Travelling along the via Bolognese you can discover beautiful countryside villas, farms and breath-taking panoramas. This road connects Florence to the Mugello, a mountainous valley nearly 1,000 meters above sea level that stretches as far as Bologna. Below are our recommendations for must-visit places and must-taste foods in the Mugello.
Villas and castles
- Villa la Pietra is a stunning villa built in the 15th century and now home to New York University’s Florence program. The villa houses an eclectic collection of art from all around the world, while the garden that surrounds the villa was designed in the Renaissance Italian style and contains a large collection of statues collected by Arthur Acton. Villa La Pietra is usually closed to the public, but it is opened for free for two weeks each year, offering visitors a wonderful opportunity to explore its treasures.
- Pratolino Medici Park is one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Tuscany. Originally, Villa di Pratolino was a noble Renaissance villa built by Francesco I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, but it was mostly demolished in 1820: what remains is now part of Villa Demidoff. Don't miss the Colossus of the Apennines, a giant sculpture by Giambologna, as well as the Grotto of Cupid, the Mugnone fountain and the chapel designed by Buontalenti in 1580.
- Trebbio Castle was built on the ruins of a previous feudal tower by Michelozzo Michelozzi at the request of Cosimo de' Medici. This place was Lorenzo the Magnificent’s favourite destination for hunting trips, and Giovanni dalle Bande Nere and Cosimo I both lived here for significant periods of time. In 1476, a young Amerigo Vespucci took refuge from a plague-ridden Florence in the castle.
- Villa Cafaggiolo was originally a medieval castle that was transformed by the Medici family into a residential building. It dates to the 14th century, when it was owned by Averardo de' Medici, and it was Averardo's son, Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, who is considered to be the founder of the Medici dynasty.
The best local companies and farms that supply the Florence, Livorno and Pistoia “Centrale del Latte” are part of an itinerary called the Milk Route that runs through Firenzuola, San Piero a Sieve, Borgo San Lorenzo, Scarperia, Vicchio and Barberino del Mugello. Travelers along the route can learn about the step-by-step stages of milking and the milk processing. This tour, which is marked by special brown road signs along the streets of the Mugello, is the perfect way to combine learning and tastings!
Towns in the Mugello
- In addition to Pratolino, there is also Vaglia, San Piero a Sieve, Barberino di Mugello, Scarperia and Borgo San Lorenzo.
- On the north side, nestled amongst the towering peaks of the Mugello, is the Upper Mugello, home to towns like Firenzuola, Palazzuolo sul Senio and Marradi.
- Read more about the Mugello’s towns in this post by Around Tuscany.
Meat has always had a long-standing tradition in the Mugello. Limousine, Charolaise, Chianina, Calvana and Romagnola are bred here, and they follow specific regulations that ensure the traceability of the product, from birth to butcher.
Tortelli di patate
Tortelli di patate is a true culinary masterpiece. These soft, square, yellow ravioli are filled with mashed potato cheese, garlic and parsley and are normally made using white potatoes cultivated in Firenzuola in the Upper Mugello. They are usually topped with ragout or served plain with olive oil and lemon.
Milk and Cheeses
Milk production in the Mugello reaches close to 17.5 million litres a year, counting for 50% of Tuscany’s production, all of which passes through the Centrale del Latte in Florence (the Central Dairy). Thanks to this production, you can find high-quality cheeses like Raviggiolo (or raveggiolo del Mugello): a soft, fresh cheese made from cow’s milk characterized by its round shape and intense white colouring.
The IGP Mugello chestnut is markedly sweet, peels easily and isn’t excessively floury or astringent. It boasts a slight hint of vanilla flavour and smells like hazelnuts or fresh bread. The chestnut groves, 3,322 hectares of land, grow on hillsides that range from 300 to 900 metres above sea level.