If there’s a landscape that has been used for art more than any other it’s the countryside around Vicchio. It cannot be a coincidence that the man universally acknowledged as the father of modern painting, Giotto, was born right here, in the village of Vespignano, where you can still visit his home. It’s also not a coincidence that in the scenery glimpsed in his frescoes, in which the Master offers to the admiration of his peers the new wonders of perspective, you can guess the same hills, gentle slopes and typical vegetation that remains unchanged to travellers today, despite the man-made additions. The image of that scenery reflected in his works is still the same today for those willing to view it with the same look as Giotto. Neither is it a coincidence that, a few kilometres from Vespignano, on the banks of the Ensa River, a story, as believable as it is mythical, tells us that Cimabue met Giotto as a boy on the Ragnaia bridge and that he was so enchanted at seeing this shepherd lad paint a sheep on a rock that he took him on as a pupil in his Florence workshop.
But if this is the beginning of a lasting relationship with art history, the scenery of Vicchio as a source of inspiration for the great masters of Tuscan painting, certainly doesn’t end with Giotto. 130 years later, Guido di Piero was born here, the future Beato Angelico. The Museum of Sacred Art and People’s Religion is dedicated to him, situated in the old centre of Vicchio. The museum seeks to combine the reason for artistic inspiration to the fact of anthropological research, thereby offering an image of religion through the heritage of memories and sentiments that bind devotional objects and priceless works of art to their place of belonging.
Continuing to weave this thread that binds the greatest masters in art history to our land, between 1559 and 1571, Benvenuto Cellini also often stayed in Vicchio. His buying of a small farm, meeting people and the town are related in its unmistakable narrative style in some striking pages of “Vita”, in which we find out about the places, names and figures of the time.
Perché non si perdesse questa lunga storia che vede Vicchio legata a doppio filo con quanto di meglio ha prodotto l’ingegno artistico toscano, il poeta Giosuè Carducci, spesso ospite della famiglia nobile dei Giarrè Billi nella frazione di Pilarciano, fu il presidente del comitato che portò, nel 1901, all’erezione della statua di Giotto, che ancora oggi si può ammirare nella piazza centrale del paese.