The municipality of Pratovecchio Stia is located in the unmistakable landscape of the Casentino, surrounded by evocative forests and places of worship, the perfect scenery for those who love nature, mountains and hiking. Indeed, a visit to the Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi, Monte Falterona e Campigna is just the ticket.
One of the many great things about Pratovecchio is that it’s the birthplace of Paolo di Dono, known as Paolo Uccello, a wonderful Renaissance artist and master of perspective. The architecture in this small medieval village is a faithful mirror of its history.
This is a history of faith, attested to by the presence of two convents in the town, one with Camaldolese nuns and the other with Dominicans. But it’s also a history of power, so clearly represented by the imposing Romena Castle, a fortress once owned by the Guidi Counts that was even cited by Dante in the 30th canto of his Divine Comedy.
The castle dominates the Casentino from its privileged position. All that remains today is the cassero, three towers and part of the defense walls. The casserocan be reached via one of the towers, and it’s equipped with a fascinating drawbridge and is surrounded by a moat. Inside, you can visit the Podestà’s house – the residential palace where the Guidi Counts of Romena lived – and the keep, the tallest tower.
Close to the village, you’ll find the majestic Parish Church of San Pietro, one of the best examples of Romanesque architecture in the Casentino. The façade, simple and rustic, is made with ashlar, while to the left is a squat but solid bell tower.
The historic centre of Stia is positioned around piazza Tanucci, bordered on every side by porticoes. On the namesake road, you can find the beautiful Parish Church of Santa Maria Assunta, dating to the 12th century. The artworks conserved inside include a polychrome terracotta coat of arms of the Buonafede family made in Andrea della Robbia’s workshop, a beautiful Annunciation of Mary and Saints by Bicci di Lorenzo, and an impressive Madonna and Child with Two Angels by the Cimabue school or possibly by a young Giotto. Other traces of the distant Middle Ages can be seen in the Palagio Fiorentino, a centuries-old residence of the Guidi Counts, today home to an interesting collection of contemporary art.
Not far from the town is the imposing Castel Porciano, which dominates the valley in this first stretch of the Arno, and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, completely surrounded by forests.
Pratovecchia Stia is also known for its artisan activity, particularly with producing the Casentino panno, which has played an important role in the local economy. The historic woollen mill is today home to the Wool Museum. The town isn’t known only for its soft fabrics, but also for intense activities like metalsmithing, which is dedicated a biennale, when the World Forging Championship is held. Softer materials also find a home here during the event Forme del Legno, dedicated to woodworking.