Mugello, nature and memories of great artists in the heart of the Apennines
Between Florence and Romagna there is a green territory where still wild nature is combined with art and history. It is the Mugello, washed by the Sieve river and protected by the Apennine mountains. A land to be discovered slowly, even by train, starting from Borgo San Lorenzo, the birthplace of Monsignor della Casa, known above all as the author of the manual of fine manners Ethics overo de ‘customs. Here you can visit the Pieve di San Lorenzo, the largest Romanesque building in the Florentine countryside, built around 941 on an ancient temple of Bacchus, which houses a Madonna attributed to Giotto. Also worth seeing is the Chini Museum of Villa Pecori Giraldi which collects the works produced by one of the most important Liberty ceramics and glass factories in Italy, active mainly in the first half of the twentieth century. In the locality of Grezzano you will find the Muso della Civiltà Contadina di Casa d’Erci which, inside an old farmhouse immersed in the green of the hills, preserves and enhances the memory of the ancient peasant world of the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines. The journey then continues towards Vicchio, the birthplace of Giotto and Beato Angelico.
The small house of the great master of Italian painting is located in a hamlet located on the Vespignano hill. Today this ancient and simple medieval building surrounded by greenery, modified several times over the centuries, is home to an interesting museum and hosts several courses in watercolor, drawing, tapestry and other arts. According to some scholars Giotto wanted to be inspired by the village of Vespignano for some landscape backgrounds and architectural furnishings in some of his works, such as in the fresco in the upper Basilica of Assisi called San Francesco donates his cloak to a poor man where he stands out, at the top of left, a red cylindrical building with sighting window. A walk in the historic center of Vicchio allows you to admire a bronze portrait with a palette and brushes by Giotto that seems to have been suggested by Carducci himself, visiting friends. There is no trace of the birthplace of Beato Angelico in the hamlet of Rupecanina, while in the historic center of Vicchio there is the house probably inhabited occasionally from 1559 to 1571 by Benvenuto Cellini. Also worth seeing is the Museum of Sacred Art and Popular Religion which preserves works of art from the religious buildings of the area, with works by famous authors such as Francesco Furini, Taddeo Gaddi and Andrea della Robbia. Not far away, reachable by a long and tiring walk or pedaling or by car along an impervious mountain road, you will find the isolated village of Barbiana, where Don Lorenzo Milani lived for 13 years, promoter of a courageous and particularly attentive educational experience. to the weakest sections of the population.
The small cemetery, near the church and the rectory, houses the tomb of the prior and some of his students of the time, while an educational path allows you to learn about the work of this courageous priest not particularly loved by the civil and religious authorities of the time. After Crespino del Lamone – a village known for the quality of its water and fountains – the train arrives in Marradi, the slow Apennine town where the poet Dino Campana was born. The visit to the beautiful historic center starts from the enchanting Piazza le Scalelle, overlooked by the Palazzo Comunale, Palazzo Fabroni and the Church of the Suffragio, and touches on several seventeenth-century buildings, the Dominican Monastery, the church of San Lorenzo with works by the Maestro of Marradi, contemporary and close to the style of Domenico Ghirlandaio, and the eighteenth-century Teatro degli Animosi. In the center you can also admire the house where Dino Campana lived – the native one was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War – and visit the Centro Studi Campaniani and the Museum of Artists for Dino Campana.
Leaving the Tuscan borders and entering Emilia Romagna, here is Brisighella, a Slow City and one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. A relaxing walk in the charming old town, dominated by the Rocca Manfrediana of fourteenth-century origin and the Clock Tower, of nineteenth-century forms but of medieval foundation, leads to the suggestive Via degli Asini. It is an unusual raised and covered road that winds through the houses probably built in the sixteenth century as a defensive bulwark to protect the village. Brisighella is also famous for the production of a prized DOP extra virgin olive oil and an interesting Oil Path allows you to reach olive groves, oil mills, religious buildings, an open-air museum inside a former gypsum quarry and other points of interest around and within the village. At this point our journey to discover Mugello ends. You can decide to go back to Florence or to continue – even by train, perhaps using the tourist convoy that touches Dante’s places on Saturdays and Sundays – towards Ravenna.
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