The Valdarno Superiore
The Valdarno Superiore, the valley of Arno upstream of Florence, is an area located between the provinces of Florence and Arezzo, well bounded by the Pratomagno to the north-east and by the hills of Chianti to the south-west. Less known than other areas of Tuscany, as the over mentioned Chianti, actually the Valdarno Superiore is populate by many historic hamlets and monuments scattered in an area very interesting also from a landscape point of view.
Places to visit in Valdarno
A list of 10 places to visit in Valdarno Superiore can’t mention everything, but can give you an idea about how many interesting places there are in this part of Tuscany:
- Castle of Sammezzano
- Figline Valdarno
- Castelfranco di Sopra
- Balze of the Valdarno
- Loro Ciuffenna
- Pieve di Gropina
- San Giovanni Valdarno
- Terranuova Bracciolini
- Il Borro
The Castle of Sammezzano
More and more often people talks about this castle, it was quoted many times by the italian television, surprisingly also by the movie Kingsman – The Golden Circle, and in 2016 was voted as the Luogo del Cuore FAI number one in Italy with more than 50.000 votes. Unfortunately, despite of the commendable efforts of the volunteers of Save Sammezzano and Comitato FPXA, the castle has not yet adequately restored and enhanced.
This is a real shame, because we are talking about a unique monument of its kind in Tuscany, an incredible Moorish-inspired castle able to impress visitors with its extremely rich, varied and colorful halls.
Nowaday it’s very hard to visit the castle, but I wanted to put it in this list hoping that it can be saved before it’s too late.
Start now with the first halmet, there will be 7, Figline Valdarno. Figline, part of the same municipality of Incisa, is clearly the most important town in the florentine part of the Valdarno Superiore. Inside its citye centre, that developed around the wide piazza Ficino and still partially protected by medieval walls, wa can admire many monuments as the Palazzo Pretorio, the Collegiata di Santa Maria and the Chiesa di San Francesco. There are also some interesting museums as the Museum of Sacred Art and the Antica Spezieria.
Castelfranco di Sopra
Castelfranco di Sopra is the first of the florentine “terre nuove” that we’ll see today, a hamlet that has well preserved its regular plan that contrasts with the bizarre nature of the surrounding area characterized by the Balze of Valdarno. Among the monuments of this hamlet the main are the Badia a Soffena, located just outside the centre along the Via Setteponti, and the Torre di Arnolfo, an old defensive tower located on a city gate.
Balze of the Valdarno
The so called Balze of the Valdarno are the result of a geological phenomenon that manifests itself in majestic and strange structures made by sand, clay and gravel high up to 100 metres. The Balze were born by erosion, which happened over millions of years, of the sediment remaining from a prehistoric lake that once occupied the entire valley. Nowaday we can admire this unique landscape along the entire Valdarno that was studied also by Leonardo da Vinci.
Loro Ciuffenna is a small medieval hamlet located in a situato in una posizione a little secluded along the Via dei Setteponti. Here there is an interesting building, an old and still working water mill that dates back the 1100; this is probably the oldest working mill in Tuscany and its still used to product the chestnut flour typical of this area.
Pieve di Gropina
The Pieve di San Pietro in Gropina just couldn’t miss: we’re in front of a true masterpiece of romanesque architecture, one of the most important medieval parish churches in Tuscany. If you visit this church, and you really should do it, pay attention to the pulpit and to the capitals of the columns that are carved in order to communicate a series of very specific messages to the faithful.
San Giovanni Valdarno
San Giovanni Valdarno is the second “terra nuova” of the list. Founded in 1296, This beautiful hamlet concentrate almost all of its monuments on its two central squares, that are divided only by the Palazzo Pretorio. This palace is one of the main point of interest with the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie and the related museums: the museum of Sacred Art and the museum about the Terre Nuove.
Third and last among the florentine “terre nuove” in Valdarno, Terranuova Bracciolini was founded in 1337. As the other towns of this kind, Terrenuova Bracciolini was created to strengthen the territorial expansion of Florence, that’s why it was provided with mighty walls and defensive towers. Today is still possible to visit some of these fortifications towering over the village.
Il Borro is a tiny village very characteristic located in the territory of Loro Ciuffenna about 20 kilometres from Arezzo. This small jewel, that develops on a rock spur along the ancient route of the roman road via Cassia, was restored recently and today hosts some luxury residences, restaurants and artisan workshops. Here you can visit the Chiesa di San Biagio, documented since the 14th century.
Here we are finally at the last list item: Montevarchi. One of the most important towns of the Valdarno Superiore and also one of the richest in monuments and museums; here you can visit the Cassero with the museum of sculpture, the Collegiata di San Lorenzo with the Museum of Sacred Art and the chiesa di Santa Maria al Giglio. A special mention goes to the Paleontological Museum which certainly constitutes a peculiarity of Montevarchi.