Marradi is a lovely town in the Alto Mugello, in between Tuscany and Romagna; actually, Marradi used to be part of the Romagna Toscana, i.e. part of Tuscany, but culturally related to Romagna.
It’s the perfect place for a day trip from Florence – preferably by train. I love to come back to Marradi in every season and these are my recommendations.
The noble town of Alto Mugello
The town of Marradi is quite unique and certainly it’s different from all the other towns located in the Apennines: the city center is full of noble and colorful buildings, there is a theater and a lively cultural life, because it used to be the hamlet where in the Renaissance the noble families retired after being exiled from major cities like Milan. It used also to be one of the prestigious stops of the Italian Grand Tour, as well as holidays retreat for those traveling along the first Trans-Appenninica of Italy.
Marradi is also renowned for the production of the finest Marroni chestnuts, the so-called ‘Marron buono di Marradi‘, that is used in many different food specialties that you taste in the restaurants and the famous ‘Sagra delle castagne‘ held every Sunday in October; for this special event there is also the historical steam train riding from Florence to Marradi.
What to see in Marradi
As I said before, the city center is full of colorful and historic buildings, owned by noble families from northern Italy. The city center is small but the streets are lively with beautiful doors and Shops. My favorite places in Marradi are:
Palazzo Torriani – This historical residence of Tuscany has been owned by the same noble family since the 16th century when the Torriani where exiled from Milan by the powerful Visconti. The Torriani became one of the most powerful and important families of Marradi and surroundings. The artworks inside the palace highlight the glorious past of this family like the beautiful frescoes by Galileo Chini, who invented the Italian Liberty Style; not to be missed the ballroom richly decorated with a blue and gold wallpaper.
I strongly recommend to stay at Palazzo Torriani and experience their rich and tasteful brunch or dinner prepared by Anna Maria Torriani and her daughter Mariaemilia, following some of the recipes left by the legendary Chef Martino – legend has it he never cooked the same recipe again in the same year!
Teatro degli animosi – This is one of the smallest theaters in Tuscany. It was built between 1792 and 1806 in a typical Doric-Tuscan style by the Accademia degli Animosi, a group of noblemen and scholar of Marradi with the motto “Tutte le vie sono piane agli animosi” i.e. “All the ways are going to be smooth for the courageous people”. The theater is generally opened for exhibitions and special shows or events.
Dino Campana, the Italian Baudelaire – If you’re interested in Italian poetry you should read the poems written by Dino Campana and Sibilla Aleramo at the beginning of the past century, during their passionate relationship. He is called the “Italian Baudelaire” due to his short and tormented life. Beyond the love poems, he wrote one long work titled “Canti Orfici” that was published thanks to the money of Marradi people, who financed the writer’s first work.
You may learn more about Campana, his works and life at the Centro Studi Campaniani here.
Just outside Marradi
The Marrons-glacé factory – I nicknamed it “the Marradi chocolate factory” because I felt like Charlie of Roald Dahl’s tale when I visited it. It’s one of the most important factories making delicious marron glacés that are then sold literally all over the world (just think that Japanese are eager of marrons glacés!). This family-run factory produces about 800 tons of marron glacés by using the original recipe from the 16th century, that includes just 4 ingredients: high-quality marroni chestnuts, white sugar, vanilla extract, and glucose. In fact, it’s a matter of chemistry if the marrons glaze.
The factory is not generally open to the public, but if you are in a small group you may send an email to request a visit here.
Chestnuts groves – The chestnuts grove are magic: the gnarled trunks are extremely fascinating and the colors in every season turn them into a fairytale. All around Marradi is full of farms with chestnuts groves that open their backyard during the harvest season: you may go there with your family and children and pick up your own chestnuts paying them half of the regular price! Is it great? Here the list of the farms along the Strada del Marrone.
- Take the train – the best way to reach Marradi is by train from Florence; the ride is just about 1 hour and runs almost every hour back and forth.
- Eat anything made with Marroni chestnuts – there are so many things made with chestnuts and Marroni that you can’t even imagine. When in Marradi try whatever is done with them. My favorite is tortelli di marroni.
- Visit Palazzo Torriani – this is both a luxury residence together and a house-museum. It’s opened for guided tours upon reservation for small groups at 10€ per person. More info here.
Check out also this post about 5 things to do in Mugello!