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Scarperia terranuova

The “terra nuova” of Scarperia

Of the many towns present in Mugello, Scarperia stands out for its unusual features, immediately revealing its origin as a centre founded from scratch to a predefined layout. Castel San Barnaba/Scarperia was actually built as the military outpost of the Florentine Republic and to guard the route through the Apennines which Florence set out to trace through the extensive area dominated by the great feudal lords, the Ubaldini.

After the fall of Montaccianico, the powerful castle founded by Cardinal Ottaviano Ubaldini, the Florentines “…had made …downward of the Mugello plane in the place called Scarperia, a town for those from the Ubaldini fortress and they took the Ubaldini’s followers from them and made them free, so that Montaccianico could not be revived…” (Chronicles of Giovanni di Paolo Morelli).

On 18 July 1306 “Dominus Matteus” was appointed to commence the foundations of Castel San Barnaba and on 7 September called the inhabitants of the rural area to the new centre to sketch out the roads and walls, then dividing the land into lots according to an even grid pattern where the first houses were built.

It is thought likely that Andrea da Pontedera (Pisano) took part in designing the new terra murata drawing from the experience Arnolfo di cambio had acquired in Valdarno when founding San Giovanni, Castelfranco di Sopra and Terra S. Maria (Terranova Bracciolini).

The first inhabitants of Scarperia, to whom numerous allowances and tax exemptions were granted, came from hamlets and castles in the area; their provenance leading to the sub-division of the centre into districts centred around the four gates: S. Michele and S. Giovanni, verso Porta Bolognese, S. Agata and S. Maria, verso Porta Fiorentina.

The walls, built in stone only subsequent to 1351,  had a rectangular design and were reinforced at the corners by great towers while lesser towers strengthened the curtain; the gates too were defined by towers.

In the centre of the town and connected to the curtain of the walls was the Palazzo Podestarile (later Vicariale) which with its fortifications constituted another defensive structure of the terra.

The palace looked onto the square, surrounded by the Provost’s palace, the Augustine church of saints Jacopo and Filippo and by the Oratory of the Madonna di Piazza.

The buildings aligned along the grid of streets were composed of houses and houses with shops raised one floor above ground and often with a vegetable plot at the back; the bigger houses were along the main road with shops, workshops, hostelries and taverns at street level for the benefit of visitors, merchants and travellers on their way to or from the north.

Little after a century from its foundation, Scarperia became the seat of the Vicar (Florence’s judicial and administrative representative) in 1415 and took on the administrative and political functions delegated to it by the Florentine republic over a vast area which ranged as far as the administrative districts of Barberino di Mugello, Borgo San Lorenzo, Campi Bisenzio, Carmignano, Dicomano, S. Godendo, Sesto, Fiesole and Vicchio.

It is to this time that the Statutes (1415), means for administering the community and its inhabitants, date back.