Sunday, April 1, 2018

Our afternoon in little-known Larciano is an unexpected pleasure

We found another interesting place off the beaten path today—way off the beaten patch. Even among Italians, few have heard of Larciano in the Valdinievole, and though it is only 35 minutes from our home in Montecarlo and an hour from Firenze, we would not have thought to go there had it not been for a special event we read about in a brochure we picked up while eating in our local gelateria.

The tower in the Castle of Larciano.
It turns out we picked the right place on the right day. Not only was this the clearest and warmest day of the year so far, but we were able to climb to the top of the tower of the Castle of Larciano. We also saw two museums there, all for free with no lines, and staffed by helpful locals. It’s part of series of events called Open Week, sponsored by a consortium of private and public agencies created to promote tourism in the Valdinievole.
View of the city from the tower.

While the tower and the civic museum are compelling attractions, the real jewel of the afternoon was a roving display of more than 50 small machines that have been created from the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci—who, by the way, grew up just six miles away from Larciano. Most likely this proximity to Vinci helped the Larcianesi snag this fascinating display.
We enjoyed a room full of models of Leonardo's ideas, each with a full explanation of its function.

Leonardo is one of the most prolific
Leonardo is credited with inventing canal
locks, which are still used today in much
the same way as shown in his sketches.
inventors in history. The technology of his age prevented the construction of many of his ideas, but that didn’t stop Leonardo from using his knowledge of physics and his imagination and dreaming of what might be possible in the future. His sketches show weapons of war, flying machines, improved work tools, devices to control water flow and many other innovations. The models, made mostly of wood, show how the devices would have worked, and the displays include explanations in Italian, English and French.
View northwest from the top of the tower of Larciano.

The tower view facing the Albano mountains.
However, even if the Leonardo exhibit had not been there, visiting Larciano would have been worthwhile for the sole reason of climbing the castle tower, which allows a 360-degree view that includes the town, the valley, the swamps of Fucecchio and the Albano mountains. After enjoying this breathtaking vista, we spent a few minutes in the city’s civic historical museum, where we viewed items dating from Etruscan times through the Roman occupation and all the way up to modern times.

Larciano's church bell tower.
I read that the tower is normally open to the public on Tuesday, Thursdays and Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Museum hours vary by season, and it’s best to check the city’s website before going. Both the tower and the museum are free, not just during this week but year around. For more on other events of Open Week (March 31-April 8), see

Looking down on the stairway inside the tower.

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