... L'umiltą con pazienza
fa l'umil sempre esaltare,
se ne vede esperienza:
Firenzuola per Fiorenza
or fiorisce, cresce e 'nnalza,
e per segno e fede calza
il Broncone degno d'onore.
Carnival poem 1400 approximately
Firenzuola is a Medieval village nestled in Tuscan-Romagnole Apennines and surrounded by a thick web of smaller hamlets,suburbs and lonely houses which contribute to make it one of the most extended districts in the forgotten Romagna Tuscany.
Despite of several difficulties encountered over the centuries, Firenzuola doesn't deny its fighting origins by changing itself according to time needs and by still remaining a clear example of innovation, tradition and passion for woods and nature which are abundant.
The district has been founded as a garrison to protect the most important Medieval trans-Apennines intersection connecting Florence to Romagna and, especially, to Bologna. At the beginning of 1300 Florence was a city in war, roused by internal conflicts caused by the internal division between White Guelphs and Black Guelphs; a lot of them were exiled from the city, especially from the White faction, and they found moral and military support in the powerful Ubaldini family.
The Ubaldini, which gave the Medieval name "Alpes Ubaldinorum" to Santerno district, were a powerful and ambitious family from Florence. During two centuries they had extended their supremacy on Mugello, from Baberino di Mugello to Borgo San Lorenzo, and even to upper Sieve valley, Santerno area and some branches as far as the heart of Bolognese Apennines, as well as lastly to some properties in Umbria and Montefeltro. This really extended territory was controlled by a web of castles, fortresses, military outposts deployed on several Apennines peaks, which make the Feud almost impenetrable. This strong, cohesive, with a great military ability Signoria earned the reputation for hosting criminals and supporting banditry to the detriment of commercial caravans which followed the route in the Apennines territory.
Florence wanted to reverse this dynasty, both for its impressive dimension and resources, and for its political alignment of high fidelity to the Emperor which make them join the Ghibelline League of Tuscany in 1251 in opposition to the great Republic; therefore Florentine rulers claimed their possession on Mugello territory and made their demands on it. In summer 1302 the White faction, the Romagnole Ghibellines and the Ubaldini signed a military alliance by means of the pact of San Godenzo; the castle of Montaccianico became the focal point of the brutal fight in which Bologna and Pistoia were allied with Mugello Signors against the Florentine Blacks and their allies.
Here begins the decline of Ubaldini dynasty. After the fall of Pistoia and the about-turn of Bologna, the Signoria is alone against the Florentine fury, losing its main castle in Montaccianico and folding to a formal act of submission in 1309. Ubaldini family retreated in the mountains and reorganised their military forces to soon take up their arms against Florence, siding with Emperor Arrigo and sacking the same Republic more than once in the next 40 years, taking up their arms at every opportunity to repair to the humiliation experienced with the first loss. The ruin of the obstinate dynasty came with the loss of the internal cohesion, which divided the family in secondary branches leading to the definitive submission to the Republic of Florence in 1373 after almost one hundred and twenty years of hostility and war.
Over those troubled last years "la Rocca" (fortress) of Firenzuola (started in 1332 and finished in 1371) was built and fortified, it was named "the little Florence" by the historian Giovanni Villani, which put an end to misdeeds carried out by bandits, to the insecurity of the long commercial route and to a mountain dynasty which had managed to face the powerful Florence.
Since 1377 "la Rocca" has become the headquarters and official residence of the Podestą of Firenzuola, designated to administer the area and manage justice on behalf of the Republic of Florence.
In the 15th Century, Firenzuola was completely rebuilt and updated by the Medici family of Florence and designed according to the ideal fortified city project suitable to protect itself from firearms attacks; town walls were strengthened, "la Rocca" was extended and equipped with new armament, and the residential area was reorganised at the best. Sangallo il Vecchio, famous architect and fortification genius, supervised the long reinforcement works on Firenzuola, achieved in 1502.
Unfortunately only a little part of this fifteenth-century work has come to date: Firenzuola's district was nearly totally destroyed by allied bombing on 12 September 1944 and slowly reconstructed hereafter.
Only the walls rise in several places to outline the ancient village town walls.After the Medici family death, the Grand Duchy faith was decided in Firenzuola: here in 1736 at the "Locanda della Scala", placed in the centre of Firenzuola, the potential successors met and decided to leave the inheritance to the Lorena family of the House of Austria.
Firenzuola's district was reconstructed during the Enlightened Government of Pietro Leopoldo Lorena who was in command of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (1765-1790). In agricultural and infrastructural improvement plans in Tuscany, Firenzuola represents a clear application example: a lot of bridges are commissioned and built, an example of which is the survived Pieve di Ca'Maggiore bridge in Coniale suburb, and a large web of watermills is promoted, which will characterize in future centuries the development of new little villages in the whole territory.
Firenzuola also gave birth to famous personalities who contributed to give prestige to the district, such as Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio (1484-1546), Agnolo di Ser Bastiano Giovannini, also known as "Il Firenzuola"(1493-1543), Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647) whose assignment is controversial, Antonio Bacci (1885-1971) and Tito Casini (1897-1987).
The Second World War has left undeniable marks on the territory. Several ancient and popular buildings haven't changed since then and, with some attention, we can read the marks left by the Gothic Line; twisted gratings on the windows, black and chipped holes made by bullets on ancient wood doors and a lot of stories of an inestimable value which are still handed down in families. After the armistice of 8 September 1943 Firenzuola was within the internal front of the German retreat; the territories which had protected the Ubaldini still represented, some centuries later, a serious natural limit for the allied forces consisting of American (5th Army commanded by General Clark) and British (8th Army commanded by General Leese) armies.
On 17 September German defenses gave up after a bloody battle and really serious losses and the Allies conquered Giogo Pass, to rapidly free the territory surrounding Firenzuola where they set foot at four p.m. on 19 September. Unfortunately there were only ruins in the village.
In memory and beware of the conflict there are two commemorative cemeteries, the Germanic Cemetery on the Futa Pass and the British Cemetery in the suburb of Coniale. The Ethnographic History Museum in Bruscoli collects the popular inheritance of the war and guards some testimonies and remnants of war which find their place in the long historical route rich of events that is proposed by the museum.
This obstinate and proud land of battles always surprises and to date is still the base for two of the most traditional resources which have forever survived and on which the local economy has always been based: the Pietra Serena and chestnut trees.
The Pietra Serena is the Florence stone: it covers the noble buildings, the cobblestones and the interior. It's characterized by a unique light blue colour and by a great architectural, aesthetic value and it has always been used in the history of Florence and Mugello area. To date almost the entire production of the Pietra Serena comes from Firenzuola, which boasts a long tradition of stone-cutters and artists who have pursued the economical, cultural and artistic tradition characterizing this territory for centuries. The extraction and finishing work is hard, laborious and above all very delicate. If we observe the artifacts which have come to date, as the Virgin Mary of S. Pellegrino o the ciborium in the Church of SS. Domenico e Giustino in S. Pellegrino, it's quite complicated to relate such a sophisticated and accurate work to the dusty, noisy and dangerous environment peculiar of the quarry work through the centuries. Before the coming of automated machines, which to date can't still replace the artisan accuracy of who guides them, the tools of the trade guarded in the museum of Pietra Serena in Firenzuola give us a realistic image of quarry workers and their lives; a thread of documented memories which recalls this tradition evolution. The museum, inaugurated in 1999, is accommodated in the base of "la Rocca" of Firenzuola, as if it was its heart, to always remember the roots from which the valuable and specialized work of quarry workers and stone-cutters arises.
Together with the continuous innovation and sophistication of Pietra Serena processing, the tradition of chestnuts planting is kept solid. In the first autumn mist, since hundreds of years, the air around Firenzuola begins to smell of the particular scent of leaves burnt in chestnut woods, a silent clue of a work which, year after year, is still carried on with the same passion. The chestnut tree, typical of areas included between 300 and 1000 m a.s.l., has always been appreciated and taken into account; it is mentioned in documents dated to the 4th Century B.C. where Senofonte defines it the "bread tree", which doesn't surprise if you think about its versatility. Its planting was improved in Medieval centuries by monastic orders, which took care of maintaining alive the planting tradition that was losing consideration in favour of cereals planting. At the beginning it was considered a "plebeian" fruit and the medieval court avoided it, but it was next ennobled again with the name "Marrone", which identified a domestic bigger variety with aphrodisiac qualities. The particular composition of the terrain in upper Mugello allowed the identification of a particular and delicious species of "Marrone" appreciated in the whole Italy: to date Firenzuola guards several chestnut woods, from the historic ultracentenarian ones, no longer in production, to the valuable planting operating with artisanal techniques.
The "Marrone" is declined in a lot of typical products which include the "bruciate" (chestnuts cooked on the fire) up to chestnut flour, which requires a slow and laborious hand drying made in an artisanal way in the drying rooms and grants a traditional product completely from Firenzuola. Though in the last years chestnut plantings have been devastated by the gall wasp, a parasite which is native to China and causes tree death, in 2015 it was noticed a clear recovery in this sector, also following ecological and biocompatible wise measures of plants maintenance and the fight against gall wasps put into effect in the area.