History | San Giovanni Valdarno | Terre degli Uffizi
The layout of these Florentine “new towns” – including Castel San Giovanni – which sprang up in the Mugello and the Valdarno along the major routes leading to other cities was very distinctive. The layout of Castel San Giovanni, which has survived to this day, is the result of a stringent design inspired by the principles of symmetry, regularity and use of the right angle. Several scholars have attributed this design to Arnolfo di Cambio.
The composition centred on the main street which ran right through the town from one gate to the other and determined the position of the blocks of buildings and of all the other streets. It was the main thoroughfare and the town’s most valuable properties gave onto it. This main street was crossed by a second street perpendicular to it, the crossing of the two forming the central square which was the bustling hub of public life overlooked by the town’s most important buildings including the town hall, its throbbing heart. The secondary streets led out of these two thoroughfares, running parallel to them in accordance with a precise rationale based on proportionality that resulted in an especially well-balanced plan.
San Giovanni’s development and consolidation in the Middle Ages and Early Renaissance continued on into the following centuries, making it one of the more successful of the “new towns.” Today it is well worth exploring, a stroll through its streets bringing the visitor face to face with the town hall which now houses the Museo delle Terre Nuove, the parish church of San Giovanni Battista, the Basilica of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the 15th century loggia gracing Palazzo Salviati. The Museo della Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie hosts a wealth of spectacular works of art, including a splendid Annunciation painted by Fra Angelico, while the art of our own day has found a fitting home in the Casa Masaccio centro per l’arte contemporanea, the house in which the celebrated painter Masaccio was born in the early 15th century and which currently supports and fosters research and experimentation in the new languages of art today.