Excursion: From Villamagna to the Convento dell’Incontro

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Difficulty: easy/medium – Length: 4.5 km – Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes – Calories 350

We start from the Piazza di Villamagna to get to the Convento dell’Incontro, on the top of the homonymous hill, one of the highest (560 meters) of this hilly landscape.

It’s an easy excursion, but you will need comfortable shoes because the route winds through paved roads and cobbled paths.

We find ourselves in what, during the Middle Ages, was the populace of the San Donnino a Villamagna, belonging to the League of Bagno a Ripoli. Upon this parish depended the churches of San Romolo, of Santa Maria a Rignalla, the Church of Monte Acuto and the Oratory of San Gherardo1, which we will reach the end of our walk.

The richness of this populace is evidenced by the works of art that the church holds. I quote only the painting attributed to Francesco Granacci, a native of Villamagna, where San Donnino and the Blessed Gherardo are represented, the latter’s remains rest in an urn inside the church.

After this brief digression, we walk towards the gardens of this village, where on the left is a path that rises in the middle of a sunny olive grove. Let us pause a moment to look around: besides the beautiful Romanesque bell tower of San Donnino we can already see the Castello di Monte Acuto, at the center of a beautiful landscape that stretches to the cultivated rolling hills on the right bank of the Arno Valley.

After a short climb, we can glimpse the wall of a stone farmhouse that looks abandoned, we come to the end of the path and discover that we are inside the villa-farm of Poggio a Luco, which, with its massive walls looks more like an impregnable fortress. But we are in the private yard of the villa, so, after a brief look, we retrace our tracks and take a left onto the dirt road that leads to the crossing where, under a huge cypress tree, we find the sign for the Convento dell’Incontro.

From here, we take the CAI path, marked by a white and a red stripe, but this stretch is more suited to hiking enthusiasts than to us; we are having a leisurely, relaxing and rejuvenating walk for the spirit as well as the body. For that reason, we shall go straight along the paved road that will take us comfortably to the wall of the convent.

Once there, we pass the gate and following the tabernacles of the Via Crucis we arrive to the church square.

The Convento dell’Incontro was originally a “hermitage” founded by the Blessed Gerard in mid-thirteenth century, and we, too, can take a break, like the pilgrims of that time, immersed in a magical silence, admiring the monastery and the magnificent lovely views that extend towards the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore.

Back at the gate, we turn left and continue along the wall of the monastery, following the road that once again offers a beautiful view over the Arno Valley.

A little further ahead, the signs of CAI indicate some paths, we follow the one for the valico di Terzano (Terzano crossing), passing through the beautiful forest of oaks and hornbeams. The undergrowth of broom and juniper leaves ample room on the meadow, where we can stop if we wish under the shade of a tree and rediscover the pleasure of slowness, immersed in unspoiled nature with Florence nonetheless before our eyes.

Once we arrive at a clearing, we must pay attention and note the trail No. 4 on the right. It’s a downward track, with pebbles at times, which will soon take us to the Oratory of the Blessed Gerard, dating back to the fourteenth century.

Interesting note

 

Gherardo came back here, where the oratory rises, upon his return from the Second Crusade in the Holy Land to devote himself to prayer and care for the poor. The inhabitants of Villamagna attributed many wonders and miracles to him, including that of the cherries.

It is said that Brother Gerard, tired and hungry on a cold winter’s day, leaned against a cherry tree, which immediately filled itself with fruits to nourish him2.

Our excursion is almost finished, we descend along the paved road and, after a few corners, we will find ourselves back in front of the parish church of San Donnino.

 

Claudia Friggi

 

1) (I. Moretti, “Parishes, the people and the streets” in Without a hurry, a guide for alert planet travelers, Bagno a Ripoli, Editoriale Tosca srl, Firenze)

2) Bagno a Ripoli – History, art and culture at the doors of Florence

The path

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Photogallery

  • Da Villamagna al Convento dell'Incontro

  • Il panorama lungo il percorso

  • Il panorama lungo il percorso

  • Il Convento dell'Incontro

  • Il Convento dell'Incontro

  • Oratorio del Beato Gherardo

  • Oratorio del Beato Gherardo

  • Il panorama su Firenze

  • Il panorama lungo il percorso

  • Il panorama lungo il percorso

  • Poggio a Luco

  • Poggio a Luco

  • La Pieve di San Donnino a Villamagna

  • Il sentiero CAI

  • Il sentiero CAI

  • Il panorama lungo il percorso

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