The Montagna Pistoiese EcoMuseum is a partly open-air museum diffused throughout the territory, made up of outdoor itineraries, museums and education centers, whose mission is to help visitors discover the Tuscan Apennines to the north of Pistoia and explore the relationship between man and the environment as it’s developed over the centuries.
The administrative heart of the EcoMuseum is in Gavinana, a village in the municipality of San Marcello Pistoiese, inside the historic Palazzo Achilli, the home of the Central Information Point and equipped with interactive workshops and reception facilities.
The EcoMuseum comprises six itineraries: let’s take a look at them.
The iron trail tells the history of the iron industry in the Pistoiese Mountains from the Middle Ages to the 14th century. In 1543, Cosimo I de’ Medici transformed the area into the first iron industry centre in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, thanks to the surrounding forests and abundance of water, both necessary for naturally fuelling the forge.
You can visit the Ironworks in Maresca, a hamlet in the municipality of San Marcello Piteglio, which is the oldest in Tuscany, built around the mid-14th century and in operation until the end of the 1980s, while the hamlet of Pontepetri is home to the Iron Museum and educational garden. The Ironworks Path, starts here, winding along the Maresca creek, which once fuelled the ironworks in Pontepetri.
Make sure you don’t miss the Suspension Bridge in Mammiano, built in 1922 and one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the world.
The ice trail introduces visitors to the production of natural ice, which developed in the Pistoiese Mountains from the end of the 1700s to the early 20th century.
Visitors can explore the Madonnina Ice House in Le Piastre (Pontepetri), where ice was stored, and the Ice learning center in Pracchia, with original tools and historic photos, and hike along the Ice Path, 9 km long, connecting Le Piastre to Pontepetri.
The nature trail leads visitors on a discovery of the richness of the Pistoia Apennines and includes a stop at the Botanical Gardens in Abetone, an ecological oasis that conserves many Alpine species, like spruce trees.
Also in Abetone, exhibitions and educational courses at the Learning Centre in Fontana Vaccaia further explore the theme of nature.
The sacred art trail is centered around the Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta in Popiglio, a splendid example of Romanesque architecture that was once rich in artworks, donated as votive offerings by a family of Popiglio origin living in Rome, the Vannini, and today on display in the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art.
The Everyday life trail explores the customs of the past and the mountain communities’ relationship with work and the environment.
The itinerary begins at the Museum of the Pistoia Apennine People in Cutigliano, which narrates how people lived in this area from past centuries to today and which offers two workshops: one dedicated to toys and one to the art of wool weaving.
The itinerary continues to Orsigna along the chestnut trail, which leads to the Molino (Mill) di Giamba, built in 1820 and still used today for grinding the chestnuts harvested in the nearby forests.
The Stone trail includes the Via Francesca della Sambuca, a medieval pilgrimage route that leads from the hamlet of Pavana to Sambuca Castello, a medieval fortified village.
Make sure to stop by the Stone Learning Centre in Sambuca Pistoiese, where tools and objects from the historic mason trade are on display, as well as the Biogenetic Reserve in Acquerino and the Romanesque Parish Church of Furfalo, in Marliana, dating to the 10th century and whose ruins are hidden in the forest.