Chapter #1

A lovely castle

Ponte Mediceo
PontassievePhoto by: Claudia Barbugli
PontassievePhoto by: Claudia Barbugli

I’m writing to you from the Monterifrassine ridge, as the sun sets among the cypress trees and to the tune of a windmill, here bunches of grapes break the monotony of the vineyards and olive leaves shine like green silver. The gentle balance of the setting is punctuated by mankind, by farmstead and castles and noble residences. The Medici, Pazzi, Cerchi, Portinari and Alighieri left more than a mere trace here. In 1357 some Florentine nobles built a fortress here, known as Castel Sant'Angelo, around which village dwellings were castled. In the mid 1600s, Cosimo I had his Medici bridge erected over the river Sieve, two red-brick arches and the coat of arms of the noble Florentine family.The beginnings of Pontassieve.

Chapter #2

Out and about with Dante and Beatrice

San Miniato a Pagnolle
Santuario Madonna delle Grazie al Sasso

I walked for a while, past the Sanctuary of the Rock and along trails to discover ancient butter caves. Here the roads wind and cutting through the woods isn’t possible, but now I see them, Dante and Beatrice, who exchange gazes as the bells ring. They are in the church of San Miniato a Pagnolle, about 300 metres from Villa dei Portinari and 500 metres from the Alighieri home. Here I can trace the perfect triangle, with the homes of the two central characters as its base and this country church at its apex. Dante often comes here for his trip out of town. This is where he finds the inspiration for his enormous talent, seen in perfect terzine verse, like the skilled and knowledgable ploughing of the fields that the peasants know how to do so well here. Who knows if today, at the end of mass, sparks flew for the world’s greatest love story?

Chapter #3

Una congiura da "Pazzi"

A few days ago I was a guest of the Pazzi family at Castello del Trebbio. I was struggling to sleep, woken by a hushed sound from the living hall of this residence. Today I returned to the castle and I found nobody there. Cecco, the family’s elderly groom, told me that, on Sunday 26th April, 1478, during mass in Florence Cathedral, when the faithful were on their knees, Francesco de' Pazzi and Bernardo Bandini killed Giuliano de' Medici by stabbing him 19 times, but that his brother Lorenzo was able to save himself. The Pazzi Conspiracy was a miserable failure and the murderers were sentenced to death: Lorenzo de' Medici remained Florence’s only master. Cecco raised a finger and pointed south, to Castello di Torre a Decima, where the family had taken refuge.

Chapter #4

Wine nestled in straw and glass: it’s the “fiasco”!

FiascaiePhoto by: Enrico Guerri
Fiascaia, statua

What do Florentines look for in Pontassieve? I found the answer by looking through the dew on a spider’s web that, like a natural kaleidoscope showed me a land that breathes, strong colours and full brushstrokes the flavour of grapes. Wine must be preserved. I turned round and saw Maria on the threshold, focused on weaving straw around the flasks, the “toscanello” and the “mezzo peso”, and I suddenly realised just much love there is for this precious asset. I stopped to look at her knowing hands creating such an original work of art. Then I drew her face. Now that drawing is a statue that remembers an all-female part of history.