Scarperia is one of the most interesting historical centres in the Mugello. The town, built as a Florentine outpost along the via Bolognese, went on to become an important market and a popular place of rest, thanks to its position. Even today the town is divided in two by the via Bolognese, around which the buildings have formed an urban fabric enclosed by a ring of walls, marked at intervals by square towers.
The heart of the fortified settlement is the Palazzo dei Vicari, a severe, turreted, 14th-century residence on the side facing in towards the piazza, and a sturdy fortress round the back. Two great walls, which form a vast internal courtyard, connect it to the keep, which is inserted into the eastern stretch of the walls, preserved, unfortunately only in traces. The whole palatial complex is equipped with defences at the bottom of the walls and of the versatile tower, with brackets and merlons.
After the earthquake of 1929, repair works made the building resemble the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence: some say, after all, that they were designed by the same architect, Arnolfo di Cambio. The facade is decorated with the coats-of-arms of the vicegerents who succeeded each other through the centuries, which demonstrates how coveted this position was. Particularly interesting are the glazed terracotta emblems, originating from the della Robbia workshop and from Benedetto Buglioni. The interior is characterised by Renaissance frescoes and finishing touches, which contrast with the building’s stark outward appearance. On the highest floor, in the first room, you can see a Madonna and Child with Saints (1554) from the school of Ghirlandaio. It is also possible inside the palace to visit the Museum of Knives and Cutting Tools, dedicated to what was certainly Scarperia's defining artisan activity throughout the centuries.
Two interesting religious buildings face each other across the main piazza. The first is the Propositura, founded by Frate Napoleone dei Galluzzi in 1326 and named after St James and St Philip. The church, expanded in 1870 along the designs of the architect Mario Falcini, contains a marble tondo by Benedetto di Maiano, a tabernacle by Mino di Fiesole and a crucifix by Sansovino, as well as numerous paintings. The other building is the Oratory of the Madonna di Piazza, which dates back to 1320: this is where the solemn swearing-in ceremony of the vicegerents took place, who received the oath of obedience from the Podestà and then assumed office. In the middle of the chapel on the ground floor we find a late-Gothic tabernacle with Solomonic (twisted) columns from 1490. The building is home to Jacopo del Casentino's Madonna di Piazza, rediscovered, according to tradition, in the well of the piazza.
To complete your visit to this fascinating town, which numbers among the most beautiful in Italy, go to the Oratory of the Madonna dei Terremoti and that of the Madonna del Vivaio. Not far from these you will find the Torrino, a large medieval tower encircled by a beautiful Italian garden. The Sacred Art Collection and the Sant'Agata Centre of Archaeological Documentation deserve a mention. Scarperia is an important place for car and motorbike lovers, for nearby is the famous Mugello Autodrome. An ideal time to visit Scarperia might be early September, when every year, to celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the town (8th September), a fascinating, historical masked procession takes place, as does a palio race between its various districts.