If you are in Florence and have enough time, be sure to visit the charming medieval town of Scarperia. Especially if you are tired of the noise of the big city, you want to feel the true atmosphere of Italy and enjoy traditional dishes in the company of locals.
Scarperia is located 30 km north of the Tuscan capital, in the hilly area of Mugello. It is a well-preserved medieval town, which was founded by the Florentine Republic in 1306. In the main square you can visit the Palazzo dei Vicari, once the residence of the local authority, the Vicars, appointed by the Florentine Republic to manage the city and the surrounding area. The emblems that adorn the facade of the building represent the numerous families, who have controlled this territory at different times. Now the palace houses an important historical archive, a museum and is the custodian of the old bell clock, created by Filippo Brunelleschi.
Palazzo dei Vicari (Photo Credit Leopoldo Cecchi)
Opposite the Palazzo dei Vicari is the church of Saints Jacopo and Filippo (1326). On the same square is the Oratory of the Madonna di Piazza (1320), where the Vicars swore loyalty to the Florentine Republic.
Parrocchia dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo
Typing Scarperia online, you can see, that it is often accompanied by the definition of “city of knives”. But why this specialization? It is mainly due to its position, in fact Scarperia was founded to defend Florence from its enemies north of the Republic, the city was surrounded by fortified walls with defensive towers that were partially preserved until today. Scarperia was also in ancient times on the only existing road between Florence and Bologna, so many travelers, merchants and pilgrims crossed it and a knife for the traveler of those times was indispensable. With the knife they could eat, cook, defend themselves from thieves and cut the branches that hindered the passage in the dense Apennine forests.
The masters of Scarperia were famous not only for knives, but also for weapons and agricultural tools. To learn about local craft traditions, you should visit the Museo dei Ferri Taglienti, located in the Palazzo dei Vicari mentioned above.
Museo ferri taglienti
A separate part of the Museo dei Ferri Taglienti is La Bottega del Coltellinaio, the only cutting workshop, located in one of the streets of the historic city center. In the past, these shops were located in all the streets of Scarperia, but over time, with the change into automatic production lines, the artisan laboratories had to give way to restaurants and shops. In 1990 by decision of the municipality of Scarperia, the only surviving knife maker workshop was transformed into a museum.
In the great variety of local knives there is the so-called “Knife of love”, which is considered a traditional gift. In the last century, it became widespread in central and southern Italy as a gift item for engaged couples. Citations and oaths have been engraved on the blades. The handle of the knife was decorated with white bone eyelets, which should have kept the couple united and protected from misfortune. Because of its sophisticated construction and the many small details in the finish, it is difficult to manufacture but fully conveys the atmosphere of those distant times.
The ancient traditions are still alive today: there are 6 specialized shops in Scarperia, where visitors are not only able to buy knives, but also to participate in their production with the help of ancient tools and techniques. Although of the 400 cutlery machines that existed in Scarperia, today less than ten remain, the ancient art is still alive, and the Scarperia knives have become collector’s items, whose quality is guaranteed by entire generations of craftsmen.
Scarperia is close to Florence and enjoys a rich cultural life. The most famous events take place in spring and autumn. At the end of May, during the Infiorata Festival, the central streets and the town square are strewn with flowers that form colorful designs.
At the beginning of September the city has two great celebrations: the Renaissance Days and the Diotto. During the first, the historic center of Scarperia returns to ancient times: the streets are covered with straw, the locals dress in medieval costumes. Tourists have the opportunity to shoot with a bow, throw knives and observe the phases of their production. Acrobats and jugglers walk the streets, frighten tourists like medieval monsters, young people sing and paint portraits of artists.
Diotto is a party to commemorate the anniversary of the founding of Scarperia in 1306. In its program: a historical costume walk between guests from Florence and locals from Scarperia, Medieval Contests, the solemn Procession of the Prophets.
Diotto (Photo Credit Fabiano Capirossi)
For sports lovers in Scarperia, the Poggio dei Medici Golf Club and the International Road Race – Mugello International Circuit have been built, where various car and motorcycle races are held. At the beginning of June each year the Moto GP riders participate in sports competitions.
Autodromo del Mugello
Beach holiday lovers should visit Lake Bilancino artificially created, from the construction of the dam to regulate the flow of water and protect Florence from catastrophic floods (such as the terrible one of 1966). At Bilancino, there is the opportunity to practice water sports and sight rare birds (swans, white storks, flamingos and more) in the Oasi Naturale del Gabbianello reserve.
Lago del Bilancino
Tired of the noise of big cities, travelers can stay in the numerous villas near Scarperia, which offer agri-tourism services. Fresh air, trekking in the woods, horse riding, swimming pools, restaurants and cozy apartments are always at your service.
Therefore any Italian lover, organizing a trip to Florence, must not forget to visit the “city of knives” Scarperia – one of the most beautiful corners of Tuscany with its interesting history and its ancient local art. After all, the city is not invaded by mass tourism, which is why it has managed to keep its original appearance almost intact.
• Museo Ferri Taglienti www.museoferritaglientiscarperia.it
• Coltellerie Conaz (50038 Scarperia, Via Roma 8)
• Infiorata (Fine Maggio)
• Gornate Rinascimentali (Settembre)
• Diotto Festival (Settembre)
• Proloco di Scarperia: www.prolocoscarperia.it
Self-taught writer, traveler. After graduating at Kyiv College of Communication (Ukraine) and Odessa Academy of Communication (Ukraine), she worked in a a telecommunications company. At the same time, she dreamed of being a flight attendant or a tour guide. On one of her trips to Tuscany she met her future husband, married and immigrated to Italy. The author has a blog that publishes and shares life stories in Italy, rural traditions, useful materials and advice for tourists. For the latest news on Tuscany, visit her instagram profile @victoria.gorova