Chapter #1

The water, woods and waterfalls

"The roar of the water but also the river that seems infernal", this is how Dante describes the Acquacheta Waterfall in the Divine Comedy. Not only one of the symbols of San Godenzo, it's also an emblem of this landscape. Dante visited here in June 1302 for a meeting at the Abbey and it’s most likely that it was on that occasion that he had the opportunity to admire the falls. He was not the only author to praise it, Dino Campana, who lived nearby, also wrote about the falls. The environment bears the evidence of its inhabitants, breeders, artisans, chestnut and timber gatherers and cheese producers. Those who live here, know what the mountains can give, they also know the harshness of the winters and the sparse pastures. Perhaps to fully understand all this, we should listen to the stories of the many elderly people who populate San Godenzo. We would hear about schools scattered here and there in the mountains, of days spent tending to sheep, of simple meals based on not much more than polenta and of evenings spent in front of the hearth.

Chapter #2

The meeting that changed history

The heart of the town is the splendid Abbey dedicated to San Gaudenzio, built in 1028 at the behest of the bishop of Fiesole, Jacopo il Bavaro. In 1070, Bishop Trasmondo, a patron of embellished works, consecrated the new church and entrusted it to the Benedictines. On June 8, 1302, a famous meeting was held in the Abbey that’s also remembered in the history of Italian literature: the conference of the Florentine exiles, the Ghibellines and the White Guelphs. Notably, Dante Alighieri is among the names. The goal was to be able to come to an agreement with the Ubaldini in order to return to Florence, at that time dominated by the Black Guelphs. The deliberations were unsuccessful. Shortly thereafter, there was a bitter clash between Whites and Blacks. The former were defeated and Dante decided to break away from his Florentine companions (who he considered to be evil and foolish) and to take off for himself (as he recalls in the Divine Comedy).

Chapter #3

Andrea, the painter from Castagno

The date is not certain, some say 1421, but it was here, in the hamlet of Castagno, that Andrea di Bartolo di Bargilla, known as Andrea del Castagno, was born. He was one of the leading figures of Florentine painting in the mid 15th century. There are rather unflattering descriptions of his person and character. Vasari, for example, describes him as a "rude and terrible man". Andrea had a brother and a sister, who both left Castagno during the war between Florence and Milan following the destruction of their home. They subsequently moved to nearby Mugello. We don’t know anything for sure about his artistic education or early activity. The oldest work, mentioned in sources that have now been lost, are the frescoes on the facade of the Palazzo del Podestà in Florence depicting the hanged members of the Albizzi family, guilty of treason after the battle of Anghiari.

Photo by: LigaDue