Last Saturday, when Tuscany was still in the yellow zone and such travel was permitted, I jumped on a train at Stazione Santa Maria Novella in Florence and took a ride up into the Mugello. My destination was the small town of Borgo San Lorenzo. It was a sunny but frigid morning in Florence when I departed, and I saw my first (and probably last) snow of the season on the way.
Once in the small town, I knew I had reached someplace different than the usual Tuscan villages found in Chianti etc. Each of these places is special, but this felt different.
I gazed around and saw the Appenine mountains surrounding this bowl of the the Mugello.
This map of the town greets you at the train station:
The sign tells me that Borgo San Lorenzo is the “city of ceramics.” That may be true, but I saw no shops or workshops or ceramics as I wandered around the town, much to my disappointment! Postscript: I’ve since looked it up and the Borgo has a rich ceramic history, which I’ll discuss in a future post.
There’s a small park near the train station, commemorating this local couple, shown above.
I found my way into the historic center of the little borgo and was richly rewarded with sights and sounds of a small but lively Tuscan town on a Saturday afternoon.
Fido (1941 – June 9, 1958) was an Italian dog that came to public attention in 1943 because of his demonstration of unwavering loyalty to his dead master. Fido was written about in many Italian and international magazines and newspapers, appeared in newsreels throughout Italy, and was bestowed several honors, and this public statue was erected in his honor in Borgo San Lorenzo.
Above, the bus stop near the Fido statue pays contemporary homage to the fine and famous local dog.
Moving across the street, I happened upon this handsome structure, the Misericordia of the town. “Misericordia” is the name given to pious, voluntary institutions, founded throughout Italy by as early as the middle of the 13th century. They were dedicated to providing free assistance to the sick and wounded, including their transport to hospitals, and the burial of the abandoned dead.
Despite the fact that I had just seen snow on my train ride to the town, I saw more signs of spring in Borgo San Lorenzo than I have seen on my recent visits to Pisa, Lucca or Livorno. Maybe because it was a week or two later? Who knows, but it surprised me to see flowers breaking into bloom at this altitude. But, I’ll take signs of spring, wherever and whenever I can find them!
As I began to wander through the winding streets of the historic section of town, I started noticing these decorative swings placed above the commercial streets. I suppose they were in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, which was the next day. They are very sweet and some people went to a lot of trouble to decorate their village.
As in Pisa, Lucca, and Livorno, I saw the boards with death notices in the Borgo. The one below was near the Misericordia, as you might expect.
I believe these notices were more elaborate than the others I’ve seen. Both of these signs had flowers printed on them, which I’ve not seen elsewhere. Arrividerci Bruna, age 95 and Anna Maria, age 82. RIP.
Below, the street sign which tells us that this little arched alleyway is called Vicolo Ghibellino, reminds me that this Borgo was a key player in the battle between the Guelphs and Ghibillines in Tuscany’s medieval past. The sign also says “gia Il Chiassuolo,” which simply means this was its former name. I wonder when the names changed and why. You see these kinds of signs all over Tuscany, with the former name written under the current one, and I always wonder when and why the names were changed.
I noticed these next interesting signs in a butcher shop. “Maile, Norcineria Senese” which means, I think that they do Sienese style butchery on pork. “Cinta Senese” is a specific breed of domestically raised pigs. How many Americans choose their butcher because of the type of pork they sell? A pig is a pig is a pig to Americans. This specialization, of everything having to do with food, is one of the most fascinating aspects of Italian culture.
The other sign, “Castrato,” along with a picture of a sheep, tells us, I believe (? not sure), that they sell sheep meat butchered from castrated males. What detail!
It’s surprising even to me that I can find so many things to photograph in a small bourg like this one. But, I need a second post to show you all I noticed and so, in the next few days, I’ll do a second post. Until then, arrividerci!