Mugello is a hilly area in the north of the province of Florence. It has a very ancient history, with Etruscan, Roman and Longobard remains, but it was with the Medici, a family that ruled Florence and was originally from these parts, that the region experienced a real splendour: villas and castles were built, still visible today, and the economy was given a boost.
Today, Mugello is an interesting destination waiting to be discovered, off the beaten track of mass tourism, but which nevertheless retains a great deal of charm. For many, in fact, Mugello is synonymous with the international circuit, while for others it rhymes with Barberino Designer Outlet; still others will appreciate the Medici villas and the immense artistic heritage they contain, while art lovers will want to visit Giotto’s house museum in Vicchio.
Whatever your holiday ideal, when visiting Mugello you cannot fail to discover its towns and villages, and some of its marvellous scenery, from the Bilancino lake near Barberino to the chestnut forests in the Marradi area, where chestnuts are a real institution.
Mugello can be divided into two parts: one closer to Florence, comprising the municipalities of Barberino di Mugello, Borgo San Lorenzo, Scarperia e San Piero and Vicchio, and an area further north, the so-called Tuscan Romagna or Alto Mugello, comprising the municipalities of Firenzuola, Marradi and Palazzuolo sul Senio.
Barberino di Mugello is one of the most important Mugello municipalities, and is located at the western end of the region. With its 10,000 inhabitants, it is a lively town every day of the year, and is also convenient to reach as it is served by the motorway exit along the A1 motorway.
In Barberino, the most important monument to visit is the Medici villa of Cafaggiolo, but the castle of Villanova, the villa Torre il Palagio and villa Le Maschere are also interesting.
Finally, Barberino di Mugello is close to the beautiful Bilancino Lake, ideal for a day of relaxation or activities on the water, and in its territory is the Barberino Outlet Village, a true shopping paradise.
The villa or castle of Cafaggiolo was one of the first residences of the Medici family outside Florence. The villa, restored starting in the 19th century, today no longer has its original appearance, although there is no lack of references to the Medici era, especially in the decorations on the main door and the 16th-century stables. Noteworthy is the wood at the back, an ancient hunting ground of the Medici.
The Bilancino lake is located in Barberino di Mugello, and is an artificial lake created in 1999 with the inauguration of the dam on the Sieve river, in order to provide Florence with a water reserve in case of drought, and at the same time to limit the risk of flooding in the Arno plain.
The lake is an interesting destination to spend a day in the open air, and on its shores it is possible to practice water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. There are some bathing stretches that are equipped, and swimming is possible in summer. One can also engage in sports fishing, or stroll along its shores, thanks to the network of trails and cycle paths.
The lake is also home to theWWF oasis of Gabbianello, where you can take part in workshops and guided tours to discover the local fauna, including mallards, storks and pink flamingos.
The Barberino Designer Outlet is located very close to the Barberino exit of the A1 motorway, and is a place where fashion and shopping enthusiasts will love to spend a whole day. It is part of the famous McArthur Glen outlet chain, and inside you can buy clothes of the best brands at discounted prices.
The Barberino Outlet Village, open every day from 10am to 8pm, can also be reached by the shuttle service departing from Florence, at the Santa Maria Novella station, with departures every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9.30am, 11.30am and 2pm. Those who prefer to get there by car will find ample free parking.
For fans of two and four wheels, Mugello is synonymous with the international circuit. In fact, the Italian MotoGP Grand Prix is run here every year, as well as other races of international importance such as the Ferrari 1000 Formula 1 Grand Prix of Tuscany, the Hankook 12h Mugello and the Mugello Classic.
The circuit can also be accessed for a free practice session by car or motorbike, with a split into turns and a timing service.
Scarperia merged with San Piero a Sieve in 2014, creating the municipality of Scarperia e San Piero. Its historic centre is very pretty and worth a visit; don’t miss the chapel of the Madonna di Piazza, where the vicars of Florence went to swear allegiance in the 15th century. Today there are some valuable works inside, including a painting of the Madonna and Child by Taddeo Gaddi and a marble tabernacle by Mino da Fiesole.
Palazzo Pretorio, also known as Palazzo dei Vicari, dating back to the 14th century, is also very beautiful. It can be visited both from outside and inside, where there are splendid frescoes and a clock in the bell tower by Filippo Brunelleschi. For a cultural interlude, visit the adjacent Museum of Cutting Tools, where many knives, of which Scarperia is a famous producer, are on display.
San Piero a Sieve is the other ‘half’ of the municipality of Scarperia and San Piero. The main attraction of the town is the splendid Medici villa of Trebbio, a UNESCO heritage site since 2013.
The villa has the appearance of a medieval castle, so much so that it is known in jargon as the Trebbio castle. It is located on a hillock from which a splendid panorama of the Mugello countryside can be admired, although the original reason for the place chosen for the construction was to be a perfect observation point to check the surroundings. The Italian-style garden that surrounds it is also very beautiful.
Also very interesting is the Bosco ai Frati convent, founded as far back as the 6th century and rebuilt with its present appearance by Cosimo I dè Medici called the Elder, who had the bell tower, cloister and loggia added, based on a design by Michelozzo.
Then visit the parish church of San Pietro, the patron saint of the town, which overlooks a small square with a statue of St Peter by Girolamo Ticciati. The pieve was restored in 1776, while the bell tower dates from 1906. Inside, there is a beautiful baptismal font made of glazed terracotta, with six faces, each displaying a painting from the life of St John the Baptist.
With its 18,000 inhabitants, Borgo San Lorenzo is the most populous of the Mugello municipalities. Beautiful are its 14th-century walls, the parish church of San Lorenzo and the Villa Pecori Giraldi, with the Manifattura Chini museum inside. Basically, there is no lack of attractions, and at the same time, being a real town, there are all the services available.
Around Borgo San Lorenzo, you can also visit theformer convent of San Pietro a Luco, where in the rectory there are some paintings by Donato Mascagni and Lorenzo Lippi, the monastery of San Bartolomeo and the sanctuary of the Madonna dei Tre Fiumi. Finally, dog lovers will not miss the monument to the dog Fido, who lived in Luco del Mugello and every evening for 14 years went to the bus stop to wait for his master, who died in an air raid during World War II.
Also worth mentioning is the presence of the railway station, where trains from Florence Santa Maria Novella stop.
Despite being rather small, Vicchio is very famous among art experts, as two world-famous artists were born here: Giotto in 1267 and Beato Angelico in 1395. But Vicchio has managed to attract other artists throughout its history, such as Benvenuto Cellini, who stayed here for almost 12 years, and Giosuè Carducci, often a guest of a local noble family, who, among other things, was chairman of the committee to build the statue of Giotto in the centre of the town.
After visiting the historic centre, take a look at the Beato Angelico Museum of Sacred Art and Popular Religiousness, opened in 2000. If you pass through the area between June and July, then visit the Etruscan excavations at Poggio Colla, conducted by several American universities. Finally, the surroundings: a photo with the Montelleri cypress tree is not to be missed, while for a relaxing day, head for Lake Vicchio, with its small island.
Also worth a visit is Giotto’s house museum, located on the Vespignano hill. Renovated in 2008, it is managed by the association of the lands of Giotto and Angelico, and can be visited on Sundays and certain holidays.
Marradi is located in the border area between Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, in what is known as Tuscan Romagna. Visit the historical centre, with its 14th-century town hall, and the church of San Lorenzo, rebuilt in 1785 in neoclassical style.
Marradi is famous for its chestnuts and marroni chestnuts, which have been awarded the IGP mark; its hills are covered with chestnut groves, and the importance of this product for the local economy is such that the Marradi Marradi Mugello chestnut road has even been created; furthermore, during the famous and renowned chestnut festival held in October, Marradi can be reached by a vintage steam train departing from Florence.
Moreover, Marradi is a very interesting destination for hikers and nature lovers, as within the municipal territory there are more than 120 km of paths to be followed on foot or by mountain bike, leading to 3 panoramic points and 5 refuges.
Palazzuolo sul Senio is a small town in Alto Mugello, or Tuscan Romagna, which in 2018 joined the club of the most beautiful villages in Italy. It is located right on the border between the provinces of Florence and Forlì, and is inhabited by only about 1,000 people.
Once down here, do not miss some religious architecture such as the sanctuary of Santa Maria della Neve di Quadalto, dating back to 1459, the abbey of Santa Maria a Susinana or the church of Santo Stefano. Also of interest is the ancient villa of Gruffieto, dating back to the 17th century, located in the woods between Palazzuolo and Marradi. Some prominent personalities stayed here in the past, including the poet Dino Campana and the humanist Gaspare Finali.
There are also two really interesting museums in Palazzuolo sul Senio that are well worth a visit: they are the Upper Mugello Archaeological Museum, where numerous pieces dating back to prehistoric times are on display, and the Museum of Mountain People, which showcases the ancient work tools of farmers and artisans who inhabited the area.
At 271 square kilometres, Firenzuola is the largest municipality in the province of Florence. However, despite its size, it is inhabited by only 4,000 people, which increases during the warm season thanks to the influx of tourists, especially due to the beauty of its surroundings.
For instance, climb to the top of the sasso di San Zanobi, a rock formation located in the Caburaccia locality, and also visit two other similar formations not too far away: the sasso della Mantesca and the sasso delle Macine. Then climb up to the Raticosa Pass, at an altitude of almost 1,000 metres, garrisoned by the Gothic Line during World War II.
Speaking of war, along the road leading to the Futa Pass is the Futa Germanic military cemetery, located at an altitude of about 950 metres, on the top of a mountainous relief, housing more than 30 thousand bodies of German soldiers who fell in the war.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
Mugello is very extensive, and choosing where to stay may prove more difficult than expected. Choose Barberino del Mugello if you want to be close to the motorway and if you want to have all the services at hand, outlet stores included. Otherwise, head towards the heart of the valley, and opt for Borgo San Lorenzo, Scarperia or San Piero a Sieve. If, on the other hand, you are looking for authentic places, off the main tourist routes and immersed in luxuriant nature, move north to Marradi, Firenzuola or Palazzuolo sul Senio.
Always remember that there are also many agritourisms, castles and country villas in Mugello, for a peaceful yet luxurious stay. Choose your favourite according to your budget, but of course the disadvantage is that you will have to take the car each time.
Mugello represents the entire northern part of the province of Florence, and therefore there is no single access road. It can be reached, for example, from the A1 motorway through the Barberino, Firenzuola and Roncobilaccio tollbooths, or by taking the SS65 state road of the Futa pass or the SS67 Tosco-Romagnola state road. Some provincial roads, such as the 302, 503 and 551, also pass through here to reach the most isolated places.
From the centre of Florence , it is best to take the SS65 state road to San Piero a Sieve, which is 26 kilometres long and takes 35 minutes. The actual duration depends, of course, on your final destination. From all other Tuscan provinces, on the other hand, it is best to enter the A1 motorway and then exit at the Barberino tollgate. Distances and travel times are as follows:
Once again, we reiterate that the final distance depends on the place in Mugello you want to reach.
As far as travelling by public transport is concerned, the towns of San Piero a Sieve, Borgo San Lorenzo and Vicchio have a railway station, where regional trains run on the Florence-Pontassieve line: they are quite frequent, and the journey from Florence Santa Maria Novella takes 40 to 55 minutes.
The western part of Mugello, on the other hand, that of Barberino to be precise, is not served by the railway, and therefore, to get there by public transport, the only possible solution is the buses leaving from Florence. Finally, Marradi and Palazzuolo sul Senio are served by the Faentina railway, which connects Florence to Faenza.
Mugello is entirely part of the province of Florence, of which it represents the northern part, the one bordering on Emilia-Romagna.