The charming medieval village Loro Ciuffenna is situated between Florence and Arezzo on the slopes of the Pratomagno mountain range. The origins of the village go back much further however as it was founded by the Etruscans who named it after the torrent, Ciuffenna. It may seem a remote location in the middle of the Valdarno region, but because Loro Ciuffenna was located on the ancient road that connected Fiesole with Arezzo (Via dei Sette Ponti – Road of the Seven Bridges) the settlement flourished through trade.
The river also played a very important part in the development of the village. Thanks to the constant flow of water Loro Ciuffenna houses the oldest working watermill in Tuscany dating back to the 12th century, where, still today, chestnut and other flowers are grounded. The bridge offers an impressive view over the gorge that divides the village in two, unfortunately, when I visited in late September the water level was a bit low. Loro Ciuffenna is rated one of the most beautiful villages of Italy “Uno dei borghi più belli d’Italia” and if you take a stroll through the narrow stone-paved streets you’ll be treated to some beautiful views and sights.
Over the past years, more tourists have started to find their way to Loro Ciuffenna, but on a weekday late September the village breathed the peace and quiet of times long passed that I love so much but is increasingly hard to find. We got panini of freshly cut bread, salami and cheese from the little shop La Ghiotta and we ate them on the square accompanied by the loud voices of old friends having a coffee on the terrace by the bar. That’s village life.
Just outside the town borders of Loro Ciuffenna, you’ll find the one-street village of Gropina with a beautiful example of Romanesque architecture. The church, built with simple blocks of smooth sandstone, dates to the year one thousand. Older foundations discovered under the church reveal that in this same spot a church was located as far back as the 5th century. Although rich in sculptures on the pulpit and the capitals of the columns, the church is bare of frescoes or paintings.
Behind the church, there is an olive grove where you can admire the back of the building. Do you know what a caper plant looks like? They freely grow on the outside walls of the church and if you look close enough you can spot the flower buds or the fruits, depending on the season. More edible fruit can be found at the end of the narrow path on the right a little further down the village. Here we discovered the most prickly pear cactuses that I had ever seen together in my life. Be very careful picking and eating them though, the prickles are nasty and will end up in your fingers and mouth if you don’t clean them correctly. My friends learned this the hard way.
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A visit to the charming medieval villages Loro Ciuffenna and Gropina in the Valdarno region between Florence and Arezzo.