It was the last Sunday in September 1615 when Giovanni Concini, a Pratomagno farmer, went down to Terranuova for the big cattle festival. Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II had granted permission for the Valdarno castle to hold a festival, which would later become the Fiera del Perdono (the festival of the pardon). Giovanni walked those tracks that made up one of the area’s most interesting attractions and are still walked by lovers of the outdoors today. This is a special kind of nature, gentle like the Tuscan hills, yet marked by the “Balze”, rock formations carved by wind and water down the millennia. Scenery that not even Beato Angelico, Masaccio and Leonardo Da Vinci knew how to resist to the extent that it left an indelible mark on their career and sometimes even their art. Just look at the world-famous Mona Lisa!
Giovanni Concini, a distant relative of Prince Concino, the owner of one of the oldest buildings in Terranuova town centre, had no way of knowing that the area would one day become a favourite destination for lovers of the countryside, walking and time spent in the little villages that still typify the hills today (Malva, Persignano, Piantravigne, La Penna, etc.). Giovanni trembled as he went down to the town – he was surrounded by spectacular views on every side: the “Balze” with the Arno River and the Devil’s Valley, a suspended place where the concept of time becomes diluted, and the Bandella Oasis, a nature reserve hemmed in by oak forests, populated with cormorants, kites and falcons. Giovanni knew the area, even though the waterways discouraged those like him who took the cattle to pasture. The good Concini would never had imagined that, one day, that “swamp” would become a lush oasis, where you’d need a boat to cross it one mild summer’s afternoon to enjoy the silence, aromas and colours.
The farmer reached the crowds, leaving the old Cassia Vetus way behind him (Setteponti). The stretch dotted with charming Romanesque churches (like Gropina) and taste ways such as the Arezzo Wine Roads, now travelled by car, stopping for a tasting or two, or to wonder at the vineyards and verdant scenery before changing into the nearby Ascione Valley, where wine makes way for dairy ingredients and prized meat.
Giovanni arrived at the festival unaware of his greatest fortune: the fact that he lived in a land brimming with art, evocative landscapes and vibrant traditions. Concini loved the farming festivals in particular, when the farmyards filled with people to celebrate every event in their lives. They ate bread with oil, fresh pecorino cheese and zolfini beans, and they listened to simple folk amuse themselves with ottava rime rhyme, a tradition that continues in Terranuova to this day. Then he looked up to the sky and wished on a distant star for a good harvest.