Lari is a town of 8,000, now in the district of Pisa. It is an ancient place, settled in Etruscan times. Its famous, never-taken fortress is first recorded in the 11th century, and soon after that it was the subject of battles between Pisa and Lucca. Toward the end of the 12th century it became the property of the Archbishops of Pisa. In 1230 they granted it to the Upezzinghi family, who had a terrific name besides lots of land and a violent reputation. The Florentines besieged it several times but never took in.
In 1406 Florence conquered Pisa and the surrounding region. They installed their regional governor at Lari, and the castle acquired the name by which it is still known, Castello dei Vicari.
The Florentines upgraded the interior space and had their artists decorate the governor's quarters. The governors were drawn from the elite of Florence, so the list of the castle's occupants is studded with Medicis, Peruzzis, Strozzis, and so on; the list of artists who worked here includes Andrea il giovane (1475-1548) and Giovanni della Robbia (1469-1529/30).
The Pisans, a stubborn lot, never accepted Florentine rule. Every time Pisa rebelled against Florence -- I would tell you how many times that was, but the problem seems too complicated for a straightforward list, so just trust me when I tell you it was a lot -- the Pisans attacked or besieged Lari. They had no more luck than the Floretines had, though, and the castle never fell to an attack.
Meanwhile a charming town grew up around the fortress, serving as market town for the region and supporting the governor's court. The core of the town still has its Renaissance form, and several Renaissance buildings remain.
These days the town has a modestly famous cherry festival, which looks just delightful.
So as the rain falls on Catonsville, I will imagine myself in Lari, walking the ancient steps of the never taken fortress, wandering the lovely streets, and tasting ripe cherries.