Last weekend I was on a day trip to discover the area of Bagno a Ripoli. I actually know it since I’ve been there many times, but I was really happy to learn more about it and visit some unique places. Of course we didn’t have time to see all the places worthed, but still some good ones.
Located on top of a hill overlooking Florence and the countryside (over 500 mt on the sea level). Originally it was a Lombard control tower, then transformed in a convent during 18th century. The area was given as gift to Franciscan Friar Leonardo da Porto Maurizio by Cosimo III de’ Medici. Friar Leonardo was called to Florence by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in order to bring Florentine people on the right religious track.
He was actually a pretty tall and severe man, who applied the word of Saint Francis in a strict way. For example friars’ cells were supposed to be extremely spare and as small as arm span. On door’s frame you read “Il Paradiso di questo mondo consiste nel patire, quello dell’altro nel godere“, i.e. “This world is made to suffer, Heaven for happiness“.
The convent has been partially destroyed during WWII, when it was bombed for a night and a day. It doesn’t preserves prestigious artworks, but its religious soul is still untouched: the silent cloister and the large vegetable garden are perfect to find some inner peace.
Nowadays Convento dell’Incontro is the headquarter of no-profit Association Obiettivo Francesco, that is active in Africa and India with great projects to improve life of children and their families. It also welcomes groups for spiritual and cultural holidays. See here for more details.
Pieve di San Donnanino a Villamagna
Behind the large door of this stone parish church, founded in 8th century, are preserved some incredible artworks: the triptych by Mariotto di Nardo in the right nave dates back to 1395 and represents the Virgin Mary with Angels and twelve Saints. You can recognize San Donnino, the church’s patron, in the knight’s figure accompanied by a dog. Another impressive artwork is the painting by local artist Francesco Granacci, depicting Virgin Mary between San Donnino and Beato Gherardo.
Inside the church you can also admire some frescoes by the Master from Signa dating back to early 14th century. You can still recognize the crucifixion of Christ with Magdalene and San Donnino. The church is open only for holy messes.
Oratory of Santa Caterina
This small chapel is the real unexpected surprise. When you enter through the main door you get strike by marvelous frescoes decorating most of the interior. The cycle of frescoes tells the story of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, patron of judges and notaries. The wonderful colors and the fine details of these frescoes are stunning and overwhelming.
The squared scarsella is decorated with the stories of her martyrdom frescoed by the mysterious Master of Barberino and Pietro Nelli, student of Bernardo Daddi. After 30 years the cycle was continued according to the will of Alberti family, the same Alberti who would have later given birth to famous Renaissance artist Leon Battista Alberti. It was Spinello Aretino, well known artist by the end of 14th century, to finish the decorations by continuing the Saint Catherine’s story with eight more episodes. He also enriched the frescoes depicting also the four Evangelists in the volta, the Apostles within the arch and Prophets at the bottom.
Unfortunately this incredible chapel is opened only by appointment, also for small groups by calling the Comune di Bagno a Ripoli.
- Driving from Florence – it’s about 20 minutes drive from Florence city center and car is definitively the best way to get around. Most places can be reached by bus too, but getting around by public transport can be hard, especially due to bus schedules. You can think to bike, that would probably the best way to visit this area.
- Monna Giovannella – visit this old farm in the area of Antellino. It was founded in 1583 and produces a delicious chocolate made only with cacao beans, extra virgin olive oil and brown sugar. Simply delicious
- Frantoio dell’Antellino – not far from Giovannella farmhouse there is the Olive mill of Antellino, run by Francesco. The extra virgin olive oil that he produces is extremely good and has been awarded with several prizes around the world. In addition from the courtyard you can admire the Peruzzi Tower, ancient control tower property of the noble Florentine family of Peruzzi.
- eChianti site: to learn more about the attractions, local products, food and events I suggest you visit this new site that collects useful information about the area of Bagno a Ripoli municipality.