The Orsini Family

The Orsini Family

The Orsini counts seized power over the County of Pitigliano upon the death of the last Aldobrandeschi heir, Margherita, which occurred in 1613. The two families were united by the marriage between the daughter of Margherita Aldobrandeschi, Anastasia Montfort, and the Count Gentile Orsini, celebrated in 1293.

The history of the Orsini in Pitigliano is marked by violent clashes with the cities of Orvieto and Siena, which have always been enemies of the county of Pitigliano and the profound infighting of its family members over feudal power.

From the outset, the Orsini showed their strong will to regain the territories lost during the last period of government of Margherita Aldobrandeschi, fighting with all their strength during the 14th century to oppose the Republic of Siena. Despite the efforts of the Orsini troops, Siena managed however to conquer, in 1410, the city of Sovana, reducing the county to the cities of Sorano and Pitigliano.

The Orsini did not surrender and in 1431, Count Gentile Orsini led his troops to the conquest of Sovana, obtaining a great success that only lasted three years, in 1434, the Sienese succeeded in occupying Sovana again and killing Count Gentile Orsini.

The expansionist aims of Siena then headed towards Sorano but without success, the fortress was in fact impenetrable and the troops of Count Ildebrandino Orsini succeeded in defeating the Sienese in the battle of Filetta between 1454 and 1455.

With the election of Count Niccolò III Orsini, the fate of the county of Pitigliano rose and began a period of relative peace. Niccolò III Orsini was a skilled warrior and a great strategist, over the years he had been in the service of the Republic of Siena – while maintaining the ancient rivalry with the Sienese – fighting for the King of Naples and for the Medici family. He was chosen as supreme commander of the army of the Republic of Venice, fighting against the League of Cambrai composed of the troops of Pope Julius II, the French, the Spaniards, some noble families from central Italy and Emperor Maximilian of Hapsburg. The troops of Venice were defeated at Agnadello but Count Orsini was able to defend Padua and regain part of the Veneto in 1509 . Count Niccolò III Orsini was killed in 1510 in Vicenza and in his honour, a statue was erected inside the Church of Saints John and Paul, the remains of the count still rest today in the Church of Santo Stefano in Fiano Romano.

None of the successors of Niccolo III had his charisma or his abilities and already under the government of his son, Ludovico Orsini, the struggles against the Republic of Siena resumed. Pitigliano was again subjected to the Sienese and forced to pay a tribute. The Orsini counts that governed did not spare the population abuses and injustices and the common discontent resulted in a violent revolt in 1547, during which Count Gianfrancesco Orsini was forced to flee. In his place his son, Niccolo IV Orsini was suspected, among other things, of having fomented the popular uprising with the aim of removing his father.

Niccolò IV Orsini went to the countryside in a period of conflict between the Republic of Siena and the Emperor Charles V and took advantage of the moment to occupy the city of Sovana, in 1552. The dominion over Sovana lasted only a few years, in 1557, Sienese power had collapsed at the hands of the Medici of Florence and Cosimo I Medici claimed the city of Sovana and it was only thanks to the intervention of the pontiff that a new battle was avoided, Niccolo IV was granted Sovana again to the Florentines. Niccolò IV Orsini was never loved by the population, during his reign there was no lack of social injustices and internal conflicts between the members of the family, soon the population rose up, not without the support of the Florentines, exiled Niccolò IV Orsini and asked for the protection of Cosimo I Medici.

Thus began the slow rise to power of the Medici in the county of Pitigliano, the Orsini remained in power for some decades until the last exponent of the family, Gian Antonio Orsini, granted the Medici in 1604, the complete ownership of the Contea, in exchange for the Marquisate of Monte S. Savino and the extinguishing of all his debts.

Thus ended the Orsini government of Pitigliano, leaving room for the new Florentine power, which dominated on Pitigliano until 1737.