The Valdarno, the Arezzo valley located between Arezzo and Florence, is a Tuscan corner rich in wonders. Valdarno lies between the Pratomagno mountains and the hills of Chianti, where you can find historic villages and breathtaking panoramas. Continue reading to discover some of the things to see in Valdarno!
If you’ve never heard of Sammezzano Castle, we’re happy to introduce you to the beauty of this place, thirty kilometers from Florence. The Castle, immersed in the typical Tuscan countryside, presents itself as a unique peculiarity in Tuscany. The architecture of this building is in Moorish-Oriental style. Inside you will find a decoration consisting in multicolored frescoes that directly transport you to the Middle East, and the villa is surrounded by over 60 hectares of parkland. Sammezzano Castle dates back to 1605, but its current form is due to renovations commissioned by the Panciatichi Ximes d’Aragona family between 1843 and 1889. Sammezzano Castle is still a private property today, and the only downside is precisely this.
How to visit the Castle
Visits to the Castle – unlike the surrounding park – are organized only in Spring during the FAI Days. The local community has a huge interest in enhancing this truly unique treasure. The value of this place is so immense that we at Poggio del Drago are particularly concerned about this matter, and believe it important to spread awareness of this unparalleled architectural and artistic treasure in all of Tuscany.
Vallombrosa and the Abbey of San Giovanni Gualberto
The first thing to say about Vallombrosa is easy to imagine. If you’re looking for a place to cool off with a walk immersed in nature, especially in summer, it’s the perfect spot. The woods of Vallombrosa offer a spectacle worthy of high-quality paintings or films. The Abbey of San Giovanni Gualberto, in this idyllic setting, appears like a fairy-tale fortress. Always full of pilgrims and visitors, the abbey is a truly fascinating place. Quiet and peaceful, this place houses a small museum with artifacts dating back to the late medieval and modern period.
In Vallombrosa, an interesting activity is a trail that will take you to visit a series of small chapels scattered through the woods, a sort of spiritual walk. In these woods, you get the impression that gnomes and fairies might appear from behind every corner, a real wonder that will make you feel like you’re in a fairy tale.
Bandella Nature Reserve
Staying on the topic of natural beauty, we cannot fail to mention the Bandella Nature Reserve, rich in biodiversity along a picturesque stretch of the Arno River. Here you will find various fascinating paths and trails, to be explored on foot, by bicycle, or, for enthusiasts, even on horseback. In spring and summer, you can also pass through the Nature Reserve on the Arno with a truly suggestive boat trip.
San Giovanni Valdarno
After a roundup of Valdarno’s nature, it’s mandatory to talk about the beautiful villages you can find in Valdarno. First among them is San Giovanni Valdarno, which is the most representative village to see in the Upper Valdarno. San Giovanni Valdarno presents itself as a unique town: its urban layout was designed by Arnolfo di Cambio, and even today it is maintained as in the original project. In the center of the town, you will find the Palazzo d’Arnolfo, dedicated to the Master Architect of the town. In San Giovanni Valdarno, the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie and its connected museum are not to be missed. Last of the details about San Giovanni we wish to share? At number 83 of the main street, Corso Italia, you will find the birthplace of the most illustrious citizen of San Giovanni ever born: Masaccio.
Loro Ciuffenna: one of the most beautiful villages in Valdarno
Loro Ciuffenna is, not by chance, listed among the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy. The peculiar stone houses overlooking the Ciuffenna stream, at the foot of the Pratomagno, are a wonderful spectacle. The main attraction of Loro Ciuffenna, besides its picturesque geographical location, is the oldest water mill in Tuscany, one of the oldest in Italy. Think about it: this mill is still in operation! Not to be missed, however, is the Venturino Venturi museum.
Il Borro: a true treasure of Valdarno
This ancient village was purchased by the Ferragamo family in 1993 when it was still in a state of total abandonment. Today Il Borro has become one of the tourist excellences of the Tuscany region. Here you will find three excellent restaurants and a winery that you can visit, offering delightful tastings.
Built at an altitude of about 500 meters above the municipality of Bucine, the Galatrona Tower represents an incredible panoramic point, overlooking the mountains of Chianti and Valdarno in general. On clear days, it is even possible to see the peak of Mount Abetone in the distance. Galatrona Tower is open to the public on weekends from April to October. It is possible to book visits for organized groups at other times of the year and on other days as well.
Montevarchi and Its Wealth of Attractions
Montevarchi is a village with a not very extensive and rather compact historic center, rich in beauty. Among the many things to see in Montevarchi, we cannot fail to mention the Palazzo del Podestà, today the seat of the Municipal Council. The Palazzo del Podestà, located in the very central Piazza Varchi, was throughout the Middle Ages the residence of the podestà of the ancient village. The Collegiate Church of San Lorenzo, facing the same square and the most important church in the town, is also worth a visit. Its interiors are adorned with numerous frescoes depicting the life of San Lorenzo. The main altar of the church, dating back to 1706, consists of a large marble group depicting angels holding the Madonna and Child. Originally the work of Giovanni Baratta, the altar has undergone embellishments and modifications in subsequent centuries.
The Paleontological Museum of Montevarchi: Valdarno in Prehistory
We now come to one of the most interesting places in the village of Montevarchi: the Paleontological Museum, housed in the ancient Franciscan convent of San Lodovico. This beautiful and very interesting museum has recently been reopened to curious visitors after a renovation lasting seven years. The Paleontological Museum of Montevarchi houses over 3,000 specimens. These treasures of the past have been found mostly in the Upper Valdarno area and include plant and animal fossils. Among the finds, you will discover a huge Elephas Meridionalis, a specimen of a prehistoric elephant extinct for more than a million years. This animal could reach four meters in length and weigh up to 200 quintals. You will also find a specimen of the Saber-Toothed Tiger, scientifically known as Machairodus Meganteron.
You will find this beautiful museum open from Thursday to Sunday from 10 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 5:30 pm.
We were about to forget another unmissable museum! It is, in fact, the Museum of Sacred Art, adjacent to the Collegiate Church of San Lorenzo, which houses a beautiful temple by Andrea della Robbia in glazed terracotta.
Located in the province of Florence, Figline Valdarno is the most visited town in the province after Florence itself. Here too, there is an embarrassment of riches. Among the many things to see in Figline Valdarno, for example, you will find the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria in Piazza Marsilio Ficino. Inside the church, you will find a Madonna with Child between Angels and Saints by the Master of Figline. In addition, in Santa Maria, you can admire a panel from 1539 depicting Saint Romulus offering the Madonna a tray on which rests the Castle of Figline.
In Piazza Marsilio Ficino, you will also find the picturesque Serristori Loggias, what remains of an ancient hospital built by the Serristori family in 1399. Last but not least, we recommend visiting the Palazzo Pretorio, the Garibaldi Theater, and the ancient Medieval Walls: it will definitely be worth it!
From Poggio del Drago you will discover all this and much, much more!
Valdarno offers much more than this, and we cannot condense all its charm into a single article. Continue to explore our guides to learn more, we await you here at Poggio del Drago!