Today we are going to discover some little gems spread around Tuscany that were in part named after famous people who resided there in the past. In order to help you organize your trip within literature, history and art we’ve also added the opening hours and the prices of the tickets for each museum.
Giovanni Pascoli was an Italian poet and classical scholar who lived between 1855 and 1912. In 1895 Giovanni Pascoli and his sister moved to Castelvecchio, a small hamlet in the Serchio valley part of the municipality of Barga, and were inspired by the town, the people and the lifestyle to write the “Songs of Castelvecchio” along with other songs. Giovanni Pascoli spent a long time in Castelvecchio, devoting himself to poetry and to the study of classical literature (the three desks to work in three languages, Italian, Latin, Greek are famous and still visible).
The work “Canti di Castelvecchio” is full of autobiographical references and depictions of rural life and dialectal terms of the area. You can still find the Museo Casa Pascoli and a chapel where Giovanni Pascoli is buried. The village of Castelvecchio Pascoli consists of two villages: Castelvecchio di Sopra and Castelvecchio di Sotto. The first is the oldest one and it’s also known as Caproni, from the name of an ancient family already present on site since the fourteenth century. Here you can find the church dedicated to St. Nicolao, built on the top of the hill, and the House of Pascoli.
Castelvecchio di Sotto, today core of the village, has a more modern origin, although the spot has been noted from medieval times due to the existence of a Hospital. It was founded in the twelfth century near the bridge over the Serchio.
Castagneto Carducci takes its name from the family of the famous Italian poet Giosuè Carducci, born in Valdicastello (Pietrasanta) in 1835 and the first Italian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1906. Castagneto Carducci is a village of the Costa degli Etruschi perched on a hillside at around 10 kilometres from the sea of Marina di Castagneto and it is a nice centre with a number of panoramic points.
You can visit the house of Giosuè Carducci and see the rooms where the poet lived, along with a museum with an archive of poems and documents related to him. At the beginning of Via Marconi there is the Palazzo Comunale in a dominant position near the Carducci archive. Continuing to climb through the streets of the village you will come across the Church of San Lorenzo and the Castle of Castagneto.
Despite several renovations over the centuries, these two buildings are the original nucleus of the city. The nearby Church of the S.S. Crucifix is interesting due to the wooden crucifix preserved inside, which dates back to the 15th century. A wildlife oasis of exceptional naturalistic importance characterizes the surrounding countryside and here the Bolgheri wine is produced, as well as extra-virgin olive oil of the highest quality.
Read more about this area of Tuscany called Etruscan Coast.
Torre del Lago is named after Giacomo Puccini, a very famous Italian composer. The great composer loved the landscape of Torre del Lago because it sparked his creativity so much that he never had any desire to leave. Torre del Lago began to gain importance around the mid-18th century, when hunters, fishermen and farmers were drawn there by the land’s fertility and the wonderful variety of flora e fauna in this natural oasis thanks to works of reclamation of vast swamplands.
Torre del Lago is part of the municipality of Viareggio situated between the Lake of Massaciuccoli and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The residence where the composer lived, Villa Puccini, is a belvedere situated in a perfect position on Lake Massaciuccoli and houses the tomb of the composer. You can visit Torre del Lago for a walking tour around Massaciuccoli Lake, in the protected area of Migliarino-San Rossore-Massaciucoli Nature Park and to discover the fascinating floral species and numerous bird species.
You can also visit Villa Borbone between Viareggio and Torre del Lago and take part of the Festival Puccini, an annual opera festival held in its open-air theatre, a short distance from Villa Puccini. Marina di Torre del Lago is well known for being an important gay-friendly summer resort of national and international appeal with beach resorts, restaurants and open-air discos.
Read more about Massaciuccoli Lake.
Certaldo is a fascinating medieval hamlet in the heart of the Elsa valley situated between Florence (35 kilometres southwest) and Siena (45 kilometres). Inhabited since the Etruscan times, today Certaldo can be divided into “Certaldo Bassa” and “Certaldo Alta”.
The first part is the newest area of the town, located in the lower zone, while the latter is the old part where you can find more of the major sights. The famous Tuscan writer Boccaccio, author of the “Decameron” and the “Life of Dante” was born here. You can still visit his red-brick house where he spent the last few years of his life. He was buried here in 1375 and there is a statue dedicated to him in one of the town’s squares, erected in 1875.
Today, it is also the headquarters of the Giovanni Boccaccio national institution. Read more about Certaldo in this post.
Caprese Michelangelo owes its name to Michelangelo Buonarroti, sculptor, painter, architect, poet, and engineer of the High Renaissance who was born here in 1475, at a time when his father Ludovico was the town’s authoritative figure. It is on the Apennine ridge, in the greenest area of the Tuscan Val Tiberina. At the beginning the village was called only Caprese, but then, with the Royal Decree of February 9, 1913, the name Michelangelo was added to the old one, referring to the Great Artist’s birthplace.
The memory of Michelangelo still lives today in the Church of St. John and inside the castle walls that hosted the Michelangelo Museum: the Birth House, Palazzo Clusini, today the seat of the Municipality, the Stronghold Rooms, in which old plaster moulds from the Florentine galleries can be found, and the striking open-air Sculpture Museum.
The traces of this intense history can still be admired today in Caprese’s most significant monuments: the medieval stronghold, built in the 10th century; the Camaldolite Abbey of Tifi; the Parish of St. Cassian, exalted by the expressive power of its atmosphere; the romantic church of St. Christopher and the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Selva.
The place is also connected to the passing of St. Francis during his travels from Assisi to the Sacred Mount Verna: you can still admire the Church of St. Polo, the Chapel of Zenzano, the Monastery of the Casella.
We can’t speak about genius’ birthplaces in Tuscany without mention Vinci, the town that is home to so many places associated with Leonardo’s life. Vinci is situated in the hills of Montalbano, a green area divided between the provinces of Pistoia, Prato and Florence. Vinci dates back to the early Middle Ages, and has its centre in the castle, which belonged to the Guidi Counts until 1254.
In Vinci, everything is about Leonardo: the native house, the church where he was baptised, the museum and the library dedicated to him. The birthplace of Leonardo isn’t exactly Vinci but Anchiano, situated 1.9 miles outside Vinci. The house is situated in open country and the surrounding landscape is still almost the same since Leonardo’s childhood, with olive grooves and vineyards. It houses a permanent didactic exhibition, which includes reproductions of drawings representing some views of the Tuscan countryside and a map of the Arno valley mapped by Leonardo himself.
The house is open for visits everyday. Read more about Vinci here.
Giovanni da Verrazzano was the famous explorer who discovered the estuary of the Hudson River, where New York is built. He was born in Tuscany, in Greve in Chianti, in the castle named after his family.
A monument is erected in his honor in Piazza Matteotti in Greve, while in New York, the biggest bridge of the city is also dedicated to him.
More about the Verrazzano Castle.
Cover image credit: Giovanni Mirgovi