It’s easy to forget that there’s a whole lot to see beyond Florence, a city that alone would keep you busy sightseeing for days. We’ve already told you about three pleasant villages that are less than an hour from the Tuscan capital, here’s another one approximately 45 minutes to the north that makes for a nice day trip.
Scarperia, part of the network of Italy’s most beautiful borghi (hamlets), is about 30 km north of Florence, in the Mugello area of Tuscany. It was founded at the beginning of the 14th century with the name Castel San Barnaba, in a place known as ‘la scarperia’ because located ‘alla scarpa’, that is, at the foot of the Apennine mountains. The fortified village was established by the city of Florence to better control the territory, which was an important communication route between Florence and the bordering region of Emilia.
From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, Scarperia was a major center for the production of knives of all kinds, from the everyday kitchen knife to the precious blades used by nobles, from the tool used for work in the fields to the dagger given as a token of love or symbol of loyalty, all made by the local artisans whose fame spread far and wide. The story of this artisanal tradition is on display in the Museo dei Ferri Taglienti (Museum of Cutting Tools).
Built as a Florentine outpost along the Via Bolognese, Scarperia became an important market and a rest stop because of its strategic position. Even today, it is crossed and divided in two by the road that leads to Bologna, hence the name Via Bolognese (Bologna road, rarely used today as the Autostrada provides for a quicker connection).
The heart of this fortified borgo is Palazzo Vicari, a 14th century structure reminding of the more famous Palazzo Vecchio. Used as noble residence and fortress, the building’s façade is decorated with the emblems of the vicars (vicari – a coveted position by the most powerful Florentines), while the interior features several Renaissance frescoes. In the Piazza dei Vicari, stop to admire the Oratory of the Madonna di Piazza, dating to 1320, where the newly-nominated vicars were sworn in, proclaiming their loyalty to the Florentine Republic, and the Propositura Santi Jacopo e Filippo, a church built in 1326; both buildings guard valuable works of art.
For those who love motorcycle racing, just a kilometer and a half from Scarperia is the famous Autodromo del Mugello, a race track that hosts the MotoGP.
And for foodies, the most typical dish around here is tortelli di patate, fresh egg pasta filled with potatoes.
To reach Scarperia, you can take the train from Santa Maria Novella to San Piero a Sieve or use the local bus company SITA.