From far away you see on the green olive tree slope of the Belmonte hill only one white building with elegant windows in stone and several chimneys on the roof.
It is the Casa Il Monte where, in 1479, Vespasiano da Bisticci retired to write the masterpiece Lives of famous men of the fifteenth century with biographies of 103 famous men he had known during his extraordinary life traveling around Europe and in his book-selling workshop – or, more exactly, ‘chartorajo’.
Vespasian was the greatest copyist of manuscripts, a humanist scholar whose talent and passion for books carved him a successful career. He had a shop in Via del Proconsolo on the corner of Via Pandolfini where he transcribed texts and packaged in an elegant and refined way precious books sought after by all the gentlemen of the time. He compiled the great library of San Marco for Cosimo the Elder and Lorenzo the Magnificent, and in over thirty years of work, provided hundreds of volumes to the most powerful families in Florence, to the European courts, to dukes, popes and kings whom he knew personally, for this reason he was able to write about their lives, revealing the most intimate aspects of their character and the secrets of their intrigues.
From his refuge ‘in the pleasant solitude of the Antella’, Vespasian he wrote a letter to his friend Pierfilippo Pandolfini in 1480 in which shines through all the love and satisfaction he feels from living in these places but speaks mainly of a stimulating and richly detailed description of a walk on hills and woods of Fonte Santa and Montisoni. Without a doubt, this is the first guide to a hiking trail on the hill of Poggio Florence.
Vespasian died in the Il Monte house in 1498 and was buried in the Basilica of Santa Croce. Having left no will, a mystery is yet to be resolved: what happened to his precious library?
There is plenty of evidence that he had brought the huge number of manuscripts and rare books he owned with him, a true paper treasure that no one has ever found. Someone, not wanting to believe it had been lost or even destroyed, tried to rummage in the archives of the Ginori farm who had inherited the villa and tried to seek, with a mallet and chisel, beyond some mysterious walled-over doors in the Casa Il Monte.
For now, not even a page has been found!