompanied Pope Paul III were guests.
The Pope then stopped at Villa Guinigi on other occasions as well, such as on his return from a trip to Nice where he had gone to carry out some negotiations. Cosimo I, during his mandate, had the opportunity to stop here to check the works in the iron and copper mines and to follow the phases of marble extraction. It was during this stay that he signed the decree that gave Benvenuto Cellini, the great Florentine sculptor and goldsmith, the house in Via del Rosario in the Tuscan capital so that he could finish what is now recognized as his masterpiece: the Perseus.
Certainly Cosimo I stayed here in 1542, in November 1551 and in the spring of 1560, 1561 and 1562.
In 1552 Pietro da Volterra, Captain Borghese and Girolamo Albizzi were castellans who carried out works not only on the Villa but also on the walls, arranging the drawbridges, the wooden doors and the towers. Starting in 1954, there was fear of a possible invasion by the Turks with the consequent fortification of the entire city wall, the Rocca and the Rocchetta. In 1607, under the guardianship of the castellan Aurelio Lante (information obtained from his tombstone located in the Church of San Francesco in Pisa), the roof was rebuilt.
In this period the building housed a large room on the ground floor containing the cannons, with old-fashioned windows, equipped with marble columns, and the floor was made of bricks. Then there was a second large room that served as a corridor, a room on the east side and a sort of basement that was used to contain the rubbish. On the west side there were three rooms.
All the floors were in terracotta which allowed the heat from the fireplaces to be retained and acted as insulation in winter. The wooden ceiling was made up of beams and arches. In the 1496 inventory a loggia is described, equipped with paneled windows and with small marble columns with a capital base. Outside Palazzo Guinigi had a small paved square that included the entire facade; there were several pools for collecting water, some covered with marble, and a rather deep well equipped with four small windows that had the purpose of collecting the water.
The tanks had a truly remarkable size for the time: the so-called “booty” had a diameter of 11.65 meters. Outside, on the west side, a staircase with 26 stone steps led to the first floor. At the entrance there was a bell and a corridor, from here a door led to a small room where it was possible to change clothes, from another one passed directly into the living room.
The latter had five large windows overlooking the garden and on the opposite wall were represented four emblems of commanders.
From this room there was access to a small triangular chapel whose state was however already bad in 1496; there was a small marble altar set with a stone and some pictorial representations of saints in bad condition.
On the west side of the hall there was access to a bedroom and a living room with large windows that allowed the entry of light. From the western room one then moved on to a room used as a pantry, with a window facing north. The living room communicated with four rooms, the kitchen had a small pantry also with a window and a large stone oven. Inside the complex there was a garden with citrus trees inside which there was a stone house that collected the water and distributed it inside the tanks. The palace and the courtyard were protected by the guards: in fact, their lodgings were located on the front side. If one compares Warren’s plan of 1749 and Mazzoni’s plan of 1784, it can be deduced that the building was partially demolished due to its dilapidation.
Today only a very small part remains in a state of complete abandonment. It is still possible to identify the arches of the portico, the water leaf capitals, the pillars and the vault.
The Rocca di Sala was probably built by the Longobards to defend the small village of Sala, located along the ancient Via Francigena, which in the XIII century, at the foundation of Pietrasanta, will be joined together with its fortress to the newborn Versilia town.
In 1324 the Rocca (called Rocca Superiore or also Rocca Ghibellina) was strengthened by Castruccio Castracani, Lord of Lucca, to fortify the Lucca stronghold of Pietrasanta. For the same purpose, Castruccio also had the Rocchetta Arrighina built downstream.
According to the Narrative of Pietrasanta, the Rocca was instead started by Arrigo Castracani degli Antelminelli, son of Castruccio Castracani.
Confirming this, there are two plaques above the tuff door of the fortress bearing the coat of arms of the Castracani family and the Imperial eagle. The work on the fortresses was completed by 1329.
The fortified complex is square in shape, with corner towers and a four-storey central keep, with a bell and lanterns for signals placed on its top.
The entire structure of the fortress was surrounded by a moat equipped with drawbridges; its front side facing the sea and Pietrasanta was fortified by a further enclosure wall defended by three other towers, which housed the entrance door to the entire defensive complex.
In 1408 Paolo Guinigi, leaning against the Rocca, had one of the most beautiful palaces built in Versilia. Numerous famous personalities will be guests: in addition to Paolo Guinigi (1408), the King of Naples Ladislao and his wife Ilaria da Cipro (1409), Charles V (1536), Pope Paul III (1538), while in the central keep, in the previous century, the Emperor Charles IV of Bohemia and his wife had stayed.
From the Republic of Lucca to Florence
From 1400 to 1428 Pietrasanta lived rather peaceful years under Paolo Guinigi, lord of Lucca.
In 1430 Lucca was at war against Florence and was forced to ask for help from Genoa: the pact provided that, if within three years the inhabitants of Lucca did not return the sum of 15,000 gold florins, Pietrasanta and the Port of Motrone would enter into possession of in Genoa.
At the end of the three years there was an uprising by the Pietrasantini who no longer wanted to be part of Lucca; after years of conflicts and numerous rebellions they passed autonomously under the Republic of Genoa in 1437.
Florence conquered Pietrasanta at the end of 1484.
From this moment began a series of fortification works on the Rocca which was the most difficult part of Pietrasanta to conquer, in fact the Florentines themselves had managed to obtain it during the war as the soldiers and notables who had retired there surrendered, opening the doors . A series of letters between the Dieci di Balia, magistrate of Florence, and Ristoro d’Antonio di Salvestro Serristori, a Florentine prior who lived in Pietrasanta, bears witness to how important the Rocca was considered for the defense of the city and the territory.
From these exchanges of letters we also obtain information on the conditions of the fortification which did not appear to be particularly damaged after the war.
The official works began on 1 May 1485 and were entrusted to Francesco di Giovanni di Francesco known as Francione and Francesco d’Agnolo known as La Cieccha. These two Florentine masters had already had the task of restructuring various walls; La Cieccha had also participated in the conquest of Pietrasanta.
The Florentines wanted to make Pietrasanta a fortress worthy of the Republic. For the walls they tried to unite the old ones with the new ones, fortifying them. Francione and Checca were well paid but they had the burden of finishing the job within a year, otherwise they would have had to pay a fine of 300 large gold florins. The Rocca was completed in time. Workers from Florence and from near and far countries contributed to the work: stonemasons, carriers, unskilled workers and trowel masters. The most precise information on those who contributed to these works are deposited in the Opera di S. Maria del Fiore but they remained submerged by the 1966 flood and therefore cannot be consulted yet. Francione complained to the Ten of delays and of not being able to keep all the workers, which caused some delays in the works. The Rocca of those years therefore hosted a large number of workers and also their animals. The towers were modified according to new designs, giving them a round shape, more in keeping with the military progress made at the time and the new assault techniques.
During the First Italian War in 1494 Pietrasanta was handed over to the King of France Charles VIII by Piero de’ Medici, son of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Subsequently the city and its fortress were resold to the Luccans for the sum of 29,000 gold ducats (a figure that fluctuates slightly depending on the sources and documents) by the Duke of Antragos, governor in Italy for the King of France.
In the following period the city had different masters. Finally in 1513, with the award of Pope Leo X who had been in charge of resolving the disputes between Lucca and Florence, the territory was assigned to the latter. It was a serene period for this territory, the iron and copper mines and the marble quarries were reopened by Michelangelo Buonarroti. Furthermore, huge reclamation works were also carried out on the coast thanks to Cosimo I dei Medici.
In 1778 it was sold, given that it was no longer needed from a military point of view, by order of Leopoldo to the gentlemen cav. Andrea and Gio. di Dio Luccetti, of Pietrasanta, for 950 scudi.