The Brolio Castle Armory: War and hunting treasures through the centuries

From March 15, the Castle of Brolio will reopen for visits and its Museum in the inner courtyard, although small, holds one of the most fascinating and significant treasures of the Ricasoli family’s historical and cultural heritage: the Armory. In a journey through the centuries, the treasures contained in this room with its fascinating Gothic decorations reveal not only the craftsmanship of its creators, but also the heroic deeds and traditions of a family that played a leading role in the history of Tuscany and Italy.

The Ricasoli lineage is, in fact, very ancient, with some historians considering the founder to be Jeremiah, mentioned in a papal bull from the Lombard era (1076). The Ricasolis were certainly already barons at that time, the same time they settled in Brolio and built a castle to defend the Florentine Republic against Siena. It was a military, aristocratic family that participated in the turbulent regional wars until the establishment of the Medici State, which it then faithfully served, just as it did later in the 19th century for the unified Italian state.

In Italy, only the ruling families – the Farnese-Bourbon, Savoy, Medici and Este – have a dynastic armory, as well as the Count Trapp family, of Austrian origin, once governors of the Tyrol, which has a small family arms collection in the ancestral castle of Churburg (Churburg) in the Vinschgau. Such a rich private arms collection is unique, so much so that it has recently been the focus of the attention of Florentine art historian, Mario Scalini, who has highlighted its most striking pieces.

Prominent among them is a fourteenth-century knife, a unique weapon dating back to a time of intense regional strife and warfare. About fifty centimeters long, the handle is finely decorated using an ancient technique of Chinese origin, known as agèmina, evidence of the craftsmanship of the time. It is believed to have belonged to Bindaccio Ricasoli, a valiant 14th-century captain who fortified Brolio, making it impregnable.

Equally fascinating is the fourteenth-century “basin,” a helmet that displays remarkable steelwork and shows signs of prolonged use and subsequent restoration. The presence of microholes along the edge of the plate suggests an inner lining, perhaps to provide additional protection during combat. This piece was also probably worn by Bindaccio Ricasoli during his military exploits. After its long primary use, it was converted into a bucket, and it is this “civilian” use that has left very visible marks on the helmet, even more so than its use in war.

Prominent among the hunting weapons is a rare and valuable 15th-century powder flask, probably of German origin, made from a buffalo horn and adorned with Gothic details. This recently restored artifact represents an exceptional piece of firearms history as it is the oldest known de facto powder flask. Another noteworthy piece is the seventeenth century blunderbuss with the inscription “Acqua Fresca“, the work of the famous workshop that bore this name. This weapon of excellent quality, mounted in silver and bronze, testifies to the craftsmanship of the time as well as to the historical importance of the Ricasoli family. Also notable is the extensive collection of nineteenth-century military rifles, sabers, and other armaments collected as trophies during the Ricasolis’ military campaigns of the time.

The Brolio Castle Armory is a valuable treasure chest of history and tradition, where every piece on display tells a story of courage and skill. Its reopening to the public offers both young and old alike a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of the art of war and hunting through the ages.

After visiting the Castle and tasting the Ricasoli wines included in so many of our Tours, for those who want to pause and enjoy an unmissable gastronomic treat, Chef Franco Sangiacomo’s kitchen at Osteria di Brolio also reopens on March 22, and for those who want to stay a little longer, the accommodation options in Brolio (Villa Agresto, Agriroom and Capanna Citerna) also reopen at that time.

We’ll be expecting you!