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The road leaves Galatrona and goes to Montevarchi. On the hill above the city, you can see a castle standing in a strategic position above the valley which once marked the change from the territory of Arezzo to that of Fiesole. In the years immediately before the 11th century, it belonged to the family of the French feudal lords Bourbon Del Monte di Santa Maria. After the start of the 13th century, the manor house passed to the Guidi Counts and remained in their hands until 1254 when it was sold to the Florentine Republic. Later, it returned to the hands of the Guidi family but was definitively ceded to the Florentines in 1273. During the 13th century, the castle market developed in the floor of the valley and this gradually grew into a village. This evolution followed the typical growth pattern of towns along an important arterial axis, in this case the Via Cassia Vetus, or Via Roma in today’s Montevarchi. After various reversals in its fortunes, the village was fortified in 1328 with a powerful perimeter of walls and two gateways with towers. Today, however, very few signs of these remain. Already strategically important from the 14th century onwards and then, later, because it became a manufacturing and agricultural centre, a certain importance remained attached to Montevarchi into the age of the Grand Duchy.
In the centre of the town is the Collegiata di San Lorenzo whose existence is documented at the end of the 12th century, but which was completely rebuilt between 1706 and 1709. This collegiate church was designed by Massimiliano Soldani Benzi, sculptor, medallist and architect, who was born in Montevarchi in 1658. Between 1720 and 1722, the dome was covered with a fresco of the Assumption of the Virgin into Glory between Saints and the Holy Trinity by Matteo Bonechi. The fresco had already been whitewashed over by the late 18th century, but has recently been brought back to light. While Soldani Benzi was carrying out the reconstruction works, the demolition took place of both the Tempietto by Andrea della Robbia, which once housed the relic of the Holy Milk, and the Baptismal Font which was situated in the left-hand chapel symmetrically with the Tempietto. Based on existing graphical documentation, the Della Robbia Tempietto was faithfully reconstructed, and is on display in the Museo dell’ Arte Sacra della Collegiata. Also in the Museum is a detached and partly damaged fresco depicting the Madonna Enthroned with Saints, and a Nativity, both by Luberto da Montevarchi, another fragmentary fresco of the Madonna and Saints, by Agnolo Gaddi, as well as numerous, beautifully- made hangings and sacred objects.
The Palazzo Pretorio stands to the left of the Collegiate Church. It was rebuilt in modern times but its front wall retains the coats-of-arms of the different podestà going back to the 15th century. The nearby Palazzo Martini is of the 18th century. The Chiesa di San Ludovico built by the Franciscans from 1327 is also worth seeing. Enlarged and enriched in 1629, the church possesses a richly-decorated polychrome marble altar and a choir in carved wood. The ex-monastery Convento di San Ludovico was from the same Francisan foundation and has a beautiful cloister in the style of Michelozzi dating from 1471. In 1821, the monastery was handed over to the Accademia Valdarnese del Poggio which was instituted by Poggio Bracciolini, the humanist who was born in Montevarchi in 1380. The Academy houses a Library with a collection of more than 20,000 volumes including manuscripts and cinquecentine, and also the Museum of Paleontology with items coming for the most part from the upper Valdarno valley.
One of the characteristic features of Montevarchi is the remarkable number of buildings in Liberty style. The Villa Masini in Via Pestello is one of the more striking and rare examples in Tuscany. It is a private residence and therefore not open to visitors. It was built between 1923 and 1927 for Angelo Masini by Professor Giuseppe Petrini and by the architect Luigi Zumkeller. The three-storey residence is lavishly decorated with wrought iron and polychrome terracotta ornamentation. Another example of a private residence with opulent decoration is Palazzo Galeffi which Petrini and Zumkeller also built, at the end of the 1920s. The building houses the private collection of the Galeffi Museum of Modern Art which was donated to the City and consists of works by Ernesto Galeffi, an artist from Montevarchi.
The next place to visit after Montevarchi is CAVRIGLIA, a township known above all for its extensive Nature Park. There is also an ancient pieve dedicated to St John Baptist dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries. After many reconstructions, the building has now become Baroque, an unusual style for this area. Adjoining the church, inside a small oratory, is the Museum which possesses sacred ornaments from the 15th to the 18th centuries. There are glazed terracotta pieces, a particularly noteworthy Ottoman Cross in gold-plated bronze, and also a small 16th-century Pax in painted copper inside a silver frame, from the Limoges works.
This district of Tuscany was, in the 1930s and 40s, an important centre for mining lignite and afterwards, between the 1960s and 70s, with the Santa Barbara thermoelectic powerstation, it became the economic hub of the area. In order to document the importance of this history, a Mining Museum was established in CASTELNUOVO DEI SABBIONI, to the west of Cavriglia. With displays of mining equipment and visual materials, the museum traces the very difficult work carried out in this mineral seam. To the north of Cavriglia, going towards San Giovanni Valdarno, there is a monastery on a hillside, the Convento di Montecarlo. With a church said to be founded by St Bernardine himself, this Renaissance complex of buildings once possessed the Annunciation by Frà Angelico which is today kept in the Museum of Sacred Art in San Giovanni Valdarno.

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