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Biographical notes on War Captains and Mercenary Leaders operating in Italy between 1330 and 1550

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Vitellozzo Vitelli: Military Innovator and Leader of the Renaissance

Italian CondottieriVitellozzo Vitelli: Military Innovator and Leader of the Renaissance

A man of action, Vitellozzo Vitelli was energetic, driven by a furious passion, and possessed a terrifying capacity for anger, hatred, and violence. He was the first commander in Italy to systematically arm his infantry companies with pikes, halberds, iron breastplates, and helmets, and to lead them into battle in a compact, Swiss-style "square" formation. This approach was then little known among the militias of the Italian states. He fell victim to his rebellion against Duke Valentino (Cesare Borgia). He was distinguished by his hatred towards the Florentines, stemming from their killing of his brother Paolo Vitelli.

Indice delle Signorie dei Condottieri: ABCDEFGIJLMNOPQRSTUVZ

Vitellozzo Vitelli: A Tale of Power, Rebellion, and Tragedy

Vitellozzo Vitelli (Niccolò Vitelli), also known as Vitellozzo, was from Città di Castello and held the titles of Count of Montone and Lord of Città di Castello, Monterchi, and Anghiari. He was the son of Niccolò Vitelli; brother to Paolo Vitelli, Giulio Vitelli, Giovanni Vitelli, Camillo Vitelli; brother-in-law to Oliverotto da Fermo and Camillo Orsini, and son-in-law to Paolo Orsini.

Born: 1458, ca.
Death: 1502, December

Year, monthState, Comp. venturaOpponentConductActivity AreaActions taken and other salient facts
MayChurchVeniceHe served in the companies of Virginio Orsini.
SummerCittà di CastelloExilesUmbriaHe captured the castle of Promano.
Jan.TuscanyHe participated in Florence in a grand joust organized by Piero de’ Medici. Also present were Rinieri della Sassetta, Ludovico da Marciano, Simonetto Baglioni, and Renzo di Ceri.
Jan.UmbriaAlong with his brothers Camillo Vitelli and Paolo Vitelli, and the Ghibellines led by Vittorio di Canale, he took advantage of the state of confusion in Umbria to devastate the countryside of Todi and sack the castle of Fiore, where men, women, and children were killed during the attack. He remained in that territory for about a month.
JuneFranceMilanLiguriaAlongside his brothers Camillo Vitelli and Paolo Vitelli, he led a force against Genoa, comprising 200 lances and 200 light cavalry. They reached as far as Chiavari to provide aid to Rapallo; however, when the city was captured by the opponents, they were attacked by a large number of mountain dwellers who cut off the Vitelli’s retreat routes. He positioned himself at the vanguard; his brother Paolo took the rear guard to prevent their forces from being encircled by the opponents. At Monte Bracco, after fierce fighting, they overcame the resistance of their adversaries.
JulyPisaFlorenceTuscanyHe entered the territory of Lucca and went to Pisa with his brothers Paolo Vitelli and Camillo Vitelli, commanding 190 lances and 100 mounted crossbowmen and stradiots. He switched to the payroll of the Pisans to counter the Florentines; he moved into the Val di Serchio and to Settimo; he positioned himself in defense of Vicopisano and repelled an attack there by Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino. The Duke was forced to retreat to Albareto due to the artillery fire and sorties by the defenders.
Sept.FlorencePisaTuscanyThe Florentines made an agreement with the King of France, and Paolo Vitelli and Vitellozzo Vitelli were enlisted under their command against the Pisans. Vitellozzo captured the fortress of Stampace, which faces the gate leading to the sea, and entered the borough of San Marco. The Pisans retreated, fortifying themselves on the old bridge. Contrary to the Florentines’ hopes, the French castellan of the citadel did not assist the attackers but instead ordered the firing on the borough where they were encamped. Vitellozzo was injured by a stone. The Florentine commissioner Francesco Valori decided to retreat.
………TuscanyHe again attacked Pisa, this time alongside Ranuccio da Marciano, his brother Paolo Vitelli, and Francesco Secco.
………FranceIn Lyon, at the French court with Carlo Orsini and the Count of Montorio, Giovanni Antonio Carafa; together, they persuaded King Charles VIII to undertake a second campaign in the Kingdom of Naples.
Sept. – Oct.FlorenceEmpire, MilanTuscanyAfter the surrender of Atella, he left Provence and landed in Livorno with 1,000 infantry transported by a French fleet of seven large ships. Alongside Carlo Orsini, he took up the defense of the city, which was under attack by the troops of Emperor Maximilian of Austria. The two captains were able to repel the assault, forcing the opponents to retreat to their fleet anchored nearby.
Nov.OrsiniChurchTuscanyThe imperial forces lifted the siege of Livorno. Vitellozzo Vitelli then continued on to Umbria.
Jan.Comp. venturaSienaUmbria, Lazio, TuscanyVitellozzo Vitelli seized Citerna and gathered 200 men-at-arms and 1,800 Umbrian infantry in Città di Castello. He then entered Monteleone d’Orvieto to assist Bandino da Castel della Pieve; he took control of Ficulle and attempted to negotiate for Sala, subsequently positioning himself near Orvieto. The experience gained with the French enabled him to introduce innovations to his troops, including new methods for transporting artillery on carts similar to those used by the transalpines, which were more manageable than those used by Italians, as well as the lengthening of pikes (70 centimeters longer than those used by the Landsknechts), and training infantry to fight in square formations similar to the Swiss.
Vitellozzo Vitelli then moved towards Bracciano and joined Carlo Orsini at Soriano nel Cimino; they sacked Toscanella (Tuscania). Leading these troops, he attacked the papal forces between Soriano nel Cimino and Canepina: after an initially unfavorable cavalry clash, he deployed his Italian pikemen against 800 Landsknechts. His men annihilated the enemy square, and the papal cavalry was forced to retreat. In the battle, Guidobaldo da Montefeltro and Giampiero Gonzaga were captured; Muzio Colonna and Giovanni Borgia, Duke of Gandia, were wounded. The papal forces suffered over 500 casualties, either killed or captured.
Following this victory, Vitellozzo allied with Bartolomeo d’Alviano and then moved on Monterotondo. Pope Alexander VI was compelled to return the Orsini lands and release Paolo and Gian Giordano Orsini, albeit in exchange for a ransom of 50,000 ducats. Vitellozzo accepted these conditions under pressure from Consalvo di Cordoba and Prospero Colonna, and recognition of his lordship over Città di Castello was acknowledged.
During the same period, he was contacted by Sienese exiles to attack their city. He burst into the Sienese territory with many infantry and cavalry and attacked San Casciano dei Bagni, taking control of the area with the help of the exiles. Upon learning that a conspiracy had been discovered in Siena, he sacked San Casciano dei Bagni and retreated with the loot to Città di Castello.
Feb.LazioFrom Nepi, Vitellozzo Vitelli advanced towards Bolsena, where he encamped in the territory for four days.
JulyComp. venturaOrvietoUmbriaAt the end of the month, Vitellozzo Vitelli attacked the territory of Orvieto towards Meana and Castel Giorgio. He raided numerous horses.
Feb.Florence, FranceVitellozzo Vitelli and his brother Paolo Vitelli were contracted by the Florentines and the French, who granted them command of 200 lances and 200 light cavalry with a total net salary of 40,000 scudi. Should the King of France not accept this contract, a reduced salary of 36,000 scudi in times of war and 33,000 scudi in times of peace was stipulated.
MayFlorencePisa, VeniceTuscanyThe terms of the contract were altered to include 300 men-at-arms and 1,200 infantry; the salary was adjusted to 40,000 ducats for one year. Their primary opponents were the Pisans. Following the defeat suffered by Ranuccio da Marciano at San Regolo, his brother Paolo Vitelli was appointed by the Florentines as their General Captain.
JuneGeneral captain of infantryTuscanyAt the beginning of the month, he arrived from Montevarchi at Gaiole in Chianti. He was headed towards Pisa.
Sept. – Oct.TuscanyHe cut off the retreat of 200 light cavalry and many Pisan infantry who had attempted to capture the Dolorosa bastion above Vicopisano. He confronted the opponents above the Certosa di Calci, putting them to flight and inflicting heavy losses. In the skirmish, 3 constables were wounded, and 200 men, including infantry and crossbowmen, were captured. He besieged Ripafratta until, in October, he was forced to abandon the field due to the pains caused by syphilis.
Nov.TuscanyHe was in Pratovecchio with 2,000 infantry.
Dec.TuscanyAfter losing the bastion at Ponte a Stagno near Livorno, Vitellozzo Vitelli returned to the Pisan territory with numerous infantry, 400 light cavalry, and 100 lances; he passed through Vicopisano, Bientina, and Pontedera. He strengthened the defenses of Livorno and reclaimed its bastion at the expense of the Pisans; then he returned to the Casentino area, took control of the fortress of Banzena, and kept Alviano away from Pratovecchio. He then converged on Bibbiena with his brother Paolo Vitelli, Giampaolo Baglioni, and Gaspare da San Severino. He experienced a shortage of money in Poppi; from there, he moved to conquer Montefattucchio before the arrival of Venetian reinforcements. Mid-month, together with Abbot Basilio, abbot of San Felice in Piazza, he occupied Marciana, where they surprised 84 men-at-arms (including a nephew of Alviano) and 180 infantry.
Jan.Umbria, TuscanyIn Città di Castello, Vitellozzo Vitelli gathered 500 infantry and 200 sappers; he then returned to Pieve Santo Stefano, where the soldiers, to keep warm, destroyed the wooden houses of the locality.
Feb.TuscanyHe besieged Bibbiena with his brother Paolo Vitelli, Gaspare da San Severino, and Francesco da Montedoglio, commanding 4,000 infantry and 500 men-at-arms.
Apr.VitelliColonnaUmbriaHe confronted the Colonna and their partisans; he fought against Brandolino Valenti, whom his men captured during the capture of Castel Rubello. Around the same time, alongside his brother Paolo Vitelli, he supported the Sienese exiles Lucio Bellanti and Giacomo Buoninsegni, helping them to re-enter the city at the expense of Pandolfo Petrucci.
Aug. – Sept.FlorencePisaTuscanyHe directly attacked Pisa and captured the fortress of Stampace. His brother decided to retreat because he deemed further artillery preparation necessary and was tasked with enforcing order. Vitellozzo Vitelli positioned himself in front of the infantry and killed one soldier with his sword because he refused to obey.
Oct. – Nov.Tuscany, Umbria, LombardyHis brother was decapitated by the Florentines, accused of treason. The Florentine commissioners Braccio Martelli and Antonio Canigiani, along with the commanders Piero del Monte at Santa Maria and Pirro da Marciano, went to Vicopisano where Vitellozzo Vitelli was staying with the intention of capturing him in his pavilion at San Frediano a Settimo. The commander had claimed to be ill when previously requested to go to Cascina with his brother. Pretending to comply, he dressed and, with the help of his broken lances, including notable figures Antonio da Castello and Zitolo da Perugia, fled to Pisa followed by 150 cavalry and 100 infantry. He aimed to damage Livorno while the Pisans pressured him to go to Ripafratta and from there to raid in Val di Serchio. After a short time, he left Pisa to reach Città di Castello. He then headed to Milan to appeal to the King of France for vengeance for his brother’s death. In Lombardy, he entered the service of Cesare Borgia.
Dec.ChurchForlìRomagnaHe passed through Cesena with 300 cavalry and received 500 ducats. He then attacked Imola, which was defended by Taddeo della Volpe, alongside Onorio Savelli, Giampaolo Baglioni, and Zitolo da Perugia. He quickly induced Dionigi Naldi, who was besieged in the local castle, to surrender.
Jan.RomagnaHe besieged Caterina Sforza in the castle of Forlì. Along with Ivo d’Allègre and Achille Tiberti, he forced the bailiff of Dijon, Antonio di Baissay, to relinquish Caterina Sforza, who had been captured by him, in favor of Cesare Borgia.
Feb.Lazio, UmbriaHe entered Rome with Duke Valentino (Cesare Borgia) at the head of Italian mercenaries, Gascons, Germans, and Swiss troops. At the end of the month, he arrived in Orvieto with 200 cavalry and many infantry; he stopped at the inn of Giuliano del Tede and met there with Bishop Giorgio della Rovere, who provided for him and his men capons, chickens (boiled and roasted), kids, marzipan, cakes, wine, and bread.
…………VitelliFlorenceTuscanyHe attacked the Florentines at Anghiari.
MayChurchPesaroMarcheHe gathered his infantry in Città di Castello and moved against Pesaro.
June – JulyVitelli, PerugiaFlorence, BaglioniRomagna, Tuscany, UmbriaHe moved towards Rimini; in July, he pillaged the territory of Cortona and reached Pantalla. He was stationed in the area of Todi on the orders of the papal legate. At San Martino in Campo, he linked his troops with the supporters of Giampaolo Baglioni. He indeed assisted Baglioni in reclaiming Perugia from Carlo Baglioni and Girolamo dalla Penna: he entered the city following intense combat at a gate where 300 men were killed. He wreaked havoc in the Sant’Anna district. In gratitude for the assistance provided, he was granted citizenship of Perugia.
During the same period, he sent an emissary to Pisa to encourage the people to continue the conflict with the Florentines; he also sent a military engineer and four of his squad leaders, including Romeo da Pisa and Griso da Pisa, to defend the city.
Aug. – Sept.ChurchChiaravalle, ViterboUmbria, LazioAlongside Bartolomeo d’Alviano and Paolo Orsini, Vitellozzo Vitelli besieged the castle of Castellaro Lagusello, near Amelia. Acting on behalf of the Papal States, with 300 lances, 1,000 infantry, and many select troops (10,000 men in total), he laid siege to Acquasparta with Giampaolo Baglioni and Altobello di Canale. The location was conquered in September after four days of intense artillery fire and a general assault that lasted six hours. Altobello di Canale was placed on a butcher’s block and was hacked to pieces; some ate his flesh, others threw it into the fire; Girolamo di Canale was decapitated after having sustained ten wounds in the fight; other exiles from Todi, Terni, and Narni were similarly beheaded. Acquasparta was sacked, the castle was set on fire and demolished. Vitellozzo Vitelli acquired Monte Campano, destroyed half the castle, and set it on fire; he then encamped under Amelia. The Ghibellines paid 10,000 ducats to the Papal States.
He moved on to Celleno; he burst into Viterbo through the fortress gate with Baglioni and Paolo Orsini. It appeared he allowed political opponents, the Gatteschi and the Colonnese, to leave the city with their possessions; however, he actually blocked their exit and plundered the exiles. All houses in Viterbo, whether belonging to factional opponents or supporters of the Maganzesi, were looted by his troops: the booty taken to Città di Castello was valued at 50,000 ducats. In various clashes, 500 people were killed. In September, Vitellozzo traveled to Foligno with the Pope and the Borgia; by the end of the month, he was reported to be in Rome in Saint Peter’s Square for the review of his companies.
Oct.Umbria, MarcheMoney was scarce; he was allowed to recover it by looting the territory of Montefalco. He moved to the Marche region with his artillery: 4/5 cannons, one culverin, 2 sakers, 4/6 falconets, and other smaller caliber pieces. He stopped in the area of Fano. Meanwhile, the Spanish troops, also serving under Borgia, plundered Deruta, destroying everything they could lay their hands on.
Nov.ChurchFaenzaRomagnaAt the beginning of the month, he arrives in Cesena: his task is to oversee the artillery with 400 infantrymen from his companies and the Spaniards. He occupies Brisighella and the fortresses of the Val di Lamone with the help of Dionigi Naldi; he conquers the Gesso tower while Naldi sets fire to the houses of the Buosi and those of Castagnino from Castagneto; Vitellozzo Vitelli also seizes the fortress of Rontana, La Preda, and Torre di Ceparano. He heads to Imola and Forlì for a war council and a new review of his men. At Ronco, he ferries the artillery, reaches Meldola, and with 1000 infantrymen, lays siege to Faenza; serving under the papal banner are also other condottieri such as Giulio and Paolo Orsini, Dionigi Naldi, and Giampaolo Baglioni. He encamps on the eastern side of the city between the Lamone and the Marzano. He has some houses around the walls demolished to obtain a better line of fire for his artillery pieces. After a week of relentless cannonade, a tower collapses. At dawn, the soldiers push forward and throw themselves into the breach in a disordered action. Many of the assailants, including Onorio Savelli, are killed during the advance (about 400 dead on both sides are reported). Vitellozzo Vitelli, wounded in the clash, is forced to retreat after another 4 days due to the resistance encountered, and particularly due to the adverse weather conditions. All the trees and houses around Faenza have been cut down, so there is no shelter for the attackers. He conquers and pillages Oriolo (Oriolo dei Fichi), assaults Montemaggiore: the castellan Camperino d’Aireno makes a sortie in which 12 men from his companies are killed; even more are wounded. In retaliation, Vitellozzo orders all the houses of the village to be set on fire.
Dec.RomagnaHe approaches Faenza and reaches San Giuliano. There are no movements in the city in favor of the papal forces, so Borgia dispatches his troops to the winter camp.
Jan. – Apr.ChurchFaenza, BolognaRomagna, EmiliaHe resumes the siege of Faenza. He captures Solarolo with a brief artillery fire; he captures the castle’s bombardier and, before sending him back to Faenza, has one eye removed and a hand cut off; he enters Russi with 600 cavalry and 300 infantrymen. He continuously harasses the nearby lands belonging to the Most Serene Republic, so the Venetians refuse to supply him with the weapons he ordered from Brescia (March). His soldiers raid livestock in the Ravenna area and kill some peasants; in response to new complaints, Vitellozzo Vitelli hangs 2 raiders and sends others bound to the Podestà of Ravenna to administer justice. He immediately receives the ordered weapons. In April, Faenza surrenders: among the prisoners is also Bernardino da Marciano. Vitellozzo spares his life and has his weapons returned to him. He attacks the Bentivoglio, lords of Bologna; he captures the fortress of Castel San Pietro Terme, sacks the city, and captures two ambassadors of Giovanni Bentivoglio. He occupies Fiumicino and Castel Guelfo di Bologna: with the surrender of Castel Bolognese to the papal forces, he receives the order to halt his campaign.
May – JuneChurchFlorence, PiombinoEmilia, TuscanyHe enters Medicina, where he captures Pirro da Marciano, another brother of Ranuccio. He has him beheaded: the corpse is thrown, with a stone in place of the head, into the moat of the castle. He roams the Bolognese area up to Varignana-Palesio and the Idice. He now wages war against the Florentines to avenge the death of his brother Paolo Vitelli: it is said that to obtain this permission from Borgia, he pleaded on his knees. He encamps at Campi Bisenzio. He immediately secures the release of his brother’s chancellor, Cerbone del Monte, at Santa Maria. He operates under Malmantile and Empoli. He scours the adjacent territory, destroying wheat crops and cutting down trees and vineyards; everything is plundered; particularly, young girls and women are abducted and sent to the prostitution market of Rome. He gathers 8 pieces of artillery at Pisa; he besieges the castle of Pomarance near Volterra: he is repelled by the townspeople with the loss of the artillery used after a seven-hour assault. Recalled by Borgia, he besieges Jacopo d’Appiano in Piombino. In mid-June, he leaves the Piombino camp and moves to Pisa with 100 men-at-arms, 200 light cavalry, and 500 provisioned troops. He persuades the population again not to yield to the Florentines, thus causing some peace negotiations carried out by Benedetto Buonvia to fail.
JulyChurchNaples, PiombinoLazio, Abruzzo, Campania, Marche, TuscanyHe leaves Rome with Cesare Borgia and Giovanni Baglioni at the head of 400 infantry wearing the livery of the Duke Valentino, yellow and crimson, and 100 French lances. He supports the French in the Kingdom of Naples against the Aragonese. He enters L’Aquila with Girolamo Gaglioffi; he captures Ludovico Franchi, leaves the city, and only releases him after two of his sons are handed over as hostages to allow his retreat to Apulia; Muzio Colonna also abandons the defense of the city. In forced marches, he joins with Borgia near Capua. He besieges Fabrizio Colonna in the city; he breaks in during the surrender negotiations: the place is sacked. It is said that he has Ranuccio da Marciano killed by sprinkling poison on his wounds. He returns to L’Aquila and captures the Count of Montorio, whom he has taken to Città di Castello. He leaves the Kingdom of Naples with Oliverotto da Fermo to continue the operations of the siege of Piombino. He then moves to the territory of Camerino; the two commanders sack the castle of Casavecchia. The protests of Giulio Cesare da Varano prove futile.
Aug.Comp. venturaTerniLazio, UmbriaWith the people of Spoleto, he promotes a treaty to the detriment of the Ternans. In the Rieti area, he asks the inhabitants of the castle of Contigliano to provide provisions for his men; he approaches the walls and is injured by a stone thrown by a woman. His response is immediate and ends with the storming of the small castle, the killing of the woman, and 130 other people (of whom 127 are men). He reaches Terni where he is given 4000 ducats; he passes through Corbara, Sugano, and Porano (causing damages worth 1000 florins in that castle). From there, at the head of 500 horsemen and many infantry, he moves towards Bolsena and Acquapendente. In his passage, he demands provisions for his soldiers. At Acquapendente, he has a meeting with Piero dei Medici.
Sept.TuscanyAt the beginning of September, he encamps near Piombino, commanding 4000 men, both infantry and cavalry. There is no need for any assault. The defenders, due to a lack of provisions, surrender on the condition that no help arrives within twelve days. Vitellozzo takes possession of the entire territory. At the end of the month, he is reported to be in Scarperia alongside Michelotto Coreglia.
Dec.TuscanyIn Borgo San Sepolcro (Sansepolcro)
Jan.Emilia, RomagnaHe travels disguised as a crossbowman from Ferrara to Cesena.
Mar.TuscanyIn Massa with Giampaolo Baglioni. He is part of the entourage of Pope Alexander VI (Alessandro VI).
May – JuneChurchCamerino, FlorenceUmbria, Marche, TuscanyHe is appointed Count of Montone by the Pope. He lays siege to Giulio Cesare da Varano in Camerino with Oliverotto da Fermo and Francesco Orsini. The papal commissioner Niccolò Bonafede accuses their men of introducing grain into the city at high prices to the benefit of the besieged, a significant quantity amounting to 10,000 sacks. The three captains are all rebuked by the Pope in a brief. In the play of accusations, the commanders retort against Bonafede by writing to Alexander VI that the city would have already surrendered to hunger without the food aid arranged by the prelate.
Vitellozzo soon leaves the siege of Camerino with 3500 infantry; he arranges with some citizens of Arezzo to organize an uprising in that location. The Florentine commissioner Guglielmo dei Pazzi arrests two of his followers; Arezzo rises, and they are freed. In early June, Vitelli leaves Città di Castello; occupies Monterchi and camps at Colle di Val d’Elsa; passes through Scopetone; sends some men to the castle of Giovi, which immediately surrenders on terms; occupies Subbiano and other castles of the Casentino Arno. He advances under Arezzo. The inhabitants rebel against the Florentines. The symbol of the Municipality is changed: no longer the insignia of Florence but a “black horse without a bridle,” a symbol of strength, vigor, and freedom, previously used in black as a sign of mourning by Bishop Guido Tarlati at the death of Emperor Henry of Luxembourg at Buonconvento. The garrison withdraws promptly into the citadel and the fort.
He enters the city under the Medici banners with 120 lances, 1000 mounted arquebusiers, and many infantry, totaling 3500 men. He captures Guglielmo dei Pazzi and the captain of Arezzo Alessandro Galilei; artillery reinforcements, pulled by oxen, and aid sent by Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici and Piero de’ Medici (100 horses and 300 infantry) arrive to support him. He joins forces with his men, also Fabio Orsini and Baglioni. With these forces, he camps outside the Porta di San Clemente facing Quarata. He levels the surrounding ground and orders the destruction of crops and grains nearby. He demands the city’s fortress surrender within two days. He sends detachments to the hill of San Fabiano to monitor the road leading to Anghiari. He bombards the citadel after receiving 9 sacks of iron balls and gunpowder from Siena. Determined to exact revenge on his brother’s enemies, he captures Bernardino Tondinelli, former chancellor of Ranuccio da Marciano, and has him killed along with all his sons; he has Bishop Giacomo dei Pazzi beheaded for not opposing his brother’s death sentence earlier; a soldier guilty of harvesting wheat against his orders is also hanged at the Porta di San Clemente.
During the siege, his brother Giulio leaves Arezzo, taking with him the city bells and part of the goods from the Monte di Pietà against the ransoms imposed on the inhabitants. He heads towards Florence with 800 horses and 3000 infantry: with Baglioni, he confronts the commissioner Antonio Giacomini. He stops at Petrognano, on the left bank of the Arno, facing the enemy camp at Castelluccio al Borro (Castelluccio). Blocking the Florentines, he returns to Arezzo, moves the artillery from San Clemente, and places them on 3 bastions of gabions facing the fortress from the side of Porta Calcitrone. The fourteenth-century walls are not suitable to withstand artillery fire. On the same day, a breach is opened, and the fortress is stormed after just one day of siege. Immediately after, with Baglioni, he turns against the castle of Quarata. The 200 infantry of the garrison flee and are almost all captured at Ponte a Buriano. A soldier manages to escape capture and informs Giacomini, still at Castelluccio al Borro. The Florentines retreat to Montevarchi.
JulyTuscanyHe now targets Cortona and the Val di Chiana. With Giampaolo Baglioni, he unexpectedly occupies Anghiari; descending from the way of Santa Fiora, he reaches Sansepolcro, which is sacked. He gains control of Monte San Savino, Castiglion Fiorentino, Pieve Santo Stefano, and Cortona (on terms); he reaches Rassina and there hangs the local constable who, at one time, had served under his orders; he demands the surrender of Poppi. Meanwhile, Antonio Giacomini, aided by 200 French lances under Lancre, leaves Laterina and confronts them at San Giovanni Valdarno and Montevarchi where Vitellozzo Vitelli has moved with Baglioni. At Castiglion Fibocchi, he sends out the heavy cavalry divided into two detached squadrons of 300 men each; the intervening space is covered by a larger squadron of arquebusiers and mounted crossbowmen (400 men) who are to move up to a predetermined point, discharge their weapons, and return in good order to the right and left, leaving the ground open for the teams at the sides of the field with lances and bladed weapons. The Florentines and French, the latter commanded by Lamière, disoriented by the new tactic, retreat towards Laterina after suffering significant losses. Vitellozzo fortifies at Ponte a Buriano facing the castle of Rondine; heads into the Casentino to force the enemy into battle. He sends 30 horses and 80 infantry to the commissioner of Arezzo, Nerone da Pantameo, who seizes the castle of Battifolle. In the massacre that follows, only the children and women are left alive. The village is set ablaze; goods not subject to looting are destroyed. With the arrival of additional French reinforcements for the Florentines (another 200 lances led by Imbault Rivoire), Vitellozzo withdraws from the Monti della Verna and returns to Rondine. Meanwhile, Borgia, urged by the King of France with whom he had met in Pavia, receives a large sum from the Florentines and orders both Vitellozzo and Baglioni to abandon the Arezzo enterprise and return the occupied locations to the Florentines. Vitelli meets in Sinalunga with Piero and Giovanni dei Medici and Pandolfo Petrucci to decide on further actions. Baglioni and Petrucci persuade the others to yield; even Vitelli, with news of Lancre’s imminent arrival, must follow suit; mid-month he enters Arezzo. The Florentines under Antonio Giacomini camp at Laterina; the French under Lancre at Montevarchi, and those under Imbault Rivoire at San Giovanni and Terranuova Bracciolini. Vitellozzo strengthens the city walls and the hill of the old cathedral; employs 600 engineers to demolish all houses within a mile radius of the city walls. The Arezzo people declare him lord of Monterchi and Anghiari to win his favor; he quickly realizes the gravity of the situation and the impossibility of any resistance; thus induces the inhabitants to surrender to the French. He meets with Imbault Rivoire coming from Laterina; Lancre formally asks the Florentines for forgiveness for the Arezzo people involved in the rebellion. Imbault Rivoire, without letting Antonio Giacomini know, goes to Arezzo at night and capitulates with the opposing forces. Vitellozzo, Baglioni, and Piero dei Medici hand over to the French the territories they control; Vitelli must give a nephew as hostage to the French, and Baglioni a son. At the end of the month, Vitelli leaves Arezzo through the Porta di Calcitrone, the same gate through which he entered the previous month, with several companies of infantry, the carriages, and the cannons (4 passavolanti and all the city’s artillery pieces, vainly claimed by the Florentines, are instead taken to Città di Castello). The rest of the army exits through the Porta di Santo Spirito. Imbault Rivoire enters Arezzo at the head of 40 archers.
Aug.Umbria, TuscanyHe grows increasingly suspicious of Borgia; he retreats to Città di Castello where he falls ill with quartan fever. He prevents the French and Florentines, who have descended into disorder, from raiding in the Tiber Valley; in an ambush, he slaughters a company of 300 Gascon infantry. He stops in Cortona. Back in Città di Castello.
Sept.ChurchCamerinoMarche, UmbriaHe seizes Camerino from Giulio Cesare da Varano. Increasingly fearful for his possessions, he participates in a plot against Cesare Borgia; he stays in Città di Castello under the pretext of suffering from syphilis.
Oct.CondottieriChurchUmbria, MarcheRavaged by syphilis, he travels by litter to the meeting at Magione where he meets with other conspirators (the Orsini, Giampaolo Baglioni, Oliverotto da Fermo, Ermes Bentivoglio representing his family, Ottaviano Fregoso on behalf of Guidobaldo da Montefeltro, Guido Pecci, and Antonio da Venafro for the lord of Siena Pandolfo Petrucci). They decide to wage war against Duke Valentino. With other members of his family, he enters Città di Castello ceremoniously, preceded by a golden calf. He leaves the area to focus on Urbino; he provides his artillery to Guidobaldo da Montefeltro to help him recapture the towns of Cagli, Pergola, and Fossombrone. He takes Sant’Angelo in Vado and reaches Urbino still suffering from syphilis: there, he has several Borgia officials captured in the area hanged. Along with Paolo and Francesco Orsini, he defeats the opposing troops led by Ugo di Cardona (captured) and Coreglia at Calmazzo; he inflicts a loss of 500 men on the papal forces. He takes Fossombrone on terms, entering with 500 lances, 500 light cavalry, and 1000 infantry: 40 soldiers leave with many mules, escorted by his troops. As soon as they leave the Urbino area (enjoying a safe conduct for crossing this territory), they are attacked by the infantry of Oliverotto da Fermo who rob them of their possessions. Vitellozzo heads towards Pesaro with Francesco Orsini and Baglioni; descends on Fano, conquering several castles including Mombaroccio. Meanwhile, negotiations begin to switch directly to the French payroll on the basis of a salary of 18,000 francs and the command of 100 lances. He returns to Città di Castello to treat his ailment.
Nov.Romagna, MarcheHe plunders the Rimini area; on one hand, he distrustfully accepts the treaty concluded by Paolo Orsini with Cesare Borgia, and on the other, he assists Montefeltro in regaining the Duchy of Urbino; he also sends all the cattle looted from the territories of Pesaro, Fano, and Senigallia to Città di Castello. In Cesena.
Dec.MarcheUnder further pressure from Paolo Orsini, he signs with other commanders the peace agreement with Cesare Borgia. From Fano, he heads to Camerino, forcing Giovanni Maria da Varano, who had recently returned to the area, to flee; he abandons Montefeltro, at least in part, because he protects him in Città di Castello from the machinations of the papal forces; he occupies Senigallia, which is defended by Andrea Doria. Along with Paolo Orsini, Francesco Orsini, and Oliverotto da Fermo, he invites Cesare Borgia to leave Pesaro and move to Senigallia to take possession of the city, as Andrea Doria wishes to surrender in person only into his hands. He mounts a mule and wears a cloak with a green hem; he presents himself unarmed at the meeting with Duke Valentino; the two embrace; on the last evening of the year, while away from his men, he is arrested along with Oliverotto da Fermo. He draws his sword and wounds one of the assailants while Oliverotto da Fermo attempts to kill himself with a dagger. After a fierce struggle, the two commanders are tied back-to-back on a single bench in the church of San Martino. Both are strangled by Michelotto Coreglia and Marco Romano with a violone string. They die (it is said) both without dignity: with one blaming all his faults on the other and Vitellozzo Vitelli begging for mercy and the absolution of his sins from the pope. Their bodies are displayed in the square of Senigallia for three days before being buried in the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia.
Portraits of Vitellozzo Vitelli are found in the Luca Signorelli portrait (Florence, Settignano, Berenson Foundation); and in the Vitelli Palace in Città di Castello with Giampaolo Baglioni, Oliverotto da Fermo, and Paolo Orsini. The character of Vitellozzo, along with those of Oliverotto da Fermo, Fabio Orsini, and Michelotto Coreglia, has been included in the video game “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood”, produced by Ubisoft. He marries Porzia Orsini, daughter of Paolo and sister of Camillo.


-“L’iconografia che lo riguarda ci offre l’immagine di un tipo nerboruto e sanguigno, dai grossi occhi sporgenti. L’apparente placidezza della faccia massiccia farebbe pensare a un umanista dall’umore contemplativo. Era invece un uomo d’azione dotato di una ribollente energia, acceso da furibonde passioni e da una spaventosa capacità d’ira, di odio, di violenza. Specialmente di odio. Lo si era visto un giorno buttarsi in ginocchio dinanzi al Valentino, con occhi grondanti di lacrime, per supplicarlo a mani giunte di consentirgli la vendetta contro i Fiorentini. La sifilide da cui era affetto esasperava questa sua torbidezza d’istinti, trascinandolo talvolta a gesti d’insana brutalità.” FUSERO

-“Arditisimo giovane e capitano di gagliardi cavalieri.” CONTI

-“Se Vitellozzo somigliò suo padre (Niccolò) fu troppo crudele, che venendogli innanzi un fanciullo della parte contraria (della famiglia dei Fucci), mandato dalla sua madre, e gittandosi ginocchioni chiedendo perdonanza e misericordia, si cavò da lato un coltello e ammazzollo di sua mano: e arse le torri piene di donne e di famigli e molte gienti colla roba, che non vi campò niente vivi, con grandissime urla e strida. E questo suo figliuolo imparò da suo padre, che non à uno temuto Iddio, ànno mandato accattando le centinaia di contadini per vendicare le loro passioni, e sonsi vendicati con chi non à fatto loro male veruno, come uomini vili che non temono la mano del Signore, né conoscono come ella è grande, e come è presso a loro.” LANDUCCI

-“Prode ed eccellente guerriero.” BONAZZI

-“Era lo più valent’homo che fusse in quello tempo.” TEDALLINI

-“Guidava.. squadre e compagnie di soldati di grandissimo valore .. Fu Vitellozzo il primo, ch’ordinò in Italia la ordinanza di fanteria secondo la disciplina Tedesca de’ suoi castellani, a’ quali a imitatione de gli stranieri, diede et picche, et alabarde, et pettorali di ferro, et celate: et ordinò loro che imparassero a correre serrati insieme in battaglia, fare alto, ritornare et correre a chiocciola, senza guastar punto l’ordinanza.” GIOVIO

-“Fu egli il primo in Italia che ordinasse bene la fanteria, la quale armò di celate e pettorali di ferro, e con picche e alabarde: ammaestrolla anche senza intrico veruno a correr serrata insieme, e far ‘alto e la biscia (movimenti di fanteria) e tornare indietro. Era Vitellozzo grande e assai forte, di volto bianco, d’occhi e capelli castagnicci.” ROSCIO

-“Bellator ea tempestate maxime insignis.” A.M. GRAZIANI

-“Era uomo grande nelle cose di guerra, guidò sempre squadre di gran valore, ed era stato il primo che avesse accostumato le fanterie italiane a presentarsi serrate in battaglia. Egli le aveva armate con celate e pettorali di ferro, con picche ed alabarde.” LITTA

-“Capitano di buona fama.” BOSI

-“Di spirito non inferiore (a Giampaolo Baglioni) e di valore.” VERMIGLIOLI

-“Un des meilleurs condottieri de l’époque.” BRION

-“Numque Vitellotius clara de stirpe Tipherni,/ Agmina mirando robore ductor agens.” Da un poema di F. Panfili riportato dal COLUCCI

-Con Carlo Orsini “Très braves et vaillans capitaines.” BRANTOME

-Con Bartolomeo d’Alviano “Uomini veramente eccellenti in tal mestiero.” G.G. ROSSI

-Con Giampaolo Baglioni, Paolo Orsini e Bartolomeo da Capranica “Tutti capitani di buon nome.” ALVISI

-Commento per l’azione di Cesare Borgia “Né molto tempo perdé nel condurli,/ Che il traditor di Fermo, e Vitellozzo,/ E quello Orsin che tanto amici furli,/ Nelle sue insidie presto dier di cozzo/ Dove l’Orso lasciò più di una zampa,/ Ed al vitel fu l’altro corno mozzo.” MACHIAVELLI

-In azione contro i fiorentini “Mo Vitellozzo a sua gente superba/sendo contro di voi di sdegno pieno,/per la ferita del fratello acerba,/al Cavallo sfrenato ruppe ‘l freno/per tradimento, e Valdichiana tutta/vi tolse e l’altre terre in un baleno.” Da “I Decennali” MACHIAVELLI 

-“De tout ce groupe (i condottieri ribelli) il est seul homme qui mérite quelque respect et quelque pitié, victime qu’il fut de son sentiment du devoir vers sa famille, poussé à la rébellion et à l’infidélité envers Valentinois par un désir ardent de venger sur les Florentins la mort de son frère.” SABATINI

-“Era Vitellozzo grande, e di volto bianco: e d’occhi, e capelli neri. Fu egli il primo in Italia, che ordinasse bene la fanteria, la quale armò di celate, e pettorali di ferro, con picche, e alabarde: ammaestrolla anche senza intrico veruno a correr serrata insieme, e a far alto, e la biscia, e ritornare indietro.” CAPRIOLO

-“One of Italy’s foremost artillery experts.” MALLETT

-“Abilissimo condottiero al soldo del Borgia.” MARELLI

-“Era un condottiero di grande esperienza maturata con l’esercito svizzero dove aveva imparato delle tattiche poi da lui stesso sviluppate, sconosciute ai condottieri di allora come quella disposizione particolare delle truppe “a quadrati”, quasi impenetrabili.” FERRINI

-“Arma di sdegno il generoso seno,/Ne patisce il valor di Vitellozzo,/Ch’Italia rubi o le dia legge e freno/Un Valentin di sangue avido e sozzo;/ rompe i suoi campi e tien l’orgoglio a freno,/E rende ogni suo sforzo irrito e mozzo,/Vince co’ suoi picchier, vince con l’arte/Come convien d’un generoso Marte./Cede a l’inganno alfin tradito e..;/Anzi no, che il prevede; indi procura/Ch’altri ‘l conosce; e dal comun errore/S’ei pur alfin non si sottragge e fura,/Ful per mostrar che nel suo nobil core/Men d’ogni affetto uman può la paura./Oh! gran danno d’Italia, e perde e spande/Per la pubblica causa alma sì grande.” Guelfucci riportato da FABRETTI 

-“Nelle cose di guerra ebbe fama di grande: avvezzo a capitanare uomini forti e valorosi, primo entrava nella mischia, non uscivane se non vincente: le sue fanterie, coperte di celate e pettorali di ferro e armate di picche e di alabarde, addirizzava serrate e strette in faccia all’inimico. Visse in tempi tristissimi, imperocché gli italiani allora avevan visto le armi di Francia trascorrere da un capo all’altro il bel paese, e adesso guardavano un Alessandro VI in Roma e un Cesare Borgia arbitro degli stati papali. FABRETTI

-Con Paolo Vitelli “The two condottieri often sold or lent to their troop clothes and hoses, and paid and rewarded their men-at-arms with berets, tabards decorated with the white “French” cross, cloaks, “Turkish” doublets, and various and colorful textiles, such as baize, velvet, plain weave, brocade, and satin. Paolo and Vitellozzo themselves often dressed in elegant transalpine fashion, with a certain pride.” ANSANI

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Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani
Roberto Damiani è l'autore del sito Condottieri di ventura.