October 14 offers Italians and guests to visit many historical and cultural localities including special openings of normally inaccessible sites. The events are sponsored by Fondo Ambiente Italiano (the Italian equivalent of the National Trust) – an organization that safeguards and promotes Italy’s historic patrimony.
This year’s events have a theme of water as a resource that is essential for life. With more than 250 cities participating, the Tuscan cities of Arezzo, Florence, Livorno, Lucca, Pisa, Pistoia, Prato and Siena open a diverse selection of venues. Admission is free but a donation of €3 per site is suggested.
In Tuscany visitors can learn how the municipality of Florence takes water from the Arno and takes it through the process of rendering it pure for drinking and cooking, tour a 15th century water-powered paper mill or visit a lighthouse that has illuminated the Tuscan coast for seven centuries.
Lucca invites visitors to see how the colorful Art Nouveau style tiles seen throughout Tuscany are made at the Fabbrica Mattonelle A. Tessieri (Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, Via San Marco, 58). While in the city, stop by the Church of Santa Caterina on via del Crocifisso to view its artistic treasures (Sunday 10 am to 6 pm).
Pisa with its port was a major trading center between Tuscany, Sardinia, France and Spain for several centuries. For an interesting look at Pisa’s harbor, special visits to the dock and canals for small boats will be organized (Sunday 9 am to 6 pm. Via della Parsena). While on the Tuscan coast a unique opportunity to visit the Livorno fanale (lighthouse) built in the 14th century. Learn how the working lighthouse evolved from using oil lamps to acetylene gas lamps to electric lighting. The Germans blew up the structure in 1944 as Allied forces approached, but it was rebuilt 10 years later and continues to light up the coast (Sunday, 10 am to 1 pm and 3 to 5 pm. Via dei Molo Mediceo).
The city of Siena invites the public to visit two unique art treasures. The splendid 14th century fresco, the Madonna of Laterino, in the Piazetta delle Due Porte, can be seen on Sunday from 10 am to 7 pm. Another Madonna with Child, an early 20th century marble bas-relief by Cortigiani will be displayed at via dell’Abbadia, 1, on Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm. In nearby San Gimignano one can visit one of the famed medieval towers and an aristocratic family home decorated with art and antiquities at Torre e Casa Campatelli (Sunday from 9:30 am to 7 pm. Via San Giovanni, 15).
Arezzo’s Palazzo Bruni Ciocchi offers a guided visit with the director of medieval and modern art. This beautiful Renaissance building, and former customs house, contains works rescued from churches, dissolved monasteries and private art collections. (Saturday 8 to 11 pm. Via San Lorentino, 8).
Closer to Florence, the city of Pistoia invites guests to visit the Palazzo Puccini. Home of Niccolo’ Puccini, writer and philanthropist, the historic residence, now a boutique hotel, houses 18th century frescoes and rare antiques. (Saturday 3 to 6 pm and Sunday 9:30 am to 1 pm and 2 to 6 pm. Vicolo del Malconsiglio, 4). In nearby Pescia, at the the Cartiera Le Carte (restored paper mill) the process of making paper can be observed. See how a pile of rags evolves into paper, an important component of the economy in the area for six centuries.
The Bisenzio River in Prato historically brought great wealth to the area with textile factories, grain mills and paper mills all being powered by the river’s water. The Materia Museo uses the area’s history of textiles and fabric dyeing as on a tool to inspire environmental awareness, renewable energy and the importance of water for manufacturing. For the FAI weekend a special presentation on water as an essential resource is planned. (Saturday 2-6 pm with a guided tour at 4:30, Sunday 10 am to 6 pm. Via Mulino di Colle, Cantagallo). For the athletically inclined, a three-hour trek through the Bisenzio Valley can be joined beginning at the medieval Ponte della Rocca in Cerbaia, the oldest surviving bridge over the Bisenzio River. The hike winds up the hillside to the ruined 12th century Fortress alla Rocco di Cerbaia. For more information and reservations for the hike, write to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Complete information and online registration for events are available on the FAI web site. Visitors can also download an app of events and sites for smart phones. (rita kungel)