If you have planned a few days of holiday in the heart of Tuscany in these last weeks of celebration, here is a three-day itinerary, perfect to explore the Empolese Valdelsa and discover the best it has to offer. Follow it with us!
Empoli, welcome to the heart of Tuscany!
The largest city (and most easily accessible by public transport) of Empoli Valdelsa welcomes visitors with its tidy old town and its museums. Among the musts, a visit to the MuVE, Museo del Vetro di Empoli, the old town center and the Museo della Collegiata di Sant’Andrea, one of the oldest ecclesiastical museums in Italy, opened in 1865, which houses masterpieces by Tuscan Renaissance artists, alongside which the work Sharon by contemporary artist Bill Viola is currently on display.
Tuscan Middle Ages. The Via Francigena and the medieval heart of Valdelsa
Perched villages, castles, and a pilgrimage route that has crossed Europe for centuries to reach Rome: among the hills of the Valdelsa you can follow in the footsteps of the thousands of pilgrims who have traveled the Via Francigena since the Middle Ages. From the Sacro Monte di San Vivaldo to the Pieve di Chianni, visit the symbolic places of local devotion until you reach Certaldo, where you can still live in a timeless atmosphere and the words of Boccaccio’s novels resound.
A walk or bicycle ride along the Via Francigena, from Coiano to the Pieve di Chianni (about 7 km), a symbolic place of the historic pilgrimage, mentioned by Sigeric himself in his travel diary from Rome to Canterbury. Then a visit to the Sacro Monte di San Vivaldo, which in 2017 celebrates 500 years since its foundation. Surrounded by centuries-old woods, this ancient hermitage, with its devotional chapels, perfectly reproduces the topography of the places of the Passion of Jerusalem of the 16th century. Visiting it today, as in the past, gives the impression of taking a real ‘journey’ to the Holy Land.
For lunch, you can choose to go to Castelfalfi, a finely restored medieval village, where today you can find excellent restaurants and a hotel for a thousand and one nights.
Moving to Certaldo, the medieval village of Giovanni Boccaccio, and visit of the historical center, Palazzo Pretorio, and Casa di Boccaccio. Among the small squares and alleys of the center, it is not difficult to imagine life in the castle at the time of the great man of letters, while the approaching sunset tints the bricks of the houses and palaces in a thousand shades between red and orange. At the Casa di Boccaccio, the memory of the famous author lives again thanks to the hundreds of editions of the Decameron kept in the historic library.
In the evening we move on to Montespertoli, the city of wine, where you can discover the Amedeo Bassi Museum to learn about the life and success of the great tenor from Montespertello, a true star of the early twentieth century. Finally, the town is perfect to stop for dinner in one of the characteristic local restaurants.
The colors of art. Journey through the masterpieces kept in local museums
From the frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli in Castelfiorentino to the polychrome enamels of the majolica tiles of Montelupo Fiorentino, passing by Limite sull’Arno, where ancient traditions linked to the nearby river still live on. An itinerary to discover the artistic masterpieces and historical craftsmanship of the Empolese Valdelsa.
Visit the BeGo Museum in Castelfiorentino which houses the frescoes by Benozzo Gozzoli painted at the end of the 15th century for the road tabernacles of the Madonna della Tosse and the Visitation. After a visit to the old town center, we move on to the town of Limite sull’Arno, nestled between the hills of Montalbano and the banks of the Arno, where traditions and stories linked to the constant proximity of the river are preserved. Here, where the oldest Rowing Society of Italy (founded in 1861) has its headquarters, you can visit the Exhibition Centre of Shipbuilding and Rowing and discover the secrets of the ancient craft of ‘Calafate’.
In Montelupo Fiorentino, a famous city of ceramics, you can visit the Ceramics Museum with its extraordinary collection of ceramic artifacts from the Middle Ages to the present day and watch a demonstration of clay working by a local craftsman. The centuries-old tradition of ceramics continues to live on in Montelupo Fiorentino, thanks to the work of many artists and craftsmen at work in the atélier and local workshops. These include the extraordinary production of Tacchini and Staccioli.
Tuscan genius between history and landscape
Birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci, Pontormo, and Giovanni Boccaccio, the Empolese Valdelsa is the ideal place to discover the origin of the Tuscan ‘genius’. In a landscape almost unchanged since the Renaissance, you can visit the places dear to the Medici family, who made Montalbano and the Padule di Fucecchio a holiday and hunting area, ‘equipped’ with country villas such as the splendid residence of Cerreto Guidi. Finally, Fucecchio, a historic castle on the Via Francigena, today a lively town where the traditions of the past blend well with the rhythms of modern life.
Visit the village of Fucecchio, once a medieval castle on the Via Francigena: walk through the streets of the old town center with a stop in the modern viewpoint of the Palazzo della Volta. Move along the panoramic road that overlooks the Marshes of Fucecchio, Italy’s largest inland marshland, to Cerreto Guidi.
In the heart of this ancient village, recognizable from afar for the imposing Medici Complex, you can visit the Villa built by Cosimo I de’ Medici in 1555, today the seat of the Historical Museum of Hunting and Territory which, taking into account the original vocation of this residence, displays a rich collection of hunting weapons and Medici portraits.
In Vinci, guided tour of Leonardo’s birthplace and Leonardian Museum passing through the green road – walk of about 3 km (duration 30 minutes) – and short city tour to discover the places related to the presence of Leonardo in his hometown. From the artwork to the story of Vinci’s most intimate memories, from the machines designed to facilitate man’s work to those designed to make his dreams come true, Leonardo’s genius lives again in Vinci at the Museo Leonardiano.
Enjoy your stay in Empolese Valdelsa and Montalbano!