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San Giovanni Valdarno

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Inhabitants in 1991 : 17,732

The Municipal territory of San Giovanni Valdarno, extends for 21,39 square kilometres divided in two by the course of the river, occupying the last low hills of the Chianti Mountains and the valley bottom. With Medieval origins, it became the Podesta Seat of Office and then Vicariate Seat.

The capital it was erected on a preceding settlement documented in 1131 with the name of Castel di Piano Alberti and, successively as San Giovanni in Altura, it was one of the “terre nuove” built by the Firenze municipal with the aim of forming a barrier against the dominance over the Fiorentini peasants of the Ubertini and the Pazzi powerful feudals from Valdarno (it is said that, at the construction in 1299 directed by Arnolfo di Cambio, “ser” Petracco, father of Francesco Petrarca was also in charge). Already a Podesta office, from 1340 it was a Vicariate Seat whose jurisdiction encompassed all the Valdarno Superiore and the nearby Val di Greve. Several times during the last century of the Medieval period it had to live through warlike emergencies, suffering, in 1390, the invasion of the troops of Galeazzo Visconti and in 1409 that of King Ladislao di Napoli. Overcome by the mercenaries of Bernardino della Ciarda in service to the Visconti in 1431, its territory was devastated by the Aragonesi di Napoli in the battle against Firenze in 1477 and again in 1479. But this era was also marked by important monumental initiatives, like the restructuring of the Pretorial palace, the restoration of the parish church (of which Giovanni dei Medici future Pope Leone X was in charge)  and the construction of the oratory of Santa Maria delle Grazie (1484). Born in the area were : Tommaso Guidi called Masaccio (1401-1428) great innovator of XV century painting, his master Masolino (1383-1440) and two centuries later another valuable artist Giovanni da San Giovanni (1592-1636). In more recent centuries the important episodes to be noted are the repeated attempts by the community to govern the waters of the Arno to prevent the frequent flooding : appreciable results were obtained with the works of 1705 (but which however, provoked consequences in the subsequent stage at Incisa) and, in 1783, a generous Grand Duchy intervention for which the impoverished population could avail themselves is noteworthy. During the second world war the local partisan forces carried out a particularly active role in the liberation battle.

Places to Visit :
Pretorial Palace building by Arnolfo di Cambio ( according to Vasari), enlarged and renewed in the subsequent centuries and covered with Podesta and Vicariate coats of arms. Now the Municipal headquarters.
S. Maria delle Grazie, 1400s basilica erected in Piazza Masaccio. It was enlarged around 1565 and in 1720. The facade is from 1840. The interior is rich with antique frescos and other valuable works of art ; also from here there is access to the Museum of the Basilica, formed in 1990 it holds a collection of paintings mostly of the XV - XVIII centuries, and other works.
S. Giovanni Battista, parish church originating from the first half of the 1300s, and embellished by a further portico on columns decorated with ceramic rounds by Della Robbia.
S . Lorenzo, church of the XIV century, has a finely frescoed interior.

Historical info reproduced upon authorization of Regione Toscana - Dipartimento della Presidenza E Affari Legislativi e Giuridici
Translated by Ann Mountford


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