Vaglia remains a picturesque hamlet on the outskirts of Florence, where the Fiesole hills give way to the mountains of the Mugello. While the area had ancient occupants like the Liguri, the Etruscans and then the Romans, it didn't expand much as a city, retaining instead its rural character. It became part of Florence, under the quartiere of Santa Maria Novella, with ties to the Medici family and then the Corsini family, who maintained their vast rural agricultural estate here for tobacco and grain cultivation. The town grew a bit in importance in the 1700s when the Via Bolognese from Florence to Bologna was built and passed through here.
In Vaglia you'll find a handful of charming chapels with lovely artwork and architectural styles. Vaglia is on the Anello Rinascimentale (Renaissance Ring Trail), a 20-kilometer trail that circles the periphery of Florence. Noteworthy is the Church dedicated to St. Peter, which exhibits a fine cross and a series of seventeenth-century paintings. The medieval church of San Romolo, characterized by a single aisle with roof trusses, and a semicircular apse decorated with frescoes and paintings of the period. The ancient church dedicated to San Cresci, restored in the fifteenth century, is truly remarkable. The interior has three naves adorned with an ancient baptismal font and a body which is flanked by a tower built in Romanesque style.
The big draw here is the gorgeous garden at the Villa di Pratolino, also called Villa Demidoff. The old Medici villa was torn down because of a faulty foundation but the interesting garden remains, a magical spot of sculptures that had been an oasis with ponds, fountains and innovative water plays that utilized hydraulic pressure from 12 springs. Those have unfortunately been too damaged to function, but you can still imagine how captivating they would have been when they functioned. In particular, the gigantic sculpture known appropriately as Il Gigante or the Colossal Appennino is a wonderment. It not only has a stunning sculptural effect, but inside where rooms and grottoes, including a fireplace that would have puffed smoke out the giant's nose!
Nearby, Villa di Bivigliano was a Renaissance-era hunting lodge with a central hall, a ballroom, decorated salons, and a structured garden that is worth visiting.
The village is actually a collection of tiny hamlets in a panoramic place among the forest-covered hills. It drew a monastic presence who built a convent and hermitage, which grew and became the complex known as Sanctuario di Montesenario. It is worth a visit to the peaceful place for some fresh air, beautiful views and a reconnection with nature. The scenic complex sits on a hilltop at 800 meters above sea level. You can enjoy a nice country outing by taking the train to Caldine and walking about six kilometers through hills and woods to reach it, enjoy a picnic at the panoramic place, or continue another two kilometers to Bivigliano for lunch in a trattoria. From there you can catch a bus back toward Florence.
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