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The Beautiful Valdarno Valley for Art, Castles and Rich Landscapes

The Valdarno, Italy is also known as the Arno Valley or the Upper Vald'Arno found in the Arezzo province of Tuscany . It is enclosed by the mountains of the Pratomagno and the high Chianti Hills and is an area rich in olive groves and vineyards. Among its most beautiful landscapes is that of Balze, which was even painted by Leonardo da Vinci. The Balze is a stuningly unusual site where pinnacles of soil have been eroded by nature into curious towers and shapes atopped with rocks and sometimes even tiny trees.

Le Balze, Volterra (Pisa, Tuscany)

Le Balze, Volterra (Pisa, Tuscany)

Important Towns in the Valdarno

Populated since prehistoric times, the Valdarno saw important times during the Middle Ages, an era in which many towns, fortifications and castles were built, many of which can still be seen along the valley today. Some of these are Cavriglia, Loro Cuiffenna , Montevarchi and San Giovanni Valdarno, Figline Valdarno, Terranuova Bracciolini, Incisa in Val d'Arno and Reggello.

One of the most important market towns in the Valdarno is
Montevarchi . It is a meeting place for farmers and producers, shop keepers and townsfolk where in the town square on a weekly basis on can buy free range chickens, fruit and vegetables, rabbits, artichokes, olive oil, cheese, salamis, chestnuts ... Visit this market every Thursday.

San Giovanni Valdarno

San Giovanni Valdarno was the birthplace of the painter Giovanni Masaccio called Giovanni da San Giovanni. San Giovanni Valdarno is now the chief industrial town of the Valdarno in Italy.  Take a trip to the old square where you will see the old Palazzo Comunale ; Palazzo d'Arnolfo , named after the architect Arnolfo di Cambio who had designed it back in the Middle Ages. Its facade is flecked with stone and Della Robbia coats of arms telling the story of the building.

In front of it is the Romanesque
Pieve of S. Giovanni Battista , one of the oldest churches in the town.  Look out too for the Basilica of S. Maria delle Grazie , a 15th century church that has absorbed the old town gate, Porta S. Lorenzo .  Inside you can visit the muesum whose small rooms house fine works by local artists, including The Annunciation by Beato Angelico .

The Annunciation by Beato Angelico

The Annunciation by Beato Angelico

Authentic Italian Recipe from the Valdarno

Here is a local recipe from the area called Stufato all Sangiovannese.

Take out the following ingredients; beef shin, chopped onion, celery, carrots, parsley, garlic, lemon peel, salt, pepper, nutmeg, beef bones, olive oil, red wine and jam.

The secret of this dish is difficult to get right because it depends on the amount and quality of meat used, the kind of pan (terracotta is best) the mixing spoon (wood only) and how it is mixed. Finally, it also depends on the hand that cooks it.

Add the meat, chopped onion, celery, garlic and lemon to the pan and add a little olive oil.  In a separate pan slowly boil the meat bones with a little water. Stir the meat and vegetables, mix and cook until the oil in the pan begins to color. Season and add enough red wine to cover.  Turn up the heat so that the liquid evaporates. When it has reduced and turned brown, add a little jam, but not too much so that the meat turns red. Ladle a little of the broth over the meat so that it doesn't dry out. A quarter of an hour before the stew is ready add a pinch of nutmeg. Simmer over a low flame for about 4 hours.

See our page on
Tuscany food recommending restaurants in the Valdarno. These restaurants have been sanctioned by the Vetrina Toscana body as serving traditional food using traditional ingredients of high quality.


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