Antique walls already surrounded the city in the 12th, 13th and 14th century. Many times destroyed and reconstructed, they were replaced during the Medici era by the hexagonal walls that enclose the historic center to this day.
The construction was launched by Francesco I in 1574; the design is by Baldassare Lanci. The work was completed 19 years later under Ferdinando I. To provide the necessary workforce, convicts were sent from every prison in Tuscany, as ordered by special decree.
At each angle of the hexagonal structure stands a five-sided bastion, projecting outward in the shape of an arrow. The old citadel is protected by a second defensive wall, facing the inside of the city.
On top of the bastions stand the remains of the guards'"rooms". Galleries, storerooms, recesses of all kinds have maintained their original structure and give the Fortress, with its narrow stairways and floors with fishbone tiling, a strongly suggestive atmosphere of bygone times.
Until 1757 a ditch surrounded the outward part of the walls. Except for the few small and easily defensible doors, there were two main doors: one to the North - Porta Nuova - and one to the South - once Porta Reale, today Porta Vecchia.
Today the walls are a public garden.This latest transformation was the work Leopold II, who in 1855 ordered the demolition of some military towers and of the guards' quarters, giving the structure a less bellicose character. The guards' room known as casino delle palle, which was adorned with frescoes and had been preserved until the 20th century was destroyed during a bombing.
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