A Land of Ascetics and Roots
Casentino means National Park of Casentino Forests. It is a protected area between the provinces of Arezzo, Florence and Forlì. A paradise of flora and fauna renowned throughout Italy for beauty and biodiversity. Mount Falterona, where the source of the Arno is located, is also part of it. Yes, the most important river in Tuscany begins its course right here. Aren’t you excited?
The Casentino is a green valley rich in water, which overflows religiosity. The one that more than one community has sown here, choosing these woods as home and place of prayer. Think of San Romualdo and the Benedictine monks, who built a hermitage in Camaldoli and took care of the local firs and beeches.
Saint Francis also has a very close relationship with Casentino. On the mountain of La Verna the special mysticism has not been lost, so the Patron of Italy decided to spend various periods of retreat and penance here.
Do not forget that in this same locality the Poor man of Assisi received the Sacred Stigmata. Since then, La Verna’s reputation as a spiritual centre has grown enormously and the Arezzo valley has become more and more a land of magnificent pilgrimages.
How About a Trip out of Arezzo city?
Not only peace and pleasant places await you in Casentino. Gastronomic delicacies, fascinating historical testimonies and really interesting works of art and folk events are other reasons to visit these parts.
If you are on holiday in Arezzo, Casentino is the perfect destination for an open-air tour in the name of the pleasure of discovery. Whether you are traveling solo, with friends, full family or with your better half, it is time for an escape from the city.
Get behind the wheel and leave Arezzo behind. Have you already decided the stages of your exploration along the road that goes into the Upper Arno Valley? Here are some ideas to take inspiration for a dream itinerary in Casentino.
It is the first town that you meet outside the Municipality of Arezzo. When Dante Alighieri writes in the Divine Comedy that the Arno “twists its nose” to the people of Arezzo, he refers to Capolona. In the village there is a really impressive bridge from which to photograph the course of the river.
On the exterior walls of the buildings, fantastic works of street art creatively tell you the identity of the country and its relationship with the river. In the hills around the main town there are villages and ancient hamlets that you should visit looking for treasures.
For example, the remains of the Belfiore Castle and the Pieve di Santa Maria Maddalena in Sietina, an 11th-century church which unveils beautiful Gothic and Renaissance frescoes.
The Arno also passes by Subbiano. In the heart of the village there is a picturesque Medieval castle with a crenellated tower. If you love this type of architecture, remember to visit the imposing manors of Valenzano and Fioraia. You will feel like you are on the set of a movie in front of very elegant and well-kept giants.
Do you love history? The documentation center of the archaeological culture of the territory at the Church of Santa Maria della Visitazione will like you a lot. Also note the address of the museum of the association Quelli della Karin. It will amaze you with memories and finds related to the Second World War and the passage of the front from Arezzo.
Subbiano is the village of the Grape Festival and the poetic water mills of Falciano where wheat and chestnuts were milled. Leave time for an excursion into nature face to face with the spectacular oak woods, chestnut groves and beech forests.
Chiusi della Verna
How would you feel if someone gave you a mountain? This is what happened to Saint Francis when Count Orlando Cattani of Chiusi in Casentino gave him La Verna in 1213.
On this cliff stands the Sanctuary of La Verna, an isolated microcosm but at the same time firmly connected to the rest of the world. Regenerate and rediscover your inner balance among its countless environments, marked by the stays of the Saint of Assisi. The Sasso Spicco, the Chapel of the Stigmata, the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
Go down the paved medieval road that takes you to the pretty village of La Beccia and walk among the beech trees in Bosco delle Fate. It is forbidden to neglect the centre of the village of Chiusi. There, among other things, you will come across a real rarity: an advertising fountain in travertine made by order of the company Campari in the ’30s.
The old city centre of Bibbiena looks like a stage set. Alleys uphill and downhill overlook postcard views and stately buildings of this well-kept town perched on a hill. Dedicate some time at least to Palazzo Dovizi, perhaps the most beautiful in the village.
Piazza Tarlati is one of the points that will remain most impressed with the porch and the Clock Tower. Visit the Church of San Lorenzo dating back to the Fifteenth century. Three reasons to enter: some Della Robbia ceramics, the cloister and the roof garden with a view.
Note not at all marginal: you are in the headquarters of the Italian Centre of Photography, an international institution that is managed by FIAF. To participate in the photo exhibition, go to the former prison of the country, an exhibition venue open all year round.
Castel San Niccolò e Pratovecchio Stia
More than a trip out of town! What you live in Casentino is much more like a novel, animated by jewels of all kinds. The last two stops of the journey are Castel San Niccolò and Pratovecchio Stia.
In the first, dream with open eyes, observing this rock that stands on a cliff. You can reach the palace-fortress by crossing a stone bridge over the Solano torrent. The forest surrounding the complex makes it stand out even more. If you still have some time, take a trip to the Museum of Stonework to gain some insight into this local artistic tradition.
Did you know that the fortress of Castel San Niccolò was the residence of the Guidi Counts? They are the feudal family that ruled for a long time in Casentino. Always belonging to the Guidi were the beautiful Romena and Porciano castles. Glimpses of the Middle Ages looking from two heights not far away.
Conclude your visit to Casentino in the towns of Pratovecchio and Stia, to breathe the air and atmosphere of the mountains. The Museo dell’Arte della Lana, the planetarium of the National Park of the Casentino Forests and the Pieve of Romena are highly recommended nearby.
Be intoxicated by arcaded squares, streets, old buildings and retro signs of clubs and shops. For shopping instead, in the craft shops of the old city centre of Pratovecchio and Stia you will surely find the purchase you have in mind.
A wrought iron object or a piece of clothing in Panno Casentino. Not just any trinket, but an exclusive souvenir that tells the tradition of this fairy valley in the province of Arezzo.