At the foot of the Pratomagno in the Upper Valdarno is the town of Loro Ciuffenna, a small, medieval town built around a single-arched Romanesque bridge and one of the most charming villages in Italy, even classified as one of the "I Borghi più belli d'Italia". All around Loro Ciuffenna are the Balze, unusual rock formations of clay and sand that can be as much as 100 metres high, adding to its beauty.
The history of the town dates to the Etruscan era, but the name Loro, coming from the Latin word Laurus (bay tree), was used for the first time in 1050, while Ciuffenna is the name of the torrent that dominates the layout of the town, a name that is also of Etruscan origin. The two were combined in 1863.
The entrance to the heart of the village is through Porta dell’Orologio, over a historic bridge. At the end of the single road running the length of the town is the opposite gate; both are actually the only gates that remain from a previous castle on the site. Along this central street, you can visit the Church of Santa Maria Assunta (the former chapel of the medieval castle), home to a fine polyptych by Lorenzo Bicci (early 15th century) and frescoes dating to the 13th and 14th centuries. On the easter edge of the town stands the Basilica of Nostra Signora, entirely frescoed with biblical scenes.
One of the town’s peculiarities is the Ciuffenna river, which runs through a canyon and was used for centuries to power mills that produced chestnut flour (a traditional product in the area). Here, you can also find the oldest functioning water mill in Tuscany, most likely built around 1100.
Art lovers have the opportunity to learn about the work of one of Italy’s most innovative artists, the Venturino Venturi, an illustrious Loro Ciuffenna local. Shortly after his death in 2002, his home was opened to the public, where the works are located in different rooms, like his studio, the original appearance of which has been preserved. Casa Venturi is also home to the Documentation Centre for 20th-Century Italian Sculpture. The Venturino Venturi Museum is not actually here, but is instead in the town hall, which displays 92 sculptures and drawings.
Lastly, 1 km from Loro Ciuffenna, you can find the unique Parish Church in Gropina, located on a hill along the ancient via Cassia Vetus. This is not your average country church. This is one of the oldest, best preserved Romanesque parish churches in all of Tuscany, and is widely considered a masterpiece. It has a rich and ancient history: during restoration work in the 1960s, the ruins of a Lombard church and a 4th-century BCE temple were discovered beneath it. More importantly, however, the church is famous for the wealth and variety of the images and symbols carved into its pillars. The interior has three naves with two rows of pillars and columns, each of which has a capital that depicts a symbolic story.