It is a valley that corresponds to the upper river Sieve, delimited by the Apennine Mountains with the Futa Pass, the Giogo Pass, the Passo della Colla di Casaglia and the Muraglione Pass. Mugello is separated from the Arno Valley and from Florence by the ridges of Monte Giovi, Vetta le Croci, Monte Senario and Croci di Calenzano. The territory of the "Unione montana dei Comuni del Mugello" unites two geographical areas: the Mugello and the Upper Mugello or Romagna-Tuscany. Now that we have geographically located the Mugello Valley, let’s talk about its origins.
The name Mugello comes from a Ligurian tribe called Magelli, who prospered in this area during Paleolithic times. Then the Etruscans occupied the area, leaving many archaeological traces and then, in the third-fourth century BCE, the Romans invaded Tuscany and seized control of this region. The Middle Ages in this area left numerous castles (some of which are still visible today) and then came the time of the Florentine families who built villas here (including the Medicis villas of Cafaggiolo and del Trebbio).
The landscape of the Mugello is characterized by a wide belt of mountains and hills that slope down to the plain adjacent to the river Sieve. The fauna of this area includes deer, roe deer, wild boar and mouflon as well as wolves and eagles. The Mugello includes 4 forest reserves that are part of the Agricultural Heritage of Tuscany: the Giogo-Casaglia, the Calvana, the Alto Senio and the Alpe. Since the Nineties, the Lake of Bilancino has become a characteristic feature of the Mugello landscape. It is an artificial lake created with the primary purpose of adjusting the flow rates of the Sieve and ensure water supply to Florentines, but it is also used for tourism purposes. Here are 9 towns in the Mugello area:
This town was founded in the Middle Ages during a period of struggle for economic power and was, for many years, a rather vital centre for the commercial life of the entire valley. It experienced its period of maximum splendour during the 15th century under the Medici family, whose residences are found throughout the territory and are still open to the public today.
Among the things to see in Barberino there is the main square, where there is the Praetorian Palace tower built in 1459 with several coats of arms of the different Lords, radically changed with the restoration of the nineteenth century that has preserved the sixteenth-century portal. On the opposite side of the square you can see the elegant fifteenth-century lodges of the Medici (1396-1472) attributed to Michelozzo. The castle, originally from the eleventh century, was transformed into a private house. The Oratorio della Compagnia, founded in 1498, expanded after the earthquake of 1531 and renovated in 1850, houses two doors and a stone altar, 16th-century choir stalls, later rebuilt, and an 18th-century Christ.
It is the biggest town in the Mugello area, founded on a Roman settlement around the court of the Ubaldini family. It is in a strategic position near the two roads that link the valley to Florence: the Faentina and the Bolognese roads. The town was destroyed and rebuilt many times, and today few things remain of the mid-fourteenth-century walls that once surrounded the town.
The highlights of the town are religious buildings such as the Abbey of St. Lawrence, the Parish of St. Cresci in Valcava and the Oratory of the Madonna of the Three Rivers. Other non-religious points of interest are the municipal building (now, the Town Hall), Villa Pecori Giraldi (built in the 13th century) and with Liberty interiors that host the Museum of Chini Manufacture.
Situated at an altitude of 162 meters above sea level, Dicomano looks down over the Mugello area and the Val di Sieve, close to the Apennine mountains. The name came from the “Castrum Decumani”, meaning a fortified town with bridges and towers, and dates to Roman times, but the Etruscans also settled a town here before.
The village was once home to a thriving market in relation to the presence of an important crossroads, which focused on the goods and merchants of the Sieve Valley, the Romagna and the Casentino. Today, the town is still an important centre for industry and commerce, as well as having a significant agricultural sector that produces olive oil, wine, meat and chestnuts. Dicomano is home to many interesting historical buildings, like the neoclassical Sant’Onofrio Oratory and the Romanesque Pieve di Santa Maria Church, hosting works by both Vasari and Bronzino. There are also fascinating Etruscan and Roman archaeological sites.
Firenzuola means little Florence and was founded during the first half of the 14th century by the Florence council in order to hinder the power of the Ubaldinis, the family that had uncontested dominion over the whole of Mugello. Besieged, destroyed and rebuilt many times, this town shows only a few of the elements of its past: the two gates, Porta Fiorentina and Porta Bolognese, the traces of the ancient surrounding walls and la Rocca, the building that is now home to the Town Hall and the Museo della Pietra Serena.
A curious piece of information: in the 15th century, Firenzuola was nearly completely rebuilt by Lorenzo il Magnifico and for a certain period it was ruled by Niccolò Machiavelli. During the Second World War it was nearly totally destroyed (1944), but today it is completely reconstructed.
Read the post “Marradi, slow life in a Tuscan town”
In the 12th century, Palazzuolo was ruled by the Ubaldini family and was a centre of commerce and trade. Visit the Palazzo dei Capitani, the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Neve in Quadalto, and the Provostry of St. Stephen with the altar-piece showing the “Madonna with Child and Other Saints”, dating to the 16th century.
Take a walk to the ancient ruins of the Castellaccio. This is a perfect town for people looking for uncontaminated nature and long walks.
The ancient village of San Piero a Sieve was developed around the ancient parish church of St. Peter dating back to the 11th century. The period of biggest splendour corresponds to Medici rule, as many villas can confirm.
Visit San Martino Fortress, desired by Cosimo I for the defensive needs of the town; and Trebbio Castle that dominates the Mugello valley. Visit also the Convent Bosco ai Frati, immersed in nature.
Like Firenzuola, Scarperia was desired by the Florentine Republic to oppose the feudal power of the Ubaldini family, who, through a vast range of castles, controlled the main roads and Apennine passes. The town was founded at the beginning of the 14th century with the name of Castel S. Barnaba. In the Middle Ages, Scarperia had a highly strategic position on the main road that connected Florence to the trans-Apennine towns of Bologna and Imola. But then, under the Lorena government, the Futa carriage road was built and Scarperia was cut out of the main roads, reducing its tradition of local craftsmanship to knife production, for which this town is still famous today.
There are many points of interest here, like the Palazzo dei Vicari in the town’s main square. Visit also the Church of St. James and St. Philip and, on the same square, the Chapel of the Madonna di Piazza. Scarperia is known worldwide for the Motomondiale, which takes place in the Autodrome, to the north of the town.
Vicchio has been populated since ancient times. It played a very important role during the Second World War as being one of the strongholds of the partisan resistance. In Vicchio, there are numerous places of interest, such as Piazza Giotto, the town’s main square where the ancient municipal building stands, today seat of the Council, and the Church of St. John the Baptist. You can also have a picnic along the banks of the Montelleri Lake.
Vicchio was the birthplace of many important people of the past: the artist Giotto, the sculptor Benvenuto Cellini, the painter Beato Angelico and Don Lorenzo Milani lived and worked in the small hamlet of Barbiana.