I do not know the others, but to me, literature and history make me want to travel. Beyond the plot or the characters, are the landscapes, the paths of each era and the secluded corners that most seduce my curiosity.
Thus, with the same intensity of the first trip of youth to Paris, exalted by the readings of Henry Miller and Ernest Hemingway, today I travel a part of Tuscany with three books in the backpack: Kill Leonardo da Vinci , Christian Gálvez, Los secrets of the Medici, by Michael White and the title IWC Schaffhausen: Engineering Time Since 1868, by Manfred Fritz and Paulo Coelho.
Through them I draw a route that may seem random, or at least capricious, but the reading leads me to a maze of doubts that finally and fortunately forces me to prioritize on the ground to try to make a perfect loop in time.
I take as a starting point Vinci, the small town where the great Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452, to travel from here to there in search of the beautiful villas that the Medici built over three centuries and finish in Florence, where, ten years ago, the new models of the Da Vinci collection of IWC Schaffhausen were presented in the library of the Uffizi gallery, which for years served to store the pieces of art of the magnificent collection of the Medici family.
In the hills of Artimino, in an area considered sacred by the Etruscans, only 11 kilometers from Carmignano, is Villa La Ferdinanda,commissioned by Ferdinando I de Médici to Buontalenti at the end of the 16th century. Built as a hunting lodge, it was completed in just four years and represented a kind of link between the various properties of the family; a place dedicated to the humanistic arts and poetry.
The town, also known as “the village of the hundred chimneys” (as many as Ferdinando I apparently needed to warm up when suffering from gout, an illness that afflicted almost the entire family), belongs today to a private society and hosts different meetings and cultural events and presents three adjacent structures in which to stay: the Hotel Paggeria Medicea, the apartments of the Borgo di Artimino and six exclusive apartments called “Fagianaie”, pure luxury. Within the complex there is a restaurant and a farm where you can taste olive oil and wine and attend cooking classes. An archaeological museum and a historical wine archive complete the offer.
We head towards the north of the region, on the road to Barberino di Mugelo, where the Medici village of Cafaggiolo , also known as Cafaggiolo Castle, is the favorite dwelling of Lorenzo de ‘Medici the Magnificent, who spent his adolescence here to humanist philosophers.
The villa is one of the great masterpieces of Renaissance architecture. Commissioned by Cosme El Viejo to Michelozzo in 1443, it would transform the old 14th century castle into a residential building. It is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, used by the Medici for celebrations, dances and parties.
Today, despite the many changes that have taken place over the centuries, the village still retains original elements. The castle can be visited and often hosts conferences, events, guided tours with tastings and cooking classes.
After the extinction of the Medici family, after the death in 1737 of the last male of the powerful lineage, the Villa passed into the Hapsburg House of Lorraine ; later, the Italian government sold it to the Borghese family, undergoing substantial changes. Today it is closed to the public and work is being carried out on the reintegration to incorporate the Villa into a large complex that will soon open to the public.
To relive the great hospitality and gastronomic quality of Tuscany, whose fame goes back to the Middle Ages, when the region became a commercial transit area, it is advisable to make a stop at the Osteria del Cavallino Bianco, an old inn, originally an office from the post office, where travelers passing between Bologna and Bologna, and vice versa, stopped to cool off and spend the night before embarking on the journey of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. The inn, which retains the original poster of the white horse that dealt with the transport of goods at the time, today offers a Tuscan menu based on meat and game.
The Villa Medici Lo Sprocco is only seventeen kilometers to the east. It is said that this town enjoys the first light of the day and the last sun at sunset, from which the first outbreak arises, whose ancient Florentine name was “sprocco”. Built in 1400, it has undergone many changes over the years. Today the villa hosts weddings, events, cooking classes and houses a restaurant and a bed & breakfast with five spacious rooms. The restaurant has a varied wine list of the area and typical flavors extracted from organic products.
Just one hour’s journey almost in a straight line to the south and closer to Florence, in the town of Pontassieve, on the top of a hill and surrounded by cypresses, you can see the Castello del Trebbio, in which the Medici family passed long stays, enjoying the countryside and the company of illustrious artists. The spacious rooms and the vast park were the place for meetings, parties, dances and receptions for princes and popes.
In 1515, the doors of the castle were opened to Pope Leo X and some of the future wives of the Medici family were received into it.