The name Valdarno indicates a territory between Florence and Arezzo, along which the river Arno flows, and where it seems there was a lake 5 million years ago!
Anyone passing by car from the A1 motorway on the stretch that leads north from Rome, at a certain point, will come across some exits bearing the words "Valdarno".
This is a wide, flat area surrounded on one side by the mountains of Pratomagno and Casentino, and on the other side by the gentle hills of Chianti. It's from here that some panoramic roads depart that, between curves and castles, lead you to Radda, Greve in Chianti, Gaiole in Chianti.
Normally, the Valdarno is divided between the Valdarno of Florence and the Valdarno of Arezzo or, between the Upper and Lower Valdarno. Often, the administrative divisions do not coincide with the morphological ones. However we can say, that in the part that is in the province of Florence, you'll find Figline, Incisa and Rignano. In the province of Arezzo instead, are Terranuova Bracciolini, Montevarchi, San Giovanni, Bucine, Pergine, Pian di Sco', Loro Ciuffenna, Castiglion Fibocchi.
The Valdarno will surprise you by its nature, with cultivated fields, vineyards and woods, whilst at the same time it welcomes you with cities rich in history, inhabited by thousands of people, which maintain a great level of livability. This mix of tranquility, authentic spirit and beautiful landscapes makes it an area much loved by tourists, who visit it by car, motorbike, bike and even on foot!
Figline is a town that has its own identity and history, although today it is part of the Municipality of Figline and Incisa Valdarno. Mentioned by Dante Alighieri in the Divine Comedy, it has a beautiful historic centre, quite cosy and lively, where events are often held.
The origin of the town is medieval, and already around the year 1,000, there were records of a castle of "Fegghine". The town was obviously involved in the internal clashes of nearby Florence. Important personalities have also passed here and left traces and it was in Figline that Masaccio was born. The central square, the Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta and the Palazzo Pretorio have to be seen.
Among the most interesting events there is Ruralia in November, which recalls the ancient cattle fairs that were held here. You'll find animals, food stands, meetings and a large market exhibition in the streets of the centre.
Not far from Figline, the parish church of San Romolo a Gaville is worth seeing: a small church of Romanesque origin, surrounded by greenery, with a small museum dedicated to peasant art. It is easily reached by car. And the panorama alone is worth the detour!
The pretty town of San Giovanni Valdarno is famous for various reasons. Life revolves around the central square, dominated by the Palazzo d'Arnolfo, named after Arnolfo di Cambio who designed it (yes, the same person who designed the Duomo of Florence and Santa Croce). The palace of medieval origin - dating back to 1200 - is surrounded by a beautiful loggia and dominated by a crenellated tower. Today it houses a small museum: the Museo delle Terre Nuove.
The entrance to the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie is remarkable, going up the stairs leads directly to the side of the altar! The church was started at the end of the 1400s and has undergone various alterations, but the Della Robbia terracotta and the chapel of the Madonna del Latte, linked to a local miracle, are worth a visit. Also worth seeing is the related museum with an Annunciation by Fra' Angelico.
The main street, home to the Saturday morning market, is loved by locals who love to walk and meet.
If you pass by San Giovanni, don't forget to taste the typical local dish or the Sangiovannese stew.
Little remains of the beautiful medieval town today, only a few traces of old walls, and some recovered architectural elements. Terranuova is a quiet place, without many big attractions. However, if you happen to be in the area towards the end of September, you will come across a completely different scenario: during the Fiera del Perdono, thousands of stalls and exhibitors from all over Italy meet here for a few days. You'll find everything! From clothing, to gourmet products, to everything you need for the home. There is also the bird fair, the cattle fair, and to the delight of the little ones... the Luna Park!
Montevarchi links its history to the hat industry which flourished here between the end of the 1800s and the first half of the 1900s. The famous straw hats of Florence, and the felt hats, the famous "Borsalino" were made here and exported all over the world. That's why you'll find beautiful Liberty villas or even Art Noveau masterpieces like Villa Masini (which can be visited by appointment or during special events). Today only a few chimneys and industrial remnants remain of this industry.
From a tourist point of view, in Montevarchi you can see:
- the Paleontological Museum with fossils and remains of animals that lived millennia ago, like the skull of an authentic mammoth found in a field not far away!
- the Cassero Museum: inside an ancient keep, or rather a sort of military fortress, a museum of sculptures of local artists has been created thanks to a recent renovation. Exhibitions are often held there. They also organise visits in English and workshops for children.
The Valdarno is also home to important Made in Italy companies, especially from the fashion sector. This is where the Prada company is based. In fact, shopping enthusiasts meet up at The Space, the outlet where one can buy Prada clothing, shoes and accessories at a discounted price.
In recent years, several fashion outlets have sprung up in Valdarno, the most famous of which is in Reggello and is called The Mall. Here you'll find shops of the most important fashion brands: Gucci, Ferragamo, Prada, Michael Kors, Armani, Burberry, Fendi, Roberto Cavalli etc.
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