FIRENZE Mugello is a green land, a little wild, however rich in art, culture and traditions. There is the valley near the city of Florence, where traces of the Medici family are still present with some UNESCO sites, and then there is the Alto Mugello, an Apennine land made up of small villages, centuries-old chestnut groves and woods in which to get lost.
In the years in which I worked for the Mugello Tourism Office, I had the opportunity to learn about the thousand and more peculiarities of this area, which make it truly unique and an inexhaustible source of interesting activities. And as Giovanni di Pagolo Morelli, historian (1371-1444) wrote
“Mugello is’ the most beautiful country in our countryside, and for this it has a common reputation for everyone”.
This is why I have selected 10 things to experience, in a mix of art, culture, traditions and good food.
1. Viale di Panna
One of the most iconic postcards of the Mugello valley is the cypress-lined avenue of Panna, which has little to envy to the most famous of Bolgheri. It is about two kilometres of the provincial road 39 flanked by centuries-old cypress trees; the road connects the town of Galliano to Panna, where the famous spring of the homonymous water is located.
A curiosity: Galliano recently jumped to the headlines of international newspapers because there is no telephone coverage; in fact it had been chosen by Netflix as the location for the promotion of the film “The Mitchells Against the Machines”. Here is the funny spot.
2. Palazzo dei Vicari
The village of Scarperia, in the lower Mugello, is one of the new lands founded by the Florentine Republic in 1306 and keeps its original appearance almost intact. A walk in the historic center of Scarperia is always a good idea, as well as a visit to Palazzo dei Vicari where you can see the Museo dei Ferritaglienti, for which Scarperia is famous all over the world, and the original mechanism of the palace clock made by Filippo Brunelleschi around 1445, who in addition to being the architect of the Dome of the Florence Cathedral was also a goldsmith.
Last but not least, with the entrance ticket to Palazzo dei Vicari it is possible to climb the bell tower and enjoy a breathtaking view.
3. Casa di Giotto
Yes, Giotto was also born in Mugello, as was Beato Angelico. Giotto’s house is located just outside the village of Vicchio in the locality of Vespignano, in a magnificent landscape setting. Here the hills are gentle and green, and it is not difficult to imagine how this landscape could have inspired Giotto to become a great artist. Among other things, not far away is the Cimabue Bridge, where it is said that Cimabue met Giotto for the first time.
Giotto’s House is a lively cultural center where it is possible to do workshops and courses, as well as to deepen Giotto’s life.
4. Casa d’Erci
Casa d’Erci is a timeless place surrounded by nature, which collects the memory of the old peasant world of the Tuscan-Romagna Apennines. This large farmhouse today collects more than 2,000 different objects, which tell us how people lived in the last century together with a very rich photographic archive.
Casa d’Erci is animated by a nice group of people who animate it with workshops and activities for young and old. Complementing the museum there is a suggestive historical nature trail, a circular path about one and a half kilometres long, to observe nature and numerous reconstructions of farm and woodland environments.
5. Centro storico di Borgo San Lorenzo
Borgo San Lorenzo is the town of Mugello, because it is the largest and most active center in the whole area. For a pleasant walk I suggest the historic centre which also struck the American painter John Singer Sargent at the beginning of the twentieth century. Very particular is the Clock Tower, dating back to 1300, which uniquely outlines the skyline of Borgo San Lorenzo.
To see the Chini Museum, which collects a collection dedicated to the artistic history of Galileo Chini, inventor of the Liberty style in Italy, and his family, who had their manufacture here.
For a glass of wine and something to eat, I recommend the Passaguai Cibo & Vino (in Piazza Garibaldi, number 2).
6. Palazzo Torriani
Marradi is very different from the typical Apennine villages with its noble palaces, the Teatro degli Animosi and Palazzo Torriani. This is because the history of Marradi is different from that of other inhabited centres of the Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennines: the village was chosen by some noble Lombard families on the run as a place of exile in the fourteenth century. Hence the story of Palazzo Torriani, a historic residence full of wonders that has been in the same family for 500 years. To preserve the traditions of the Torriani family there are today Anna Maria and her daughter Mariaemilia, who open the doors of their home to those who want to admire some splendid works by Galileo Chini, but also by a young Giovanni Fattori, as well as seeing objects related to history of Italy and beyond. In addition they also offer tastings of some of the typical dishes of the area, including recipes based on chestnuts, celebrated every year with the popular Chestnut Festival in Marradi.
Marradi is also the town of the poet Dino Campana, author of the Canti Orfici and of poignant words of love for the writer Sibilla Aleramo, with whom he had a tormented love story.
7. Centro storico di Palazzuolo sul Senio
Palazzuolo sul Senio is the classic Tuscan-Romagnolo Apennine village with stone houses, always smoking fireplaces, narrow stone streets. It is a postcard village, apparently among the most beautiful in Italy, perfect for a trip in search of lightheartedness, beautiful landscapes and art! Two places in particular should not be missed: Palazzo Capitani with its two museums (Archaeological Museum and Museum of the Mountain People) and the mini contemporary art gallery (former newsstand) E50035.
8. Tortelli di patate
You can’t come to Mugello without eating potato tortelli! It is a fresh pasta stuffed with potatoes, strictly handmade in restaurants and homes, and served with wild boar, ragù or mushrooms. Tortelli from Mugello were also very popular with Lorenzo the Magnificent, although at the time they were filled with chestnuts and not with potatoes.
9. Mulini ad acqua del Mugello
Mugello is still today full of water mills that can be visited, which tell us a lot about the history of the area and its traditions. A visit to the old mills is always pleasant for young and old. Among those not to be missed I recommend:
- Antico Mulino Margheri, in the locality of Madonna dei Tre Fiumi and dating back to before the year 1000. The mill is still in operation, mainly to grind chestnut flour;
- Mulino Faini in Grezzano, very close to Casa d’Erci, dating back to 1400 and now transformed into an interesting museum;
- Mulino Parrini in Sant’Agata, dating back to the 16th century which today has come back to life thanks to an association, which grinds flour and prepares bread and flatbread.
Last but not least: Mugello is a land where people also come to walk. There are more than 600 km of marked trails, suitable for all types of walkers; very popular is the Via degli Dei, a path that connects Bologna to Florence and is intertwined with the ancient Roman Military Flaminia of 189 BC, or the Dante’s Walk that connects Ravenna to Florence and crosses the upper Mugello.
Among my favorite walks is the Anello de I Diacci with the passage behind the Abbraccio Waterfall and a stop for tortelli at the I Diacci Refuge.
- For more info on the area, visit the website www.mugellotoscana.it
- Discover five curiosities about Mugello in another article by Valentina (published in English on her blog TooMuchTuscany): Mugello: 5 unusual things to do
- Read our article “Appennino: un racconto sulle r/esistenze di oggi e un’ex edicola che con l’arte contemporanea rigenera un paese” to find out everything and more about Palazzuolo and its E50035 gallery!