of Poggio alle Mura|
Sanctuary of S. Maria at Pietracupa
Barberino Val d'Elsa
Visit Barberino Val d'Elsa, a vicariate since 1313, with its old walls (1203), and Roman (or Sienese) Gate. Of note the Palazzo Pretorio, the Church of S. Bartolommeo and the old Pilgrims' Hospice with remains from Petrognano (area of the ancient fortress of Semifonte, destroyed by Florence in 1202) and the Etruscan settlements of S. Martino. The Chapel of S. Michele (Santi di Tito), with its miniature reproduction of the cupola of S. Maria del Fiore, stands on the hill and site of ancient Semifonte, 4 km. from the town.
The Certosa of Firenze
The Certosa (or Carthusian Monastery) of Florence is easily reached with a 37 bus from Piazza S. Maria Novella. The visit to the monastery, of great architectural interest, is conducted by the monks, who also sell their famous liqueurs in their little shop outside. Marvellous views of the surrounding hills can be seen from this monumental complex.
Try exploring the area between the Florentine Carthusian monastery and Impruneta on foot or by car. The route takes you through the hamlet of Le Rose with the church of S. Lorenzo (containing paintings by Taddeo Gaddi and the school of Ghirlandaio); Villa Antinori, rebuilt in 1513 with 17th and 18th century frescoes; Baruffi, a characteristic village on the ridge of the hill; San Michele a Quintole with frescoes by Bicci di Lorenzo and 14th century Florentine school. The scenery is magnificent for the whole of the route which will eventually take you to the delightful village of Impruneta.
Abbey of San Galgano
You can reach the ancient Hermitage and Abbey of San Galgano by taking the road that goes from Siena towards Massa Marittima and Follonica. Today all that remains of the Abbey are its roofless walls and the transepts but this makes it even more suggestive. The canon's house and other buildings are still intact. The hermitage on the hill above contains the famous sword in the rock where the warrior Galgano used to kneel in prayer.
Pian dei Giullari
Visit Pian dei Giullari, with Villa il Gioiello, where Galileo spent his declining years, and with the Observatory of Arcetri nearby. The road then continues in the direction of Mount Oliveto, famous for Villa Strozzi, Villa di Bellosguardo and especially Villa Calamai because Ugo Foscolo stayed there as the guest of Quirina Mocenni when he was writing "Le Grazie" (1813).
Vallombrosa, with its beautiful monastery, is a fair distance from Florence, therefore we advise you to hire a car to get there. It is the refuge of the Florentines from the summer heat, lying high up in the mountains amidst tall shady pine trees with wonderful views.
Fiesole, the famous Etruscan hilltop town, is easily reached by bus from Piazza S. Marco. Visit the Amphitheatre and museum, the Cathedral, and the church and monastery of S. Francesco, after a steep climb up from the square.
Greve in Chianti
Try taking a bus (Sita - P.za Stazione) to Greve in Chianti. The countryside en route is glorious and you will love the characteristic village and its square. You can also find the famous Chianti wine on sale in the local shops and on the farms around, together with olive oil and other gastronomic delicacies.
Take a trip to Vicchio, the birthplace of Giotto and Fra Angelico. Here you can admire the Torre dei Cerchiai (the ancient castle), the Church of San Giovanni Battista and the Palazzo Pretorio which contains the Beato Angelico Museum. Among the treasures contained in the Museum, you can find a priceless fresco by the school of Giotto, a XIII century holy water stoup, a fresco from Rupe Canina, a terracotta by Andrea della Robbia and Etruscan remains. The houses of both Giotto and Benevenuto Cellini are also to be found at Vicchio.
You will find that Londa, situated in the Moscia valley, is a delightful place to spend the day. The lake, used for sports fishing and much appreciated by enthusiasts, is surrounded by beautiful woods and streams. The whole area is famous for the various traditional events held every year and its many ancient villages: San Leolino (keep and XI century church), Sant'Elena a Rincine (the Romanesque church contains a Madonna by della Robbia; local festivals in August), Rata and Vierle.
Pratolino, well known for its ancient Medici villa, today called Villa Demidoff, whose beautiful park (which can be visited from May to September) contains the splendid statue of the Appennine by Giambologna, is situated north of Florence on the Via Bolognese. The delightful fifteenth century church of San Cresci a Macioli stands just outside the village while Fontebuona and Vaglia can be reached continuing on from Pratolino on the road for the Futa pass.
San Piero a Sieve
You will find the town of San Piero a Sieve is extremely interesting from the artistic point of view. The parish church contains the hexagonal Baptismal font in polychrome terracotta attributed to Luca della Robbia and a crucifix attributed to Raffaello da Montelupo. The whole town is dominated by the Medici fortress of San Martino, designed by Buontalenti. Nearby you can find the beautiful castle of Trebbio, designed by Michelozzo. Don't miss visiting the church of Santa Maria a Fagna while not far from the town you can find the Bosco ai Frati, a Francescan convent containing a rare crucifix by Donatello.
Villa Medicea di Caffaggiolo
Along the road between San Piero a Sieve and Barberino di Mugello you can see the Medici villa of Cafaggiolo. Originally a Florentine fortress, in 1451 it was transformed by Cosimo the Elder, on a design by Michelozzo, into the villa we see today. It can only be visited on request (Turismo Ambiente 055/8458793)
Go and visit Scarperia, an ancient town of the Mugello, famous for its centuries-old production of handmade blades, knives, scissors and various metal tools, etc. Here you can see the Palazzo Pretorio, an important building of the fourteenth century, which became the seat of the Vicars in 1415. The Oratory of the Madonna di Piazza contains a tabernacle attributed to Andrea della Robbia which frames a Madonna and Child by Taddeo Gaddi. A marble tondo by Benedetto da Maiano, a tabernacle by Mino da Fiesole and paintings by Rosselli can be seen in the Propositura while the famous fresco attributed to Filippo Lippi can be found in the Oratory of the Madonna dei Terremoti.
If you go to Montesenario - situated between Pratolino and Bivigliano - you can find an ancient convent belonging to the religious order of the Servi di Maria, founded in 1233 by the Florentine nobility and rebuilt in the XVI century; there is a wonderful view over the Arno valley and the Mugello from here. The convent itself contains paintings by Rosselli and Ghirlandaio.
San Casciano Val di Pesa
San Casciano Val di Pesa, a pretty town perched on top of a hill to the south of Florence in the direction of Siena, was under Florentine rule from 1272; later Arrigo VII used it for his headquarters and it was occupied and sacked more than once. Its fortifications date from 1343 while the city walls were built in 1355 and strengthened in the XVi century under Cosimo I. The Collegiata, the Compagnia del Suffragio and the Church of the Misericordia or S. Maria del Prato contain several important works of art.
Barberino Val d'Elsa
Barbarino Val d'Elsa is still encircled by its old fortified walls, further strengthened in 1203 by a Roman (or Sienese) gate. After being besieged and conquered by Arrigo VII, it became a vicarship (1313). Worthy of note is the Palazzo Pretorio with the church of S. Bartolommeo beside it. The ex Pilgrim's Hostel contains exhibits found at Petrognano (the site of ancient Semifonte, destroyed by the Florentines in 1202) and from Etruscan settlements at S. Martino. The Chapel of San Michele, by Santi di Tito, stands today on the site of Semifonte (about 4 kms. from the town) and is interesting because its cupola is a replica in miniature of that of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.
Just before you reach Siena (on the motorway) you can see to your right the imposing outline of Monteriggioni, a tiny mediaeval town surrounded by ancient walls, perched on the summit of a hill. It is not far from the motorway exit and certainly well worth visiting for it appears to be almost completely unchanged over the centuries.
Visit Sesto Fiorentino, flourishing industrial town (ceramics and crafts) just outside Florence. The ancient parish church of S. Martino, which dates from the IX century, is particularly interesting, as well as the Palazzetto Pretorio with its facade decorated with many of the ancient coats of arms of the podestas. From Sesto one can take the Colli Alti panoramic route to the top of Mount Morello, with its wonderful views over the vale of Florence.
Visit San Gimignano (Sita or Caf coach tour - ask your hotel concierge), the famous city of towers, perched on a hill amid the beautiful Chianti countryside. Architecturally there is much to explore yet the whole town is concentrated within a relatively small space.
The ancient village and castle of Montefioralle was an important stronghold during the wars between Florence and Siena. Situated in the hills above Greve in Chianti, it is characteristic for its one street that completely encircles the church of S. Stefano (inside an interesting 13th century Madonna and 14th and 16th century Florentine paintings): a simple building is traditionally indicated as the house of Amerigo Vespucci. The church of S. Cresci can also be visited close by.
San Giovanni in Sugana
The Romanesque church of S. Giovanni in Spugna, partially rebuilt in the XVI century, stands in the vicinity of the village of Talete (between San Casciano and Cerbaia). The interior contains a fine holy water stoup by the school of Biduino (13th cent.), a Della Robbia cornice, a 15th century wooden pulpit and, among other works, a Crowning of the Virgin by Neri di Bicci; the cloister is also interesting to visit. Here one can enjoy a magnificent view over the Pesa valley.
Try exploring the area around Carmignano. Here you can find Etruscan remains (Comeana and the slopes of Poggio alla Malva), roads dating from Roman times and 10th-12th century churches (Artimino e San Giusto). Carmignano and the village of Artimino, with their remains of city walls, keep and castle, are quite fascinating. Artimino itself is dominated by the Medici Villa La Ferdinanda, built by Buontalenti for Ferdinando de' Medici, son of Cosimo I.
Castellina in Chianti
The town of Castellina in Chianti lies between the Elsa, Arbia and Pesa Valleys. Previously the feudal lands of the Trebbio family, it was taken over by the Florentines in the early 15th cent. and surrounded by walls. A high Mediaeval keep, which gives on to a wonderful view, dominates the town. Via delle Volte, once part of the covered sentry walk along the 16th century fortifications, is an interesting example of typical local architecture. While in Castellina, visit the Etruscan Hypogeum of Montecalvario, just over 1km. from the town, and the charming village of Fonterutoli, on the road to Querciagrossa.
S.Andrea a Percussina
One of the secondary roads for San Casciano goes through Chiesanuova, and then S. Andrea in Percussina, famous because Niccolò Macciavelli lived here when in exile: the villa, now Bossi-Pucci (known as the Albergaccio) stands close by the Hostelry where Macchiavelli used to "let off steam". Faltignano and its Church of S. Bartolomeo (13th cent.), with late 14th and 15th century works inside, lies a little further on. The 12th cent. Church of S. Maria a Casavecchia, containing a Della Robbia polychrome altarpiece in terracotta, stands just outside Spedaletto, followed by 18th cent. Villa Antinori, just before the road meets the Cassia.
Church of S. Giovanni Maggiore
The Church of S. Giovanni Maggiore stands on the Faentina road between Borgo S. Lorenzo and Marradi. Shortly before Panicaglia, on the left, an avenue of cypress trees leads to the Church. The 10th century church was rebuilt in 1529 and modified in the 19th century. The unusual 11th century bell tower is octagonal in shape and built on a square base. The stained glass windows in the interior are the work of the Manifattura Chini.
Visit Panzano (m. 478) just past Greve on the Via Cassia. The castle there was almost razed to the ground by the Ghibellines in 1260. The Romanesque parish church of S. Leolino (12th century), with its three aisles and three apses, trussed roof and adjoining cloister is particularly interesting; the interior of the church contains a beautiful panel by Meliore di Jacopo, valuable paintings of 15th century Sienese school and a Della Robbia tabernacle. There is a magnificent view over the Pesa Valley from the courtyard in front of the church. The Church of S. Maria Assunta stands nearby (completely rebuilt in the 19th century) and contains a painting attributed to Ridolfo Ghirlandaio and a Madonna by the Maestro of Greve.
Visit San Polo, characterized by its pleasant position between Monte Masso (m.467) and Monte Muro (m.634). The village is famous in particular for its centuries old iris farming which extends as far as Poggio alla Croce, Reggello and many other villages in Tuscany. An International Iris Festival is held at San Polo each May; the rhizomes of this flower are exported all over the world and used in the manufacture of perfumes and cosmetics. The parish church of San Miniato in Rubbiana contains an old Gothic inscription commemorating the consacration of the church in 1077. San Polo can easily be reached from Florence by turning off the Via Chiantigiana at Grassina. The road eventually meets up with the Arno Valley.
Visit Rignano sull'Arno where the Church of S. Clemente a Sociana contains a Rossellino bas-relief and two candlesticks decorated with angels by Mino da Fiesole. The famous painter and writer, Ardengo Soffici (1879-1964), was born here. The villa of Torre a Cona, with its magnificent Renaissance architecture, overlooks the Arno Valley. The castle of Sammezzano is a 19th century reconstruction, in a revivalistic architectural style with Arabic-Moorish decorations, of the ancient castle of the Altoviti family, once property of the Medici and later, in 1605, of the Ximenes d'Aragona family; it is now a hotel and restaurant.
Visit Incisa Valdarno whose name was inspired by the unusual landscape in
the Upper Valdarno which is full of cliff stratifications caused by the erosive
action of the river waters. Here we can find the tower of the old castle incorporated
into an old farmhouse. The paternal house of Francesco Petrarca, where the poet
lived in his youth, together with the former Church of S. Biagio are both in
the upper part of this "castle". The remains of the bridge, from which young
Lucrezia jumped to escape the soldiers of the Prince of Orange in 1529, can
still be seen in the river Arno. The Church of Vivaio has had a Baroque interior
and a late-Renaissance open gallery since its restoration in 1538.
Try exploring Reggello, famous for its agricultural products.
An international exhibition and market based on the local extra-virgin olive
oil is held here each December. The parish Church of San Pietro a Cascia nearby
dates from the 12th century and the reign of Countess Matilde di Canossa. A
portico precedes the entrance to the church, which is completed by a simple
bell-tower. The interior is divided into three naves whose capitals are carved
with marvellous archaic figures, similar to those at the Church of Gropina.
The so-called road "of the seven bridges" starts for Arezzo from here and is
of great historical and artistic interest, apart from the beautiful scenery
to be found en route.
Sanctuary of S. Maria at Pietracupa
Visit the Sanctuary of S. Maria at Pietracupa, near San
Donato in Poggio. Here there was once a tabernacle dedicated to the Madonna,
with a fresco of the Virgin Mary and Child. The painting, for a long time thought
to be by Paolo Schiavo, has recently been attributed to Masaccio and is now
preserved in the Sanctuary of S. Maria delle Grazie at Pietracupa. At the end
of the 16th century, after a series of healings attributed to the painting,
Donato and Santi Naldi, of the noble S. Donato family, donated some land in
order that a church could be erected in honour of St. Maria delle Grazie. The
church, already completed by 1600, was enlarged and frescoed by Domenico Cresti,
known as "il Passignano".
Leave the heat of Florence behind you and visit Cortona,
once an important Etruscan city, as can be seen from the tombs nearby and the
walls of the 4th century B.C. The town still maintains its mediaeval aspect,
clinging to the steep slopes of the hill below the Keep of Girifalco. Of note
the Palazzo Comunale and the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, both of the 13th
century. The facade of Palazzo Pretorio (17th century), dominates Piazza Signorelli;
the palace is now seat of the Etruscan Academy and Museum containing Etruscan
remains and works of art from various periods. Don't miss visiting the splendid
Renaissance sanctuaries of the Madonna del Calcinaio and S. Maria Nuova on the
slopes of the hill of Sant'Egidio.
Castle of Poggio alle Mura
September is the month of the grape harvest so why not take a trip to the Castle of Poggio alle Mura, near Montalcino (Siena) in one of the finest wine growing areas in Italy, famous for the Brunello wine. Picturesque, with slender battlemented towers and interesting inner portico, the castle stands on a hill near the confluence of the rivers Orcia and Ombrone. The complex is thought to be of Etruscan origin and was built in various stages down the centuries. The entire area was the scene of terrible battles between Siena and Florence and is now almost entirely dedicated to the production of wine. Tour of the castle includes the wine museum and the chance to purchase products from the farm.
Colle Val d'Elsa
Mentioned from the early 11th century, Colle Val d'Elsa was an important fortification of the Bishops of Volterra. The castle apparently stood near the Parish Church, on the site of the keep, now Palazzo Comunale (1360), in typical Sienese military architecture. Its position on the border between Florence and Siena and on the Via Francigena, contributed towards the town's development, also after it was finally conquered by Siena after the battle of Montaperti. New fortifications were built, including the keep, though only two circular towers remain today at the north-western end of the walls. Many houses in Casole still show traces of their mediaeval architecture. To get there: Florence-Siena motorway, Colle Val d'Elsa south exit; follow indications for Casole.
It is extremely hard to get bored in a beautiful city like Florence but if you have visited every single corner and every single museum in Tuscany's capital and you want to venture out of town to discover some other enchanting beauty spot, then take a trip to S. Donato in Poggio which can be reached from the Florence-Siena motorway. It is a suggestive medieval village, dating from around 1033 and situated in the midst of the hilly countryside and vineyards between Florence and Siena. Palazzo Pretorio, decorated with 15th century frescoes, the church, once part of the 14th century castle, and Palazzo Ticci, with a late Renaissance facade, give onto the the village square, now Piazza Malaspina. Don't forget to visit the Sanctuary of S. Maria a Pietracupa just outside S. Donato, containing a painting by ***Masaccio***, a late 16th century polychrome sculpture in wood and a "Crucifixion" by Cosimo Gamberucci (1609).
The Tour of the Seven Churches
After spending a day in the midst of the culture of Florence,
what could be nicer than a relaxing tour of the hills on the outskirts of town?
"The Tour of the Seven Churches" is on stage at Impruneta (only 10 kilometres
from the city centre) from June 17th to 28th: a cultural event that offers the
chance to listen to good music as well as discover some of our little known
artistic and cultural treasures. Every corner, however small, of the countryside
around Impruneta is full of unexpected surprises and, hidden amid the cypress
trees and framed by the silvery leaves of the olive groves, the tiny churches
that host the twelve musical appointments in June are typical examples. The
concerts are at the Basilica of S. Maria at Impruneta, the Church of S. Martino
at Bagnolo, the Parish Church of the Sacrocuore at Tavarnuzze, the Church of
S. Miniato at Quintole, the Church of S. Lorenzeo alle Rose, the Church of S.
Gersolé, the Church of S. Paolo alla Croce at Colleramole, the Church
of Pozzolatico. The programme includes concerts of classical music, ancient
Indian music, popular ethnic music and 20th century music.
The church of S. Pietro a Cascia
Tuscany is full of tiny villages that grew up inside the walls of castles or around the parish churches. The church of S. Pietro a Cascia, near Reggello, is a typical example. This imposing basilical construction is divided into three naves by two rows of majestic columns interrupted by pilasters and concludes in a semicircular apse. The church, possibly consacrated in 1073, can be found mentioned in documents from the early 12th century (the present building dates from the early 13th century). The facade is preceded by a large portico on four columns, closed at the sides by two wings that continue along the outer walls, and is possibly the only surviving Romanesque portico in Tuscany. The upper part of the facade is decorated with a row of small arches. The interior, lit by simple one-light or cruciform windows, has a trussed wooden roof. The wonderful triptych by Masaccio (1422) is at the end of the left nave. The square bell tower was probably built as a watch tower in Lombard times (4th cent.), and formed part of the original defence system.
©MEGA Via Lombroso 6/5 a
fax +39 055 412931