Montalbano is a cluster of hills branching off from the Tusco-Emilia Apennine near Serravalle, separating the Pistoia-Florence plain from the Nievole valley. The peaks of Montalbano rarely exceed 600 metres altitude and often look more like rounded hills. The landscape is characterized by woods, vineyards, olive groves and planted fields. The hills are also the setting for villas, Etruscan ruins, chapels and churches; they bear witness to a history that can also be seen in the architectures of the landscape, such as the nearby Padule di Fucecchio and the Barco Reale, among the earliest examples of “nature reserves” created by man. Internationally famous spas, like Monsummano, complete the range of geographical differentiation of the area.
The cuisine of Montalbano counts many traditional dishes, spelt soup, pappa col pomodoro, farinata di cavolo nero, fried frogs (in the Padule zone). Among the specialties, Lamporecchio’s brigidini, crisp wafers originally created by nuns devoted to St. Brigid. The production of pork products is one of the specialties of Larciano; but also Monsummano produces excellent Tuscan salami, finocchiona, salt pork ham and shoulder. For some time, an excellent production of chocolate has grown in the area, and Carmignano is famous for its dried figs. But the entire area is above all a land of wine, with the grapes typical of Chianti (Chianti Montalbano DOC, Vin Santo di Carmignano DOC) and olive oil, to the extent that the geographical origin “Montalbano” is part of the name of the controlled origin “Tuscan” oil.
There are four itineraries for tourists in the Montalbano area. Of course, anyone visiting the area will have to visit Vinci, along an itinerary that links his birthplace to Cerreto Guidi, not far from the Padule di Fucecchio, and Lamporecchio. From Vinci, the road also travels towards Limite and Capraia, at the extreme end of Montalbano. A highly interesting road for its scenery is the one that goes from San Baronto to Carmignano, through the Barco Reale. Monuments to the history and breathtaking natural views accompany this route, in striking harmony. The road then returns to San Baronto (a resort area beloved of hikers and bikers) and continues to Larciano towards the hills, and from there to Monsummano with its famous spas. The fourth itinerary starts from Serravalle Pistoiese, down towards Monsummano to Quarrata, ending at Carmignano, on the northeast side of Montalbano, among castles and the foothills that offer picturesque views.
There are many museums in the Montalbano area, starting with the Wine and Vine museum in Carmignano and the Leonardiano and Ideal Museums in Vinci. Similar to a museum is also the interior of the house were Leonardo was born, in Anchiano. In Carmignano, at Artimino, there is the local Aarcheological Museum with interesting findings from the period that go back to the 8th century BC. In Monsummano Terme there is a Museum of Contemporary and 20th Century Art called “Il Renatico”, the Civic Museum and the Casa Giusti Museum. A visit to the Museum of the Medici Villa in Cerreto Guidi is recommended, as well as a visit to the Civic Museum of Larciano, the Martini Park Museum in Seano and the fascinating Embroidery Museum in Serravalle.