The first stop is the fulcrum and also the symbol of the city: the Rocca Federiciana, built at the behest of the Emperor Frederick II in the 13th century. A powerful fortification that allowed the control of the territory, reaching to the sea. Legend has it that inside the Fortress a political prisoner was imprisoned and killed that Dante made known in Canto XIII of Hell, that Pier delle Vigne that apparently had plotted against the emperor. From the Rocca you can enjoy a magnificent 360 ° view of the Valdarno and the surrounding area.
Coming down from the Rocca you arrive in Piazza del Duomo, where in the rooms adjacent to the Cathedral is the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, one of the first in Italy. In the rooms the works coming from the parishes of the Diocese are collected chronologically, representing a compendium of Tuscan painting from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. The Museum leads to the Tower of Matilde, the bell tower of the Cathedral, which offers an equally beautiful view of San Miniato and its surroundings.
Next, the Palazzo Comunale, which preserves some traces of the original medieval palace inside. On the ground floor there is the Oratorio del Loretino, where once the image of the SS.Crocifisso (now transferred to the nearby Church) was kept and replaced by the image of the Madonna of Loreto (hence the name of the oratory). On the first floor the beautiful Sala delle Sette Virtù, once home to the 12 defenders of the people and with Tuscan school frescoes.
The itinerary continues in the historic Palazzo Migliorati, home of the Accademia degli Euteleti, the oldest scientific and cultural institution of San Miniato (XVII century), whose name means “men of good will”, then in the new Museum of Memory (MuMe), a space that bears witness to the horrors of war through a visual and documentary itinerary of episodes that directly involved S. Miniato.
The next steps take us first to Palazzo Roffia which houses the Collection of the Archconfraternity of Mercy, a collection of paintings and sculptures of considerable historical and artistic importance, and then to the Museum of the Conservatory of Santa Chiara, set up in the monastery of the same name just outside the ancient city walls, with works by Tuscan masters of medieval art such as Empoli, Cigoli and Deodato Orlandi (the same author of the magnificent frescoes in the Basilica of San Piero a Grado, near Pisa).
The next stop on the Via Angelica is very fascinating: it is the ancient path, once used by the peasants who wanted to reach the city from the countryside, which touches three places of strong artistic charm: the Church of the Saints Jacopo and Lucia, the Oratory of Sant’Urbano and the Chapel of San Pietro Martire.
Before leaving the historic center of San Miniato, you can’t miss one of the many shops with typical and quality products, from the truffle to the wine of one of the producers of the Vignaioli Association, from the olive oil maybe of the Samminiatese Frantoio, to sausages, up to the cantuccini.
Going down towards the Tosco Romagnola, in San Miniato Basso (whose inhabitants are curiously called “pinocchini”) there is the Didactic Museum on the Civilization of Scripture, suitable for families with children, which traces the most important stages of the history of writing and proposes a series of workshops to make known the use of writing in everyday life from antiquity to the present day.
Continuing towards Ponte a Elsa we reach the Archaeological Area of San Genesio, a site of excavations of considerable historical interest, given that stratified finds from a first Etruscan and then a Roman settlement were found, which arose in correspondence with the ancient road network and which in the Middle Ages would have been merged along the Via Francigena route.