San Giovanni Valdarno, a nice town near Arezzo
San Giovanni Valdarno is in the area of the upper Valdarno near the le left shore of the river Arno. Known for being the home town of the artist Masaccio, it was the first among the “terre nuove” (new towns) founded by Florence at the end of the 13th century. It is a village that definitely has some interesting features and is well suited to a visit of a few hours.
What to do in San Giovanni Valdarno
As the others new towns created by Florence, San Giovanni Valdarno has in its main square, or in its two main squares (piazza Masaccio and piazza Cavour) to be exact, the real heart of the city. Along these squares, partially separated only by the Palazzo pretorio, we find the most important monuments and buildings of historical interest.
Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie
The Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie was built starting from the 1484 close to the torre della porta San Lorenzo where is located a fresco considered miraculous. The facade (1840), preceded by a portico, has a lovely glazed majolica by Giovanni della Robbia. Inside is still in place the fresco, Madonna delle Grazie the work of an unknown Florentine author, that would have propitiated the “miracle of Monna Trancia”; according to the tradition, an old woman has breastfed an orphan after having invoked the Madonna delle Grazie. Among the other works inside, we mention another fresco dedicated to the storie del miracolo di Monna Trancia (stories about the miracle of Monna Trancia), attributed to Luberto da Montevarchi.
Museo della Basilica
Set up right next to the Basilica, the small Museo della Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie exposes high quality works of sacred art. Among these, the most important is the Beato Angelico‘s L’Annunciazione.
During daylight saving time : wednesday-sunday 10.00-13.00 and 14.30-18.30
During standard time: wednesday-sunday10.00-13.00 and 15.30-18.30
Tickets: regular 3,50 euro; reduced 2,50 euro; students (6-18 years old) 1 euro
Chiesa di San Lorenzo
Still in piazza Masaccio, we find the Church of San Lorenzo with its stone and bricks facade. Inside there are many interesting artworks. Along the right nave we can admire some frescoes from Giovanni ser di Giovanni known as Scheggia, brother of Masaccio. Among these Sant’Antonio abate e storie della sua vita and Martirio di San Sebastiano, while in the presbytery Incoronazione della Vergine e santi, triptych by Giovanni del Biondo.
Palazzo Pretorio and Museo delle Terre Nuove
The palazzo Pretorio (or Palazzo d’Arnolfo), whose project is commonly attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio, is located exactly in the centre of the historic town. This is a beautiful Palace with arcades on all sides and a high central tower. On its walls you’ll immediately notice a large amount of coats of arms in stone and terracotta. Each of them bears witness to the passage of the podestà and vicars who ruled the city between the 15th and 18th centuries.
The palace hosts the Museo delle Terre Nuove (Museum of the new towns) that focuses on the creation and development of these cities arisen in the middle ages.
Opening hours: tuesday-friday15.00-19.00; saturaday-sunday 10.00-13.00 and 15.00-19.00
Closed on monday
Tickets: regular 5 euro; reduced 3 euro
Free the first sunday every month.
Pieve di San Giovanni Battista
Going beyond the palazzo pretorio we get to piazza Cavour; here stands the Pieve di San Giovanni Battista. Also this building has a nice porch adorned with some pottery.
Born in San Giovanni Valdarno, Masaccio was one of the greatest masters of the Renaissance. The birth house of Masaccio is located in Corso Italia 83, and today is used as an exhibition space for modern and contemporary art exhibitions.
The walls of San Giovanni Valdarno
In the northern area of the city centre, along Via Cesare Battisti, we can still see a very short part of the medieval walls.