Mugello, the green valley between the Appenine Mountains and the Emilia-Romagna border, is a small area that one might easily overlook. The villages are small and the streets are quiet, but underneath the surface, this subregion of Tuscany is bursting with culture and tradition. Read on to learn about the top 10 cultural facts about Mugello!
#1 They're known for their Leather Craftsmanship.
Photo: CAF Leather
Besides its already rich artistic history as home to the great artists Giotto and Beato Angelico, Mugello also prides itself on its leather craftsmanship. Traditional leather processing has its roots in the Medici era, when Mugello was home to one of the great manufacturers of leather shoes. These fine craftsmanship skills have been passed down from generation to generation and you can still find a few leather workshops today, such as CAF Leather, where leather goods of modern taste are produced by hand.
#2 For ages, the crop that sustained the local people financially and provided a main food source was Chestnuts.
The first documents to mention the cultivation of chestnut trees in Mugello date back to the Middle Ages. However, we know that the origins go back as far as the Roman period. Chestnuts were one of the greatest economic and livelihood resources for the mountain areas of the Mugello area. In fact, until the end of WWII, chestnuts were the main food for the inhabitants of the Tuscan mountains for many months of the year. Unfortunately, two serious diseases have decimated the chestnut crops which caused the chestnut forests to be abandoned and drove the population to find livelihood outside the region. Now there is a renewed interest in safeguarding the chestnut traditions. The chestnuts are eaten roasted, ground into flour, or consumed as the candied delicacy called marron glacé from the village of Marradi. In October you can enjoy the annual Chestnut Festival in Marradi.
#3 There’s an association in Mugello working to revitalize women’s traditional handicrafts.
In nearly every Italian home, you can find embroidered pillows and handmade lace objects that have been passed down from previous generations. But it’s no surprise that very few people are carrying on the tradition of Italian women’s handicrafts today. That’s why the cultural association, Sul Filo del Tempo (On the Edge of Time), in Barberino di Mugello is so important. The association aims to practice, promote and spread the culture and the art of embroidery, in addition to enhancing local traditions and rediscovering ancient embroidery skills. Visit their shop and purchase their handiwork as unique gifts and souvenirs! Or better yet, join our Living Slow in Tuscany small group trip- you’ll have the unique opportunity to spend an evening with the founders to learn about the crafts and get to know their stories!
#4 Brunelleschi loved Mugello’s Pietra Serena.
Pietra Serena literally translates as “peaceful stone”. The gray-blue stone found in the area of Mugello was used by none other than Brunelleschi, known for having figured out how to create the dome on top of Florence’s cathedral when no one else could. He was the first to use pietra serena to create frames, portals, arches and columns that adorned the city of Florence and quickly became adopted by other artisans, resulting in stone quarries that are still active today. To admire pietra serena celebrating delicious chestnuts at the same time, attend the annual “Dal Bosco e Dalla Pietra” (From the Forest and From the Stone) festival in October in the town of Firenzuola.
#5 The artist who brought Art Nouveau as a major architectural and interior style in Italy was from Mugello.
Galileo Chini (1873 - 1956) was an Italian decorator, designer, painter, ceramicist, and an important figure in the appearance of Italian Art Nouveau (actually called Liberty Style in Italian). Art Nouveau developed from the concept of creating a holistic experience combining art, design, and architecture cohesively. Chini founded a ceramics factory which, although bombed in WWII, exists today. You can see his works at the Chini Museum in Borgo San Lorenzo, but you’ll also recognize his designs in the Liberty Style buildings in Viareggio and throughout Italy.
#6 The Medici family built hunting lodges and villas in Mugello as a countryside escape.
The Medici were a prominent banking family who were very powerful in Florence starting in the 13th century. Their support of the arts played a major role in helping the Renaissance flourish. Several Medici villas can be found in Mugello which served as hunting lodges or summer getaways and demonstrated their ruling power outside of Florence.
#7 Mugello is home to the deliciously sweet Londa peach.
Thanks to the help of the Medici in creating canals and improving agricultural systems in Mugello, the area is now ideal for cultivating certain crops, the queen among them being the Londa peach. In fact, the Londa peach originated in Mugello and is a white peach variety which is firm and very sweet. The “Festa della Pesca Regina” is usually held on the first weekend of September in Londa which celebrates Mugello’s prized fruit!
#8 Mugello holds many ancient Etruscan sites.
Photo: Poggio Colla Field School
Mugello is a land rich in archeological sites where both Etruscan and Roman relics have been found. There are many locations where individual artifacts have been found by chance but it hasn’t been fully excavated, leaving unearthed promises for ancient stories untold. Poggio Colla is an Etruscan archaeological site located near the town of Vicchio where archeologists are analyzing the remains of a farmhouse and an acropolis. Visit the Archaeological Museum in Dicomano to explore the interesting artifacts found in Mugello.
#9 Acqua Panna water comes from Mugello.
Photo: San Pellegrino
Chances are, you’ve heard of Acqua Panna water even in the US. The source of this water is located in Mugello, taking 13 years to reach the source from the aquifer. A legend says that the source was known since ancient times, so much so that the Romans decided to pass the road that connected the north and south of Italy right from the parts of Scarperia, so that travelers could have refreshment along the way with that pleasant fresh water. This water was also prized by the Medici, who built a terracotta pipeline to bring the water directly to their home at Villa Panna.
#10 The first thing that comes to mind when you mention “Mugello” to Italians is racing.
Photo: Redbull Rookies Cup
The racetrack in Mugello was designed in the 70's and later redesigned by Ferrari. It is one of the most scenic, modern and safe racing facilities in the world.
And one more fact, why not?
#11 The village of Scarperia has been known for its beautiful, handcrafted knives since the Middle Ages.
Read more about it in this article about the History of Mugello!