The land of Genius, between Florence and Pisa, is famous through the centuries, from the Middle Ages to the present days, for being the birthplace of many artists, intellectuals, scientists and musicians. The region of Empolese Valdelsa and Montalbano, in the heart of Tuscany, is precisely the birthplace and source of inspiration of Leonardo and Boccaccio.
Certaldo, one of the villages of this region, is also the homeland of Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375), one of the fathers of Italian literature. In his birthplace, still open to the public, Boccaccio wrote the Decameron, a collection of tales; the work is regarded as a masterpiece of classical Italian prose. Near Certaldo, the Genius of the Renasissance, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), was born. Leonardo – the artist, the scientist and the intellectual – was born in Anchiano, a village a few kilometres far form Vinci. There, it is possible to visit the house of the genius while the Museo Leonardiano, dedicated to him, is located in Vinci; inside it is possible to admire his works as technologist and inventor. The painter and pioneer of Mannerism, Jacopo Carucci, better known as Pontormo (1494-1557), was born in the suburbs of Empoli, in the village of Pontorme.
Baccio da Montelupo (1469-1523), born in Montelupo Fiorentino was a famous sculptor, known for his art in modelling terracotta. He studied with passion the techniques used to work pottery, which are kept inside the Ceramics museums of Montelupo. Sculpture was also the favourite technique of Giovanni Gonnelli (1603-1656), born in Gambassi Terme, and known as the Blind of Gambassi. When he was only 37 he became blind, but in spite of this his creative vein never exhausted, which made him even more appreciated.
Cosimo Ridolfi (1794-1865) – artist, scientist and above all agronomist – was another protagonist of the Land of Genius. Ridolfi used to live in his Villa in Meleto, near Castelfiorentino. Here he founded an innovative agricultural school and put in practice the herringbone irrigation system, still visible today.
The Land of Genius was the birthplace of prominent figures also in the musical field, such as Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), composer and pianist. Born in Empoli, Busoni was one of the greatest Italian pianists ever. The artist’s house collects scores, opera compositions and his piano. Amedeo Bassi (1872-1949), one of the greatest tenors of his time, was born in Montespertoli, which today houses the museum dedicated to him.
Indro Montanelli (1909-2001), one of the greatest journalists of the twentieth century, closes the review of the protagonists of this land. He was born in Fucecchio and maintained the typical personality traits of his fellows’ citizens, as himself pointed out. Montanelli travelled all over the world telling the main news, first in his articles and then in his books. His legacy is preserved by the Montanelli Bassi Foundation of Fucecchio, where books, papers, objects and furniture were transferred from his original offices once in Rome and Milan.
Be inspired by this Land of Genius and discover those places once inhabited by the great protagonists of the Empolese Valdelsa and Montalbano area.