There’s nothing like a Tuscan scavenger hunt. Saturday’s goal was to unearth some of the relics of the ancient Florentine past, buried in the middle of the bustling 21st century life. We headed northwest from Florence into the challenging sea of modern development. Calenzano was our destination, and we were in search of her historic heart. We found it!
Prosperity and expansion have changed the look of Calenzano. The town spills down from the mountainous backdrop to blend seamlessly into the fabric of the surrounding cities: Sesto Fiorentino, Prato, Campi Bisenzio among others. Each town has its own fascinating story and historic center. We love to pick up clues about the past. Sometimes the story is hidden behind ancient stone walls, or marked by spires rising above the fray. Occasionally, a villa perched on the hillside begs to be explored. Those “nuggets” of history almost seem strangely out of place today. In centuries past, they commanded the very center of attention. Now, they are merely breadcrumbs scattered for us by distant generations, leading to some of their treasures left behind. We love following the trail.
Only 8 miles from the 0ld center of Florence, a lone hill rises from the Arno River valley to a height of 650 feet. Calenzano. That solitary knoll was destined to become an important promontory that would help keep Florentines safe for centuries. As part of a defense strategy, Florence acquired the area in the early 13th century. The historic knoll still rises with its lush vegetation, dense woods and glorious cypress trees, building to a crescendo where the stone walls and towers peer over the valley below.
The Castello di Calenzano is one of the best kept secrets in all of Tuscany. We spent a delightful morning strolling through the intimate village—quiet, authentic, beautiful and surprising in so many ways. Restored and maintained as if no time had passed, except for the rich patina that has made its claim on the stone, brick, wood and hand-crafted ironwork. Nearly 700 years later, after the fighting and defense strategies have lost their luster, it still stands guard—this time, however, over the fascinating history of the Florentine culture and the beautiful Arno valley.
Note: Below is our related song called “Sand Castles.”