Florence is consistently flooded with tourists year round, but not many of them know about Scarperia, a small Italian town 32 kilometres north in the stunning Mugello valley. Founded in 1306 as an important outpost during the early Florentine Renaissance period, this settlement was in a strategic position, located directly in the path of the only route from Florence and the north. A day trip to this charming historical town will have you leave the tourists behind and make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.
What to do in Scarperia:
Palazzo dei Vicari
The impressive Palazzo dei Vicari was constructed in the 14th century and, once completed, became the most important in all of northeastern Tuscany and home to the ruling Vicar. The facade, which overlooks the main square, is adorned with an incredible range of coats of arms belonging to the various vicars that ruled here, all carved into the stone. The interior of the palace is decorated with elaborate frescoes in Renaissance style. Visitors can pay a small entrance fee to enter the castle, which is highly recommended. Inside, you will find a museum of knives, tracing the history of this celebrated craft in this town.
Learn about the tradition of knife-making
Scarperia is well-known throughout the world for its knife-making craftsmanship and for over 600 years has been known as the place where the finest blades were forged. Historically, travellers would stop at Scarperia to buy knives before continuing north into the mountains. Scarperian knives are renowned for the quality of their blades and their durability. In the past, over a hundred artisans crafted these blades in the town, but today only a handful remain. For an insight into this centuries-old craft, see a demonstration in an old workshop around the corner from the Castello. Here, a craftsman will demonstrate the entire knife-making process in a setting unchanged since Renaissance times.
Get lost in the streets of the old town
Scarperia is small with an old town that is easily walkable. Ordering a gelato, wandering the charming streets and stopping to browse in the small stores that sell the hand-crafted knives makes for a delightful way to pass the afternoon. Visitors can also see the remains of the town’s fortifications at the entrances to the old town.
How to get there:
The easiest way to reach Scarperia is by car, which takes just over an hour from Florence. If you’re limited to public transport, you can take a train and bus combination.