Short Guide to Fucecchio
Short Guide to Fucecchio Warning! I'm not a tourist guide, I did not study it for that, I'm just a fucecchiese! Here I was born, here I still live. What follows are meant to be some simple directions to discover Fucecchio in a few hours.
I see you, driving your car coming from Torre. Drive up to Piazza San Gregorio. Can you imagine that the church has not always been that way? Look at the old pictures below. Do you see something strange? Of course! The bell tower is on the wrong side!
Comparison yesterday and today for the Church of San Gregorio on the square in Torre Fucecchio. I wish to thank Torrigiano d.o.c. Giuliano Frediani for the black and white photo, dating back to the 1920s.
Continue to drive to Fucecchio on via di Burello. Right after the Fucecchio sign, you see two industrial buildings on your right. In front of them there are two peculiar sculptures, a work by the German sculptor Christopher Klein called "Scintilla divina (divine Sparkle)". These sculptures always remind me of a little joke a friend was telling his daughter: that the buildings were a toothpick factory and that those were the factory symbol!
Welcome to Fucecchio, with "Divine Sparkle" in the background
If instead of driving in front of the buildings, you turn right after the sign, you are under the stork's nest. Here the storks are not as common as in Northern Countries and are much loved by everyone. After taking a look at the storks, you can point straight to Piazza della Ferruzza and its brand new, debated (the fucecchiesi never agree to anything), dedicated to the most famous local glory, journalist Indro Montanelli.
The sculpture "Freedom in a Typewriter Ribbon - Letter 22" by Marco Puccinelli is dedicated to journalist Indro Montanelli. Photo by Giacomo Pierozzi
If you want, you can park in the parking lots nearby. Or you can take a quick look when driving there. The sculpture is the work of sculptor Marco Puccinelli and is titled "Freedom in a Typewriter Ribbon - Letter 22". It represents the typewriter ribbon preferred by Indro Montanelli. If you park, you can also visit the nearby Ferruzza Church, taking the road that goes uphill. If you want to continue, head for Via Napoleone Bonaparte and, after just under 500 meters, turn right into Via Sottovalle. After about 200 meters, enter the parking lot of Piazza Giovanni Paolo II.
The 2 Towers parking lot in Fucecchio Foto: Giacomo Pierozzi
Should this parking lot be full, you might park in Piazza Toscanini which is even bigger. Park and head to the towers, inspired by those in the Corsini Park, these are, of course, brand new! The towers are the easiest way to go to Fucecchio alto, upper town (and the "San Pietro Igneo" Hospital, which now hosts the CESAT, the Center for Excellence Articular Replacements in Tuscany). Actually, on your right you will find 2 elevators. Once inside on of the cabins, press the button to go to the fourth floor (if you are athletic, there are stairs to the left). Ehm ... Since, during Salamarzana 2015, I got stucked in the left lift, I have a strong preference for the right liftcage! I am very glad to say that this little accident was brilliantly resolved in an incredible short time and it has now even become a good memory to joke about with friends. If it ever happens to you, I hope not, use the call button or use your phone to ring the emergency services. Let's go on with this Short Guide to Fucecchio! On the left you can see the Montellori countryside. Take the walk on the left, always straight ahead (on the left there is a passage to go to the hospital). You are now in Via Castruccio Castracani. Castruccio Castracani degli Antelminelli was a Ghibelline leader born in Lucca. His life was so adventurous that Niccolò Machiavelli and Mary Shelley dedicated him respectively a biography and a novel! This road is one of the oldest in Fucecchio and in the old times its name was via Sant'Andrea. On your right, in the direction of Ferruzza, there are the remains of a tower, known as Torre di Castruccio, formerly Torre di Porta Nuova or the Terrace. It was destroyed in 1944 by the retreating Germans.
The tower of Castruccio Castracani in a beautiful vintage postcard. Courtesy of http://www.fucecchionline.com/centro-storico/porte-torri-mura.htm
In modern times, it is where the Palio delle Contrade di Fucecchio parade ends. Oh, wait! Maybe you are still in the gallery overlooking via Castruccio Castracani! Turn left and, in a few steps, you will be in Piazza Spartaco Lavagnini, the hospital (you will see it on your left) square. Here is also the First Aid Point in Fucecchio. In case of very minor injuries, not urgent medical situations that do not require analysis (there are no machines here), you can come here. For any serious necessity, you must immediately head to the Emergency Room at San Giuseppe Hospital in Viale Giovanni Boccaccio, 20 in Empoli. On the Piazza Spartaco Lavagnini square there is a nice bar run by Marco Costagli, a fucecchiese d.o.c. (His father Beppe was running "da Paolo", my grandfather's favourite cafè), I am sure you will be given a welcoming smile! On the corner between the square and the descent you see on the left, Via San Giorgio, there is the opportunity to admire one of the towers of Parco Corsini, a beautiful glimpse, get your camera!
The glimpse on Parco Corsini from Via della Greppia in Fucecchio
Walking down Via San Giorgio you can't miss the palace on the left, just before the square. It is the Palazzo Della Volta, also known as Palazzo del Gattino (Kitten Palace!), the oldest building in Fucecchio, with an interesting history, as the love of the fucecchiesi brought it back to life.Now it is home to the Nobile Contrada Sant'Andrea, the Montanelli Bassi Foundation and a cultural association. Go inside! If you are lucky you will find a gentleman who will gladly explain the stories related to this palace and maybe give you a tour in the tailoring room of the contrada or in its cellar! Just coming out of Palazzo Della Volta you will see the newest building in the center of Fucecchio alto, the modern tower-lift-panoramic point. This new building eliminates the problem of architectural barriers at Palazzo Della Volta and allows a beautiful 17-meter-high view (of course from the base of the tower as we are already on the hill). It is open to the public when the Fondazione Montanelli Bassi is open (on Tuesday and Thursday from 9AM to 1PM and on Saturday and Sunday from 3PM to 7PM) or when the circolo Contrada is open (from 1.30PM to 5PM and from 8.30PM to 11PM). At night it is often illuminated, I really like it.
The very new Torre di Palazzo Della Volta in Fucecchio
You are now in Piazza Garibaldi and you must take a decision: descent following Via San Giovanni o walk to Poggio Salamartano. and here the Short Guide to Fucecchio can't help you, if not suggesting to find a way to go on the Poggio AND to peep Via Cammullia.
Via Cammullia in Fucecchio. Photo by Giacomo Pierozzi Fucecchionline.com
Via Cammullia is the first small road on your left coming from Piazza Garibaldi. It is an alley where residents come up with care and ideas making it more beautiful, colorful and welcoming. An added bons is that Via Cammullia is quite narrow, so it can be a refreshing stop in the shade during hot summer days. Online you can find a lot of information about the history of Poggio Salamartano, your Short Guide to Fucecchio just informs you that it was the “sala marzana” of the ancient Fucecchio Castle and it is now an extraordinary observation point that dominates the entire valley. If you turn your back, you see Nuns Church (officially San Salvatore Church) with its hidden bell tower. I have been lucky enough to climb it once during Salamarzana, here is the video and here is the photo.
Thanks to CAI (Alpine Italian club) I climbed the bell tower of the church of San Salvatore in Fucecchio!
Next to the Nuns Church, there is the Collegiate Church with a simple brick façade. As you descend the stairs in front of Collegiata, you are in Piazza Vittorio Veneto, a square that the fucecchiesi still call Piazza dei Caduti, because until a few years ago in the middle of it there was a monument to the fallen that is now in the gardens of Piazza XX Settembre. Just these three squares (Piazza Garibaldi, Poggio Salamartano and Piazza Vittorio Veneto) are the fulcrum of my favorite show (can a Short Guide to Fucecchio have preferences? Yes!) Salamarzana!
The Collegiate Church in Fucecchio and the fresco representing San Cristoforo in Piazza Vittorio Veneto
Let me point out that there is a fresco depicting St. Christopher on a building and in front of it is a porch, quite unusual in the historic centers in Tuscany that was the entrance of the Carceri Vicariali (prisons). Next to the Carceri you see a serene stone staircase. It's a curbside staircase, I think it was made this way to make an easy transit for horses and carts. On top there is the Fucecchio Museum. Go up the stairs, maybe there is a nice weather and you want to stay oudoor, you Short Guide to Fucecchio understands. Do not worry, on the left there is a passage, trust me and you will find yourself in a courtyard, where sometimes musical evenings take place. Go further, following the directions for the library (yes, I know you do not want to stay indoor!). Take the passage on your right and meet Eloisa!
Eloisa and Torre Grossa in Parco Corsini in Fucecchio
Eloisa is a marble statue by the sculptor Arturo Carmassi (have you noticed that in Via Ramoni, near La Scuola di Furio, there is another statue almost like this?) that was placed in front of Torre Grossa. Given the controversial spirit of fucecchiesi, not everyone loved this mix of old and new. Do you like it? Your Short Guide to Fucecchio does! Now you have officially entered the Parco Corsini. Ah, before you step up the stairs in front of you, do you see that glass door on your right? If you are young or very juvenile, it's the place for you, it's a pub called Limonaia (I only went there once it was strangely open in the day) and it's very popular among the young people. If you do not care, go up the stairs. From the parapet to the left you can see (if the tree is dowry) a beautiful glimpse of the Collegiata Church.
The Collegiata Church and San Salvatore church as seen from Parco Corsini
This area was purchased by Giovanni di Cosimo dei Medici, father of Lorenzo the Magnificent. The Medicis made decisive improvements. Go on with your walk, peep here and there among the towers, which are original and not rebuilt! You will find yourself descending on the other side of the hill and going to an area where the open air cinema takes place in the summer, then you will be close to the Corsini Restaurant. I like it, if it's time to eat, I highly recommend it. Because this park is in the very heart of the old town, you might think you are in the counrty but you are not. If it is not lunch nor dinner time, your Short Guide to Fucecchio recommends at least one snack, a small snack at the award-winning ice cream parlour La Fonte del Gelato. It is located in Piazza La Vergine, where you can see a fountain and the homonymous church, also called Friars' (I realize that in Fucecchio things we are most fond of have at least a couple of names, the official one and the one that we "feel" ours). Your Short Guide to Fucecchio puts you in front of a last decision! If you want to continue in the center of Fucecchio, once you leave the Corsini Restaurant turn right, otherwise follow the left pavement to return to your car. Your Short Guide to Fucecchio awaits your suggestions! Write in the comments!