There is a land, a few kilometres away from Florence, where nature, art and traditions have always coexisted and that, over the centuries, has given birth to illustrious personalities such as Leonardo da Vinci and Giovanni Boccaccio. We are talking about the Empoli Valdelsa and Montalbano area, Tuscany in the heart.
Consisting of 11 municipalities, located between Florence and Pisa, Tuscany in the heart is a land of hamlets, castles and ancient parish churches, crossed by the Via Francigena, Via Medicea and Romea Strata roads. Here lie the Padule di Fucecchio, the largest inner wetland in Italy, and architectural gems such as the Cerreto Guidi Medici Villa, or the Jerusalem of San Vivaldo. Home to the Chianti Montespertoli wine, it is a land of good food, events and traditions.
If you are looking for a place where to rejuvenate your body and spirit, come and discover the 11 municipalities of the Empoli Valdelsa and Montalbano area.
Capraia e Limite
Consisting of two separate hamlets, Capraia e Limite lies along the course of the Arno river, to which it has always been closely linked. The history of the "navicellai" who used to go upriver to connect Florence with the sea is in fact told in the local Museo Remiero, housed in the headquarters of the Limite Rowing Society, the oldest in Italy. Also famous for the production of terracotta , this town is an excellent starting point from which to explore the Montalbano and the Barco Mediceo, the old hunting ground of the Medici.
A small town combining tradition with innovation, Castelfiorentino is perfect for those who look for art, culture and nature. Beloved by the painter Benozzo Gozzoli, to whom the modern Museo Bego which collects his frescoes is dedicated, the town is devoted to Santa Verdiana, to whom the Sanctuary and the Sacred Art museum are dedicated. Surrounded by sweet hills with villas and castles, from Castelfiorentino you can set off for pleasant walks in the open air.
A place beloved by the Medici, who used to retreat and spend their holidays here, Cerreto Guidi is located between Vinci and Fucecchio, in the heart of the Montalbano area. Standing majestically in the middle of the town is the Medici Villa, commissioned by Cosimo I, today a Unesco heritage site, which houses the Historical Hunting and Territorial Museum . Cerreto is an ideal location for walking or bike tours while discovering the Montalbano: also not to be missed is the visit to the crochet miniature which perfectly reproduces the territory between Vinci and Cerreto.
Birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio, the hamlet of Certaldo still keeps in its upper part the typical medieval structure, surrounded by walls. Rich in history and culture, here you can visit Boccaccio's home and the Palazzo Pretorio museum. A land of flavours, starting from the famous red onion, and also famous for events such as Mercantia, the international street theatre festival, and the Boccaccesca food and wine festival, Certaldo is perfect if you want to combine art, flavours and events during a single holiday.
The most modern and dynamic city of the Empoli Valdelsa and Montalbano area, Empoli has anyway managed to preserve its history and traditions. Many museums to visit, such as the Collegiata di Sant'Andrea, the oldest ecclesiastical museum in Italy, or the MuVe where you can learn about the ancient tradition of green glass manufacturing, a typical local product until the post war period. Also not to be missed is the visit to the home of the painter Pontormo and the one of the musician Ferruccio Busoni, one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century.
Suspended between land and water, Fucecchio is closely related to the Via Francigena, of which it is one of the main legs. Not to be missed is the visit to the Padule di Fucecchio, the largest inner wetland in Italy, a natural reserve hosting thousands of birds and plant species. In the city, in addition to the medieval churches on the Poggio Salamartano, you cannot miss a visit to the Civic Museum. Hometown of Indro Montanelli, in Fucecchio you can visit the accurate replica of the Milan and Rome studios, where the journalist worked.
If you are looking for relaxation, Gambassi Terme is the hamlet for you. A land of pilgrims who every year walk along the Via Francigena, Gambassi Terme is mentioned by the archbishop Sigeric among the fundamental stages of his travelogue. Not to be missed is the visit to the wonderful late Romanesque parish church of Santa Maria in Chianni. Nature lovers can take advantage of the woods that surround the hamlet to enjoy relaxing walks or treat themselves to a regenerating bath in the local thermal springs, famous for the salt water of Pillo.
Nestled in the Valdelsa hills, Montaione still keeps the typical structure of a medieval hamlet. Walking through the old town, you can visit Palazzo Pretorio, the San Regolo parish church and the Civic Museum which houses a Pliocene whale fossil. Not to be missed is the evocative Jerusalem of San Vivaldo, a pilgrimage site dating back to the 16th century: it is a series of chapels decorated with terracotta that reproduce the plan of Jerusalem at the time.
World-famous for the production of decorative ceramics, Montelupo Fiorentino is a city celebrating its traditions both in the Ceramics Museum, where you can retrace its history, and in the local artisan shops that you can visit while strolling through the old town. Lying along the course of the Arno river, here is the historic Ambrogiana Medici Villa, currently only visible from the outside but that could soon become a deployed site of the Uffizi Gallery.
One of the Tuscan capitals in the Chianti area, Montespertoli is a perfect town for lovers of hiking or cycling in the open air. Starting from here is the Strada del Vino route in search of ancient castles and historic homes, today often converted into wineries, where you can stop end enjoy some tastings. Not to be missed is the visit to the Vine and wine museum which preserves this tradition. Those who love art and culture can instead ingage in the visit to the Sacred Art Museum and the Museum of Amedeo Bassi, one of the greatest tenors of the 20th century.
Located on the slopes of the Montalbano, Vinci still retains the typical structure of the medieval hamlet, with narrow alleys that lead to the Conti Guidi Castle. Birth place of the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci, here you can visit the Museo Leonardiano dedicated to him, and the Native Home of the artist. The various trails that start from the old town of Vinci let you explore the Montalbano area with beautiful walks in the open air.
Find out more on the Empoli Valdelsa and Montalbano area on the Toscana nel cuore website.