The Medici family has left Mugello with numerous traces of a power that united economic and political expansion to the most innovative forms of artistic expression. They are not merely the result of an enlightened patronage but part of a cultural context so accepted and widespread that they are also clearly visible in the geometrical division of the lands and the woods, in the rational canalisation of the waters, in the design and size of certain farm houses, manors and churches, and in the harmonious distribution of the settlements.
It is a finely woven mesh that finds no interruption in continuity, and goes from its highest most specialized moments (like one of Donatello's or Michelozzo's works) to the more common ones, which pertain to everyone, and create “atmosphere”.
The traveller is, therefore, invited to enter this world by whatever means he chooses, and to travel along the roads, now byways, that were visited by ancient times and travellers, to discover the monuments and outstanding artistic works, but also the lesser and often unacknowledged signs of this great civilization.
The suggested route starts in Florence and moves along roads that lead to the town of San Piero a Sieve, Barberino di Mugello and Scarperia. Moving out of the city of Florence along Via Bolognese, before reaching Mugello, our first stop is in Pratolino. Here we find Medicean Park of Pratolino (Villa Demidoff), one of the first great 16th century traces of the Medici at the time of the Grand Duchy.
By way of Via Bolognese, once past Vaglia, we reach Mugello. Before entering , we turn right towards Barberino di Mugello. Shortly after a dirt road rises to the left towards Trebbio Castle, whose tower rises above a dense cypress trees wood that covers the hill.
From the Trebbio, back onto the Bolognese road, on our way to Barberino di Mugello, we reach Villa di Cafaggiolo: it stands backed against the hills in the centre of meadows and fields that fall away to the Sieve river to the east.
In the near vicinity of Villa di Cafaggiolo we find Bosco ai Frati Convent. It is just a few kilometres off, along the road that goes to Panna-Galliano.
San Piero a Sieve and then Scarperia, the Florentine “New Land” founded in the 14th century, where it is
From Scarperia, we move back to San Piero a Sieve where, on the last stop of our journey, we can admire the Medici Fortress of San Martino and take a walk along its ancient walls.
The Medici estates
The Medici family estates were concentrated mainly in the areas of San Piero a Sieve, Barberino and Scarperia. The area, along with its rich natural environment, provided a strong communications link with other areas. The transapennine route, for example, helped keep commercial relations between the Florentine plains and the Bolognese ones flourishing in Medieval times, thus providing the great family with profits and privileges.
Whether we accept the theory that the great family's origins lie in the areas of the Cafaggiolo and Trebbio Castles, or whether we choose to believe that this “city-dwelling” family merely invested in the area, the fact remains that the growth of the properties around the two castles was constant and continuous, to the point that it would include a vast stretch of territory, both lands and real estate, in the most important centres of Barberino, San Piero a Sieve and Scarperia.
The presence of the Medici family not only left numerous, important traces, but it also attracted many important Florentine families whose fortunes were linked to theirs, and merchants who, by following in their footsteps, had begun to buy property and goods in Mugello. In the course of the 15thcentury, the Giugni and Salviati families, for example, had set in motion a process of change in the Mugello landscape, and contributed in promulgating the tastes and character of the artistic works of the city (from architecture to paintings and sculptures), by employing the same craftsmen and workshops that had worked to enhance their city dwellings.
This route will give the traveller a glimpse of the multihued and mannered world of the Medici, the cultural “climate” and the natural setting in which the Florentine aristocracy moved.