Vogue Italia journalist reveals the best of Mugello

3 November 2023
Written by
The Italy Insider

Discover the lesser known Tuscany

Carlo Ducci is a journalist. He has worked at Vogue Italia for thirty years alongside extraordinary editor in chief Franca Sozzani. He lives among Mugello, Milano, Sicily and Marrakech, four places that he likes to call homes. Carlo is very active in the debate for a better and more responsible future.

How would you describe Italy today in very few words?
An extraordinary country. In all aspects included in a special modus vivendi, encompassing attitude to life, history and environment as well as creative propensity. Italian beauty, they say. Most of the inhabitants are still unaware of the real value of the term, which blends hundreds of facets and human types linked by a common flair.

Why Mugello?
Because it still retains environmental and human traits of yesteryear, typical of a place out of time and fashion. Always paradoxical, but it is choice, albeit unconscious. Dilated times, smiles only if sincere, Tuscan irony and an architectural and natural beauty that is not much of a postcard and for this reason true.

The places to see?
In an area that has been the birthplace of the Medici family, Giotto, Beato Angelico and Monsignor della Casa, and vast enough to go from Apennine nature to agricultural plain, it is difficult to select. Certainly, at the Convent of Bosco ai Frati there is a rare Nude Christ attributed to Donatello, and in the thousand-year-old parish church of San Piero a Sieve here is one of the few, it is said 2, baptisteries created by the della Robbia brothers. And in Borgo San Lorenzo the Chini Museo confronts contemporary art with the creativity of the Chini family’s ceramists, not forgetting Scarperia with its Palazzo dei Vicari and Museo dei Ferri Taglienti. Having said that, it is perhaps the olive grove hills that ideally connect the two Medici properties of the Trebbio Castle and the Villa of Cafaggiolo both protected by Unesco, that impress the traveler (also because they flank Lake Bilancino, a reservoir-surprise at the western mouth of the valley).

A secret to share?
Spending time in Mugello means, I think, putting yourself in the shoes of a Mario Monicelli in search of inspiration. Games of briscola in Arci or Acli clubs, conversations in bars, abundant in every village, prompt slow as, today, unusual stays. If you then think about birdwatching on the Apennine ridges….

A not-to-be-missed excursion?
Mugello is traversed by the now well-known Via Degli Dei, which connects Bologna to Florence. The Via, which also encounters Roman paving stones, descends into Mugello from the Futa Pass and passes first Sant’Agata with its parish church then San Piero a Sieve, Tuscany’s first town with the Medici legacies of its Buontalenti Fortress and Trebbio Castle; then ascends to the Monastery of Monte Senario, a balcony over Fiesole and Florence, the final destination for wayfarers. The popularity of the Via has paved the way in Mugello for the recovery of ancient paths and dirt roads as well as the design of new routes within the valley, to be done on foot, by bike or on horseback. Such as The Rings of Infinity, 4 trails that start and return to San Piero a Sieve. Popularity that has spurred the opening of bike clubs and revitalized ancient horseback riding stables, as well as stimulated small-scale production of natural foods, from the Firenzuola potato to cheeses, fine wines and saffron crops.

The best time of day?
Curious is the monument to Cane Fido, near the Borgo San Lorenzo Town Hall, created in 1957 by sculptor Salvatore Cipolla in memory of a dog who, for 14 years, waited for his master to return at the bus stop.

A relaxing break?
Slow living is one of the characteristics of this area, so relaxation can be constant. Whether visiting Giotto’s House or the Museum of Beato Angelico, both in Vicchio and in the process of revitalisation, pausing in deep contemplation at the German Cemetery at the Futa Pass, a monumental stele commemorating the fallen of World War II, or getting lost in the (almost) secret mushroom beds of the Galliano or Barberino woods.

A special experience?
Spending an afternoon drinking tea with Vieri Chini, an 80-year-old artist and actor, to hear anecdotes and stories about his family of potters, active since the early 1900s.

The essence of the place?
The pride of the inhabitants. Tuscan according to stereotypes and initially unfriendly, they win in truth and candor. And you find yourself playing ping-pong under Medicean vaults (at the bar of the San Piero oratory) or involved in prolonged, rowdy aperitifs, as in Piazza Matteotti in Borgo San Lorenzo.

A fun evening?
Actually, following the calendars of the fairs in each individual village, organized by the local Pro Loco and often discovered by word of mouth, there are many fun evenings, especially between April and October. Don’t miss AperiTuffo at the Sporting Club’s outdoor pool in Pianvallico. Thursdays and Saturdays in season. Young audience.

An unforgettable dish?
The signature dish is potato tortelli, which is enjoyed with meat sauce and liver crostini, about which the recipe diatribe is worthwhile, as each family or cook customizes it.

The drink?
There is a very good production of vodka, VKA, considered among the best of the small productions, but also gin, beer and the characteristic Mugello vermouth.

The hotel of the heart?
Mugello has few hotels, many B&Bs and Airbnb. La Felicina, Accademia con Albergo, in San Piero a Sieve is unusual. Inside are vintage handbags, photos of Franca Sozzani, the historic editor of Vogue, and dozens of model cars, a hobby of the historic owner Bruno, including two custom-built airplanes. As the name suggests, before being a hotel, it was an academy where new ideas could (and still can) flourish.

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