What to do in Montelupo Fiorentino

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Montelupo Fiorentino, the cradle of ceramics

Montelupo Fiorentino is a small medieval village, famous all over the world for its ceramics. Perfect for a day visit, Montelupo is appreciated for its architectural beauties and ceramic shops. Here you can also do a wine tasting, enjoy the pleasures of the table and do many outdoor activities.

As its name suggests, Montelupo Fiorentino is located near Florence, about 20 kilometers away. The town is located in a hilly area located between the course of the Arno River and the Val d’Elsa region.


To reconstruct the beginning of the history of this area, we need to ask archeology for help. The first signs of the passage of man date back to the Paleolithic while in the classical age the area was first frequented by the Etruscans and then by the Romans.

In medieval times, this area was disputed between some powerful feudal families. Among these there were the Alberti Counts who owned several fortifications here, one of which located right in Montelupo, with which they guaranteed control of a very large territory.

At the end of the twelfth century, the Alberti family found themselves facing the unstoppable expansion of Florence which a few years later took possession of Montelupo, where they built a new castle that took the place of the one that existed previously.

In this period Montelupo began to develop its ceramic industry. In the Renaissance period, Montelupo had established itself as one of the most important ceramic production centers in the world.

This was the golden age for Montelupo which in the sixteenth century was also enriched by the magnificent Medici Villa dell’Ambrogiana.

Unfortunately, starting from the end of the seventeenth century, the production of ceramics dropped drastically even if, fortunately, it never completely ceased and even today this tradition is carried on by some skilled craftsmen.

What to see in Montelupo Fiorentino

If you decide to visit Montelupo Fiorentino you will find some interesting monuments waiting for you such as the Pieve di San Giovanni Evangelista, the Villa Medicea dell’Ambrogiana, the Torre dei Frescobaldi and the Prioria di San Lorenzo. To these are added a couple of very interesting museums: the Ceramics Museum and the Archaeological Museum.

Torre dei Frescobaldi

Once called the Tower of San Quirico, the Torre dei Frescobaldi owes its name to the fact that it was purchased by the family of the same name during the eighteenth century. In all likelihood, this tower was built in the early 1300s, with the aim of monitoring the commercial traffic that developed along the Arno river.

Restored in the early 2000s and very well preserved, the tower now houses the Museo del Fiasco Toscano, a permanent exhibition dedicated to the typical glass container, covered with straw, used to store wine.

Archaeological Museum of Montelupo Fiorentino

The Archaeological Museum of Montelupo Fiorentino is located within the former complex of San Quirico and Santa Lucia. This museum was inaugurated in 2007 and has since collected around 3,000 archaeological finds (if we consider both those on display and those in storage). This impressive fact makes the archaeological museum of Montelupo Fiorentino one of the most interesting and important of its kind.

The museum itinerary takes us on a very broad journey both in time and space with finds ranging from Prehistory to the Middle Ages, coming from various areas.

For all information on timetables, tickets and activities carried out by the museum, I refer you to the official website.

Medicean Villa dell’Ambrogiana

I start immediately with a bad news: the Medici Villa of Montelupo is not open to the public, therefore, except for rare events and special occasions, you will have to be content with seeing it from the outside… a real shame!

The Medici Villa dell’Ambrogiana owes its name to the Ambrogi family who for a certain period were its owners. Built at the confluence of the Arno and the Pesa rivers, the villa originally had only two of the four towers that we can admire today and was much smaller. In the 16th century it was purchased by the Medici and in 1587 the Grand Duke Ferdinando I had it enlarged by entrusting the project to the architect Raffaele Pagni, collaborator of Buontalenti or perhaps to Buontalenti himself.

Over the centuries the villa has been used with functions: hunting lodge, nursing home for mental illness, women’s prison and psychiatric hospital (until 2016).

With its unmistakable profile and its imposing size, the villa dominates the valley floor and is easily identifiable both from all the surrounding hills but also from the trains that cover the route between Florence and Empoli.

Medicean Villa dell'Ambrogiana
Medici Villa dell’Ambrogiana (Photo by LupoCapraCC BY)

Pieve di San Giovanni Evangelista

The Pieve di San Giovanni Evangelista is located in the heart of the historic center of Montelupo Fiorentino, a stone’s throw from the Palazzo Podestarile. Built in the fourteenth century, the church was originally dedicated to San Niccolò while the dedication to San Giovanni dates back to the eighteenth century.

The interior, with three naves, houses some works of art of great interest. Among these, a large table Virgin enthroned between Saints Lorenzo, Giovanni Evangelista, Sebastiano and Rocco, attributed to the workshop of Botticelli and a sixteenth-century terracotta sculpture depicting San Sebastiano stand out.

Museum of Ceramics

The Ceramics Museum is an unmissable stop on any tour in Montelupo Fiorentino. Montelupo ceramics are famous all over the world and if you visit this museum you will understand why. The Ceramics Museum is very large and spread over 3 floors, covering a total area of 2100 square meters. The museum’s collection is extremely large and has 5500 ceramics of which 1200 are exhibited. The museum allows you to retrace the entire history of Montelupo ceramic production from the thirteenth to the eighteenth century. Inside you can admire some real masterpieces.

For all information on timetables and tickets, I recommend you visit the museum’s official website.

Prioria di San Lorenzo

In Montelupo there is another church that I recommend you visit: the Prioria di San Lorenzo. Born in the early thirteenth century as a chapel in the castle built by the Florentines, the church was renovated in the fourteenth century when it was given its current Gothic form. Unfortunately it is not always open to visitors but in any case it is a really adorable little church. Inside there are some works of art and the remains of some thirteenth-century frescoes.

Things to do and what see in the surroundings of Montelupo Fiorentino

Not far from Montelupo, there is the tiny village of Sammontana. If you are wondering, the answer is: yes, the Sammontana company, which makes ice cream, is right here. Returning to Sammontana, the town, I also recommend a detour to visit the Church of Santa Maria.

If you want to find out what there is to see in the area, especially in the Empoli area, I recommend you read the articles on Empoli, Cerreto Guidi and Vinci (Leonardo…)

How to get to Montelupo Fiorentino

Montelupo Fiorentino is really easy to reach. It is located along the Florence-Pisa-Livorno and is also equipped with a railway station regularly served by trains that cover the route between Florence and Pisa.

If you arrive from outside the region you can take the A1 motorway to Florence and then continue on the Fi-Pi-Li in the direction of Pisa until the Ginestra Fiorentina exit, from there just follow the signs for Montelupo and you will arrive at your destination.

Where to sleep in Montelupo Fiorentino

In Montelupo Fiorentino and its surroundings there are many hotels and many other types of accommodation where you can sleep.

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