Castel San Niccolò

“Comune sparso” (meaning a municipality that has its town hall in the main hamlet whose name differs from the one of the whole municipality, in this case it is Strada in Casentino) in the Casentino valley, Castel San Niccolò derives its name from the castle owned by the Counts Guidi until 1440, when it started being the office of the local administration under the Florentine State.

The fortified village, perched on a spur of rock on the right bank of the Solano stream, has a tower with two clocks, the Podesteria (the old town hall), the chapel of the Cross and the old parish church that is now the Museum of the Town of Castel San Niccolò.

In 1776, the administration of the municipality was transferred to Strada, a town that developed as a commercial point around the rural church of st. Martino in Vado. built in the 12th century. This church is one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Casentino; it has three aisles, with the capitals made by lombard builders. In Matteotti square, there are the Logge del Grano, a covered market, and the oratory of the Most Holy Visitation (Oratorio della Visitazione della Madonna) built in the 1500s, that has a “Crowned Immaculate Madonna” by Santi di Tito done in 1580. The Seminary of Strada is on a hill watching Castel San Niccolò and is a villa, built in the 1700s, that was turned into a religious college in 1828 and, nowadays, into the Museum of the Stone Carving.

The hamlet of Borgo alla Collina divides the Arno valley from the Valley of the Solano stream. Even this locality belonged to the Counts Guidi and, after them, to Florence. The castle, built in the 11th century, is still recognisable with its squared tower and Orgi gate, from which it is possible to reach the oratory of st. Agata (10th century). At the end of the 1400s, the hamlet was given to the famous humanist Cristoforo Landino, for his service to the Florentine Republic. The church of st. Donato has its monumental tomb inside.

Another famous locality of Castel San Niccolò is Cetica, in a mountain area on the northern side of the Pratomagno, divided into small residential areas where it is possible to see some old mills, the ruins of a castle and a Romanesque bridge, restored, on the Solano stream. The Romanesque church of st. Michele was built by the Vallombrosa monks. Inside it there is a “Madonna with child and saints” made by Taddeo Gaddi’s circle of artists. The tradition of Cetica and its local products, such as the red potato, are kept alive by the Museum of the Carbonaio and the Bank of Memory (Banca della Memoria). Not far from Cetica, at a distance of 3 km, there is another hamlet, Bagno di Cetica, that has been known since ancient times for its healthy cold water baths.