Lastra a Signa, a village near Florence
Lastra a Signa is a small town in the province of Florence which has almost 20,000 inhabitants. The historical center rises along the course of the Arno about 15 kilometers away from Florence. Until 1821 its name was “Lastra a Gangalandi”, derived from the name of the noble Gangalandi family. The term “Gangland” comes from German and means “land passage“. The term Lastra, on the other hand, is linked to the slabs of sandstone (the pietra serena also widely used in Florence) which were extracted in the quarries near the city. It is no coincidence that Lastra a Signa is also called the “city of stone“.
The first settlements in the area date back to Roman times, but it was during the Middle Ages that the current center developed. The village was born as a rest station on the road between Florence and Pisa, when the area was under the control of the Cadolingi counts of Fucecchio. Gradually, a notable strategic importance for the defense of the city of Florence began to emerge for this village. Even before the 11th century there was a castle here and when the city entered the orbit of Florence it was equipped with new and more important fortifications. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, Lastra a Signa could boast a new imposing wall that made this village the most important fortification in the Florentine defense against Pisa. In the area, the Florentines could boast a rather complex network of fortifications which also included the fortified villages of Signa and Malmantile.
What to see in Lastra a Signa
The first thing to admire in Lastra a Signa are the medieval walls, inside them there are buildings of considerable historical and artistic value such as the Palazzo Pretorio, recognizable by the coats of arms on the facade, the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia and the Spedale di Sant’Antonio.
Walls of Lastra a Signa
We have mentioned the military importance of Lastra a Signa during the Middle Ages, which still today boasts respectable walls. The city walls are in fact still almost completely intact and in their original form. Built starting from 1377 and completed around 1403 under the supervision of Filippo Brunelleschi, the walls of Lastra a Signa represent a respectable military complex.
Of the numerous defensive towers that once reinforced the walls, today 8 remain. Three were the gates that originally allowed access to the inhabited centre: the Porta Pisana (north-west), the Portone di Baccio (south-west) and the Porta Fiorentina (south-east) which unfortunately was destroyed during the Second World War. Observing the walls, numerous architectural elements can be seen, such as the corbels for example, which increased their effectiveness in the event of a siege. The height of the walls is between 6 and 10 meters; in the past the walls were completely surrounded by a moat …a great classic of the Middle Ages!
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Misericordia
Built towards the end of the sixteenth century, the church of Santa Maria della Misericordia is today quite different from how it should have appeared originally. This is because the church underwent major renovations between the 17th and 19th centuries that changed its appearance. The most important work preserved inside is probably the Madonna with Child from the late thirteenth century. To this painting should also be added the San Rocco in glory by Francesco Conti (1733) and a Saints Tobias and Sebastian by Giuseppe Collignon (early 19th century).
Spedale di Sant’Antonio
The Spedale di Sant’Antonio dates back to the fifteenth century and according to some scholars it could be the work of Filippo Brunelleschi who at that time was involved in the construction of the walls of Lastra a Signa. It is a very interesting building which boasts an elegant loggia with seven arches, one of which is blind, resting on octagonal pillars. Today the Spedale di Sant’Antonio is used as a venue for various types of cultural events.
What to see in the surroundings
The surrounding hills are dotted with splendid villas, such as Villa Caruso di Bellosguardo, with the garden and park designed by Tribolo, the historic parish church of San Martino a Gangalandi, near which there is also a museum of sacred art, and the fortified village of Malmantile.
How to reach Lastra a Signa
Lastra a Signa has its own railway station which is regularly served by regional trains. By train you can get to Lastra a Signa from Florence in just 15 minutes. In addition to the train, you can also get to Lastra by bus.
The town is also easy to reach by car: just take the Florence-Pisa-Livorno expressway to the Lastra a Signa exit or the A1 motorway to the Firenze-Scandicci exit. From there, just follow the signs for Lastra a Signa.