Palazzo dei Vicari of Scarperia

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Scarperia rises in the heart of the Mugello on the Bolognese Road.


On the area (in the heart of the 'Mugello', the northeast part of Tuscany sited between Florence and the Apennines) where Scarperia stands once rose an Etruscan settlements, and in Roman times two important roads served the area, crossing over two different mountain passes: the 'Faentina' to east and the 'Bolognese', through the mountain pass of the 'Futa', to west. During the Middle Ages there was another important road, called 'S.Agata', today reduced to a mule-track, that become one of the most important roads linking Florence to Bologna and northern Italy.

At the beginning of the 14th century the Florentine Republic decided, in order to better control these routes, to build two new fortified towns, at that time called 'New Lands' [Terre Nuove]: the first was Scarperia, in the 'Mugello' and the second Firenzuola (Little Florence), on the opposite side of the Apennines mountain. The Mugello was, since the High Middle Ages, a fief of the Ubaldini family. The Florentine Republic had to destroy one of their strongholds, the castle of Montaccianico, before beginning in 1306 the construction of a castle on the place called 'the Scarperia'. The new fortification was called 'Saint Barnaba Castle' but soon became known with the ancient name of the place. Its main role was to prevent a rebirth of the Ubaldini family's ambitions of power. Also the other feudal castles of the zone - Ascianello, Lago, Lomena and Cerliano - were shaved to the ground.

The planning of this 'New Land' was entrusted to the great architect Andrea Pisano, at the time engaged also in the works at the Florence's Cathedral. It seems he took part only in the building of the Palace-Fortress, seat of the Vicarious. The castle became the most important of the north-east Tuscany, and Florence allowed Scarperia to use the coat-of-arms with the lily. The Bolongnese road divided Scarperia in half, and still today forms the main axis of the town. Scarperia has an irregular shape, similar to a rectangle, encircled by walls, equipped with Guelphs battlements and square flanking towers.

The core of the stronghold is the so called Public Palace or Palace-Fortress: a classic and austere residence on the inner facade - towards the main square of the town - fortress in the external. The two sides are joined together by two great walls curtains, endowed with machicoulis, forming an immense inner courtyard. The keep is inserted on the western line of the town-walls. The palace complex, also called 'of the Vicarious' features lightly bastioned walls and a high slender tower coming out from the right angle of the inner front. The facade is also adorned by an incredible number of coats of arms of the Florentine Vicarious. The inside courtyard is characterized from furnishings and frescoes of the 15/16th centuries that contrasts with its rude external aspect.

The importance of Scarperia as a market and control center on the Bolognese Road remained unchanged until 1762, when the Lorena re-opened the mountain pass of the Futa, the fastest way to reach the other side of the Apennines, and so began the decline of the ancient 'Saint Barnaba Castle'. The Palace of the Vicarious is freely visitable and has been recently object of important works of restoration.