San Casciano in Val di Pesa is a comune (municipality) in the Province of Florence in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 15 km southwest of Florence.
San Casciano in Val di Pesa borders the following municipalities: Greve in Chianti, Impruneta, Montespertoli, Scandicci, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa.
San Casciano’s territory was peopled since Etruscan
times, as witnessed by archaeological findings in Montefiridolfi (The Bowman’s Grave) and Valigondoli (Poggio La Croce’s archaeological excavations). In Roman
times San Casciano was a post-stage (mansio
) posed at the tenth mile from Florentia
. The toponym "Decimo" (i.e. Tenth) is still attached to the Pieve di Santa Cecilia a Decimo (a parish church near San Casciano which was mentioned since 1043 in a document by Charlemagne
) and stands in memory of a milestone
(decimum lapidem) belonging to an important Roman road
(probably the road linked Florentia and Sena Julia). Archaeological findings and toponymic evidences attest this place’s ancientness, whose density seems to be proved also by the relevant number of parish
churches built here (e.g. Pieve di Santa Cecilia a Decimo, Pieve di San Pancrazio, Pieve di San Giovanni in Sugana and Pieve di Santo Stefano a Campoli) and the big number of subordinate churches. The density of people evidenced by these facts, still present today in the country around San Casciano, was already here in the Middle Ages
, resting on many castles which belonged to the bishopric of Florence
or powerful families like Buondelmonti or Cavalcanti.
San Casciano was initially mentioned as a domain pertaining to the Bishop of Florence, who released its first statutes in 1241. Later, in 1278, the domain shifted to the Republic of Florence. A few years later San Casciano became the capital of a local alliance, including also the Alliance of Campoli, and the seat of a podestà, therefore governing people of forty parish churches. San Casciano was then becoming so important that a 1325 statute of the Florence podestá mentioned one of the main roads departing from the city as follows: “strada per quam itur ad ‘"Sanctum Cassianum"’ (…) versus civitatem Senarum et versus romanam Curiam” (i.e. “the road going through San Casciano towards Siena and Rome”). The circumstance that San Casciano's history is deeply bound to its roads is showed also by its own shape, indeed featured by a crossing: one going from Florence to Siena and the other that, following the hills’ ridge, linked the Chianti area with Montelupo and the Arno river's basin. Furthermore, a pivotal role in San Casciano’s development was played by the growth in agricultural productivity provided by sharecropping, which increased the population and the formation of some commercial centres like Mercatale and the castle of San Casciano “a Decimo” itself.
The walls of this castle were provided in the second half of the fourteenth century (and their ruins still exist today). Indeed, in the first half of the fourteenth century, San Casciano was completely undefended and therefore became an easy prey for condottieri and commanders of mercenary troops. San Casciano was occupied by: the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VII of Luxembourg from November 1312 to January 1313, the Duke of Lucca Castruccio Castracani in February 1325 and the French mercenary leader Moriale D'Albarno in July 1343. In consequence of these attacks, the Republic of Florence decided to fortify the village in 1354. The walls were in place in 1355 and, in addition, a “cassero” (i.e. a castle serving as barracks) was added in 1356.
A few years before, the Duke of Athens planned to transform the village in a castle and called it “Castel Ducale”, but the plan died with him. In 1494 Charles VIII of France camped near the village without entering inside it. Before his departure, he donated a large amount of money to the local Franciscan convent. In 1512 at the Albergaccio (near to Sant'Andrea in Percussina) Niccolò Machiavelli started his exile during which he wrote The Prince and The Mandrake. When the Grand Duchy of Tuscany rose to power, San Casciano lost its military and strategic role and its history followed the Tuscan one.
However, in 1880, after the replacement of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany with the Kingdom of Italy, San Casciano still played an indirect but important role in history, because its voters elected Sidney Sonnino as their member of the Italian Parliament. Later, Sidney Sonnino became Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy from February 8 to May 29 of 1906, and from December 11 1909 to March 31 of 1910. In 1893, a steam-engine train was built to link San Casciano and Florence.
San Casciano was almost entirely destroyed by an Allied bombardment on July 26, 1944. It has been slowly but finely restructured.
San Casciano is highly renowned for the production of wine
and olive oil
. The principal cellars of the worldwide famous wine company Antinori
are established in San Casciano. A mutual bank (Banca di Credito Cooperativo del Chianti Fiorentino) is established and has its main offices in San Casciano. The rest of the economy is mainly based on handicraft
and tourism (especially agritourism
). In the twentieth century it was a quite important centre of the Italian typographical industry
San Casciano in Val di Pesa has three sister sities:
Pievi (Parish Churches)
Pieve di San Pancrazio
Pieve of San Pancrazio is located on the hill dividing the valleys of the Pesa and Virginio streams. Already known since 10th century, it has noteworthy apses of Lombard architectural style. The interior has a nave and two aisles with matronaei. Works of art include the Madonna with Child of Agnolo Gaddi
's school and a Crucifixion by Santi di Tito
dating from 1590. Also notable is the studiolo
by Cosimo Gheri, a pupil of Santi di Tito, with precious frescoes depicting the Liberal Arts and poets and scientists of the Classical Era.
Pieve di Santo Stefano a Campoli
Pieve di Santo Stefano, in the frazione
of Campoli, was built in the 9th century. It was a domain of the bishops of Florence, including the future Pope Clement VII
, who served here as priest. In the 18th century, the interior was renovated along Baroque lines and a portico was added.
Pieve di Santa Cecilia a Decimo
Pieve di Santa Cecilia is located in the frazione of Decimo. It is mentioned in a document by Charlemagne
dated 774. Heavily restored in 1728, it has a nave and two aisles; only the bell tower remain of the original Romanesque edifice.
Pieve di San Giovanni in Sugana
Pieve di San Giovanni in Sugana is at 232 metres of altitude, near to the frazione
of Cerbaia. It was mentioned in a document of 1019 with the name of Pieve di Soana. The façade present original Romanesque portal and single lancet window.
Chiesa del Suffragio (Santa Maria del Gesù)
Actually it hosts the Museum of Holy Arts, housing the Madonna Enthroned (1319), the first known and dated work by Ambrogio Lorenzetti
, the Stories of St. Michael Archangel (c. 1250) by Coppo di Marcovaldo
Chiesa della Misericordia o di Santa Maria del Prato
Church of Santa Maria al Prato or della Misericordia was founded by the Dominicans
in 1304. It has a single nave with four altars on its sides: the second right altar houses the important Crucifix by Simone Martini
. Also noteworthy are the white and green marble pulpit
by Giovanni di Balduccio
(1336–1339) and a wooden Crucifix from about 1470.
Castle of Bibbione
Built before 1000, the castle belonged to the Buondelmonti family who restored it in the XI century. In the XVI century it passed to the Machiavelli family who keep it as hunting manor till 1727. The castle has magnificent courtyards and halls. From outside it has an impressive shape, something between a fortress and a sixteenth century manorhouse.
Castle of Gabbiano
Sources of the XI century inform that the Castle of Gabbiano was originally built around a square tower which served as bulwark on the road to Greve in Chianti
, one of the most important routes between Florence and Siena. It was enlarged in the XIII century by the Bardi
family of Florence. The rounded towers, revealing a French influence, were added in 1505.
Castle of Pergolato
Built by the Buondelmonti family, Pergolato was initially used as a bulwark for the defence of the family's feudal domains, then served as a hunting resort. It has huge decorated halls and elegant arcades. It is built on the steep cliffs standing at the left side of the Pesa river.
Castle of Montefiridolfi
Even this castle was owned by the Buondelmonti family. Today it’s very reshaped, but the original structures and architectures are still visible.
Other interesting sites
The Bowman’s Grave
Found in 1978 during some agricultural works, it’s an Etruscan grave
dated back to the VII century B.C.. Its name derives from a large slab with a bas-relief representing a bowman. The original slab is preserved at the Museum of Holy Arts in San Casciano.
People related to San Casciano in Val di Pesa
- Giuliano Dami (1683–1750), Italian adventurer, intimate friend of the last Gran Duke of Tuscany, Gian Gastone de' Medici, born in the frazione of Mercatale.
- Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), Italian writer and politician exiled in 1513 in Sant'Andrea in Percussina.
- Antonio Petrocelli (1953), Italian actor, member of the San Casciano in Val di Pesa's City Council.
- Sidney Sonnino (1847–1922), Italian politician, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Italy, elected at the Italian Parliament in 1880 for the San Casciano in Val di Pesa’s constituency.
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text:Data from ISTAT