Marradi, slow life in a Tuscan town

If you’ve already been to Tuscany or if you’re looking for a nice retreat after spending a few busy days in Florence, you might want to discover a hidden corner of this region, such as Marradi.

Marradi
Marradi

Marradi is a rural town in the Mugello area, located about 65 kilometres (40 miles) northeast of Florence, at the feet of the Apennines and straddling the border between Tuscany and Emilia Romagna. The earliest evidence of human habitation dates to an ancient population living near the banks of the Lamone River, along the important Roman road connecting Lucca and Faenza. The old town and the cobbled streets are very charming. Marradi has a very interesting urban structure, not usual for an Apennine village. It’s a mixture of noble palaces and buildings that are structurally similar to ones in the largest cities of Tuscany and throughout Italy. This characteristic is connected to Marradi’s history: during the sixteenth century, many noble Italian families were exiled from their hometown (such as the Fabroni from Pistoia and the Torriani from Milan) and they decided to take refuge in Marradi. Nevertheless, they did not renounce the comfort and luxury to which they were accustomed in the big cities.

Palazzo Torriani interior
Palazzo Torriani interior

Today, Marradi is a “Slow City”, as certified by the Slow Food Movement, and is well connected by the railway line known as the “Faentina”. This route is the best expression of the Tuscan-Romagnol Apennines: from the train window you can admire the green fields, caves and chestnut trees as far as the eye can see. If you are a foodie you’ll be not disappointed, because in Marradi the Tuscan culinary tradition meets Emilia-Romagna's cuisine, getting the best out of both. Speaking of food, this place is internationally known for the “Marrone di Marradi”, one of the finest chestnuts in the world. Its superior flavor, sweetness and easiness to peel are its best attributes. Also, Marradi is where the visionary Italian poet Dino Campana was born, and his main work, "The Orphic Songs", shows his deep connection with his homeland. In Marradi’s Cultural Center, which hosts, among other things, the public library and the tourist information office, you find the Campaniani Study Centre, the most important study centre and collection of documents related to Dino Campana. In the same building there is also the Chestnut Study and Documentation Centre. Lastly, this area offers many interesting trekking trails accessible on foot, by mountain bike or on horseback.

Garibaldi hiking trail
Garibaldi hiking trail

Sights in Marradi Santa Reparata in Salto abbey: This monastic complex was built in the 11th century and has been rebuilt many times: inside, the style is baroque, but the facade and the bell tower maintain the original Romanesque aspect. Animosi theatre: This theatre was founded at the end of 1700; it was the headquarters of the Animosi Academy up until 1938. Now it is open during celebrations, such as those dedicated to Dino Campana, for exhibitions and meetings and it is also used as a dance school, a theatre lab, a recording hall, a disco and a cinema. Delle Scalelle square: This is the central square and it is interesting from an artistic point of view. In fact, many buildings overlooking the square have been built in different centuries, from the 17th century onwards, such as the Palazzo Fabroni, to the 19th century, such as the Palazzo di Credito Romagnolo, built in a neo-medieval style. Palazzo Torriani: The construction of this palace was started by the Razzi family in the late 16th century, upon the remains of a pre-Roman tower. Shortly after, they realized that the task was too challenging for them, so they traded this building with the Torriani family, who arrived from Milan after being ousted by the Visconti family. The palace was devastated during the Nazi occupation, but recent restorations have brought the building back to its original beauty. Nowadays, it is a beautiful and luxury hotel with three apartments, but you can visit Palazzo Torriani every second Sunday of the month, from 9am to noon and from 3.30 to 6.30pm, by appointment only.

Palazzo Torriani
Palazzo Torriani

Events “Pane e Companatico”: An event dedicated to "Pane Sciocco" (saltless bread), a typical Tuscan product. Usually taking place in May, the historic center becomes an arena for old farming traditions, featuring music, excellent food and rural life re-enactments. Castagneto in Musica: A picturesque town festival held in an evocative chestnut grove that takes place on the first Saturday of July. Graticola d'oro: In the last week of July and the first of August, Marradi celebrates summer with parades of floats, water games, dancing and singing contests. The main event is the competition between the districts in order to conquer the “Graticola d’oro” (Gold Gridiron). The Eve of the Witches: On August 16, soothsayers, fortune tellers, palm readers and witches invade Marradi. The shops remain open until midnight and it’s likely you’ll meet “strange” characters during the night. Chestnut festival: In October, Marradi celebrates the king of autumn. This event, now in its 51st year, is very famous and offers a great opportunity to taste local delicacies, such as ravioli, jams, marrons glacés and roasted chestnuts. During the festival street artists and musicians will enliven the atmosphere. Christmas markets: On the first two Sundays in December, do not miss the traditional markets for some Christmas shopping. Reaching Marradi is a magical experience in itself: enjoy the typical steam train that takes you from Florence to the village of Marradi (and back). Once there, you can wander around gift shops, attend musical artistic performances and ride a sleigh with Santa Claus.

Faentina railway line
Faentina railway line

Getting here By train: In October and December you can reach Marradi by an evocative steam train; ordinary rail service operates all year round. The nearest station is Marradi-Palazzuolo sul Senio, which is a short distance from the main square of Marradi. From Florence S. M. Novella station, the trains for Marradi leave approximately every hour and the journey takes 1.15 h. Alternatively, you can take the train from Bologna and change trains in Faenza: it takes about 1.5 hours to reach Marradi. By car: Marradi is 65km from Florence, 85 from Bologna, 70 from Ravenna and just 35 from Faenza and from the Mugello Circuit (Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello), the popular Tuscan race track. It can be reached by car from Florence or from Faenza by the State Road n. 302.