Travelling the SURPRISE cities from space – Figline Valdarno

The SURPRISE trip across partner cities continues in Italy. This week’s destination is Figline Valdarno (Italy), home to our partner Saitec.

So where are we exactly?

Figline Valdarno is a small town, with around 24000 inhabitants, located in central Italy. It lies at the centre of a triangle made by three renaissance cities: Florence, Arezzo and Siena. As shown in the image below, captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite, it stretches along the western bank of Arno river.

Valdarno literally means “valley of Arno”.  This is a great way to describe this territory, which is located on a flat land and surrounded by the Pratomagno mountains and the Chianti hills.

What can I do in Figline Valdarno?

Figline Valdarno has Etruscan and Roman origins. The city grew over the Middle Age and Renaissance, as shown by some beautiful buildings that are part of local heritage. These include the Collegiata Santa Maria, a 1200 church that now features a museum of Sacred Art, the Abbazia di San Cassiano a Montescalari, located on the hillside at around 600 m height on the hills between Chianti and Valdarno, and Piazza Ficino.

Figline Valdarno is famous in the area for its rural traditions.  You can get out of town and visit the surrounding countryside – thousands of tourists ever year choose to stay in farms or campsite immersed in the green Tuscan hills, in the olive groves and vineyards. Some, like Sting, have even decided to stay here! He settled in the hills around the town and set up his own farm selling wine, olive oil and honey.

If you want to take a look at how these rural traditions have emerged, the Rural Civilisation Museum is definitely the place to visit! The soul of these places is deeply linked with nature, agriculture and farming: all over the year, you can attend typical fairs both in the small cities of the area and in the hamlet, having relax surrounded by horses, pigs, cows and other country animals and enjoying genuine organic food.

If you happen to be here at the end of August / beginning of September, you could participate in the Palio di San Rocco and Festa del Perdono, a famous event in the area, where historical re-enactments, gastronomy and traditions gather visitors from all over the area. Take a look at one of the past editions!

So what about science and technology?

Figline Valdarno’s relationship with research and science has deep roots in the past.

It starts from the late Middle-Ages. The famous philosopher Marsilio Ficino was born in Figline Valdarno in 1433. Ficino was the first was scholar studying Ancient Greek philosophy at the court of Medici in Florence and he led the new “Platonic Academy”, whose work includes the translation into Latin all of Plato’s works. The Academies are considered as the ancestors of modern Universities.

Figline excellent science tradition continues over the centuries. In 1810, Napoleon sent the famous biologist Georges Cuvier to Figline, to study the numerous relics and fossils collected in the area and preserved by the Accademia Valdarnese del Poggio, located in the cloister of San Francesco Church. Cuvier was impressed by the nature and value of the relics he found there.

Today Figline is home to high-tech industries in a number of sectors. One of them is our project partner Saitec! Saitec has had its headquarters in Figline Valdarno, since it opened in 1998. SAITEC operates in the IT and electronic high-tech business, specialised in design and production of industrial, defence, avionic and aerospace systems. From their vantage point in Figline Valdarno, they are perfectly placed to link up to the main scientific poles in Tuscany and to the large companies working in the Space industry.

And what about its residents? What do they say about Figline?

On a Saturday afternoon, you can see the town’s residents taking a walk in the city centre, passing by the beautiful renaissance architecture like Casagrande and the Palazzo Pretorio, enjoying a drink in the spectacular Piazza Ficino. Residents are proud of this beautiful square, and with good reason!

They like living in Figline: it is away from the chaos of the city, in the Tuscan hills, but at the same time just a short trip from Florence, Arezzo and Siena. Figline is city and countryside together, with so much history!

Such a small city with plenty of surprises for the SURPRISE visitors! Curious to know where we’ll stop next? Then don’t miss the next city of the SURPRISE journey!

Cover picture: Photo by Proloco Figline Valdarno Marsilio Ficino