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Tra Terra e Tempera - San Giovanni Valdarno

Follow the Renaissance path of the Valdarno

The churches containing works by the great masters

The route of the early Renaissance in Valdarno starts Badia da Ruoti, in the town of Bucine, where we find the ancient Abbey of S. Piero a Ruoti, the Camaldolensian monastery where the painting of the Coronation of the Virgin among Saints by Neri di Bicci, son of Lorenzo di Bicci, is exhibited.  Going beyond the Arno we head towards Castelfranco di Sopra. Leaving the town we find the Abbey of St. Salvatore at Soffena, a former Vallombrosian monastery which houses one of the most evocative pictorial cycles of the Valdarno. We head toward Loro Ciuffenna, stopping first in the village of Montemarciano, where the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie stands, built around a shrine along the 16th-century road. Inside, on the altar, stands a fresco depicting the Madonna del Latte and Saints George and John the Baptist by Francesco d'Antonio.

The church of S. Maria Assunta is located in the historic centre and holds the frescoes of the Visitation of St. Elizabeth and Saint Ansano, which represent the scope Bicci di Lorenzo's talent. Just outside the village is the Shrine of Humility, built on a previous roadside tabernacle; it holds the fresco of the Madonna and Child with Saints Peter and John the Baptist. Head down to the valley toward Montevarchi. In the small village of Caposelvi, a former medieval castle, stands the eighteenth-century church of S. Lorenzo, where you'll find the panel of the Madonna Enthroned with Child and Saints by the Ghirlandaiesco Master. In the center there are many examples of Renaissance art, which also decorate the private palaces, including Palazzo Brandini which bears a fresco of scenes from Genesis by Luberto from Montevarchi, who was influenced by the Florentine school, but also by the lessons of Perugino, of whom he was a student. Related to the works of the village are the ones we can find in the Parish of St. Maria di Scò at Pian di Scò. 

We continue our journey to San Giovanni Valdarno where Masaccio and his brother Scheggio were born. Scheggio, in fact, is linked to the frescoes painted in the right aisle of the church of San Lorenzo depicting the Martyrdom of St. Sebastian, St. Anthony the Abbot on the throne, and stories of his life, San Lorenzo, Stigmata of St. Francis, St. Anthony Padua and St. Bernardino of Siena. These works have similarities with the Annunciation painted by the artist in the Badia a Soffena and simultaneously show the influence on his expression of Florentine art, thanks to his contacts with his brother, Masaccio, and Beato Angelico. 

The tour ends with a visit to Terranova Bracciolini. In the church of S. Maria Bambina, located in the central square of the town, you'll find a terracotta group attributed to Giovanni della Robbia and representing the Pietà, the Three Marias and St John. The work is conceived as a great theatrical composition, expression of the religious climate throughout this valley in the early years of the 1500s and due to the teachings of Savonarola. Within the city walls lies the church of S. Biagio ai Mori, with walls decorated with frescoes painted between the 14th and 15th centuries, including the Madonna Enthroned with the Archangel Raphael and Tobias and St. Romuald, attributed to Fra 'Diamante.

Explore the area
The territory of the Valdarno is singular and picturesque and begins from the point at which, near Arezzo, the river changes direction and heads north. ...
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