The Via Medicea is a beautiful itinerary leaving from the Cascine di Tavola in Prato and arriving in Fucecchio, passing through stunning territories that the Medici family lived in and which were even depicted by Leonardo da Vinci in his paintings. Along the way, we will come across four Medici villas, today UNESCO World Heritage Sites, villages, mountains and valleys, nature reserves, archeological sites and lots of historic-artistic traces. The Via Medicea strategically connects the Wool and Silk Trail with the via Francigena, allowing all those travelling the route to connect the Po Valley and Northern Europe with the Eternal City and its spirituality.
The Via Medicea is classified as medium difficult and can be traversed in four or more days. It crosses through seven municipalities and three provinces for a total of 78,3 km. The total difference in altitude is 2,145 metres.
Dedicated signage indicates the route as it winds primarily along local roads and CAI trails.
The Via Medicea begins at the Cascine di Tavola, a public park with vast meadows and a stretch of forest. Planted in the 1400s on the orders of Lorenzo di Pierto de’ Medici, known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, the Cascine were long a place for the Medici to relax and find entertainment. Here, they hunted and went fishing as well as took carriage rides down the network of roads.
The itinerary continue to Poggio a Caiano, a city that attests to the grandeur of the Medici. It’s worth visiting the villa, also commissioned by Lorenzo the Magnificent. On the ground floor and first floor, visitors can find the historic apartments, while the second floor houses the Museum of Still-Life with its collection of paintings by famous artists like Bartolomeo Ligozzi, Giovanna Garzoni and Margherita Caffi.
Along the way, we will also find the Church of San Francesco in Bonistallo, Medici ducts and Ragnaione copse and intersect with the Wool and Silk Trail.
Now in Artimino, in the municipality of Carmignano, you’ll be stunned by the La Ferdinanda Medici Villa, also known by the name Cento Camini. The villa was built – also with the collaboration of Buontalenti – on the orders of Grand Duke Ferdinand I de’ Medici and was used as a residence during hunts. In fact, this is where the Barco Reale was established, a hunting reserve once home to wild boars, hares, pheasants and other animals. Today, the villa hosts special events, conferences and weddings.
The next stop on the Via Medicea is Bacchereto, a hamlet in the municipality of Carmignano, known since the 1400s for its flourishing ceramic production. Indeed, in the 15th century, the town was home to six kilns that produced majolica that was used to decorate many buildings in Florence (like the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital and the Istituto degli Innocenti). Bacchereto is also home to a farm used by the Medici for hunts in the Barco Reale.
Walking into the village of Vinci means discovering its most famous citizen: Leonardo. The genius was born a few kilometres from the historic centre. Amidst olive groves and vineyards, this area inspired Leonardo for his artworks and inventions. Continuing on, we come to Cerreto Guidi and its Medici villa, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building was built in the 16th century on the orders of Cosimo I to be a hunting residence and the family seat near the Fucecchio Marsh, which was home to a wealth of wild game. Furthermore, the villa houses the Historical Museum of Hunting on the first floor, with its weaponry collection featuring mostly hunting and shooting equipment dating from the 17th to 19th centuries.
Once in Fucecchio, you can easily connect to the via Francigena.
During the Middle Ages and the Modern Age, the area of Quarrata was part of the Pistoia territory and faithfully followed its fate and historical-settlement evolution. The bond with the Medici Family occurred when Francesco I purchased Villa la Magia in 1583. The Villa, located between Florence and Pistoia, became an important element among the properties of the Medici Family, especially in relation to the adjacent hunting estate of Barco Reale.
The hiking map of the route in a scale of 1:25,000, combined with the guide, can be purchased online. Find out more on the official website viamedicea.it