This past weekend we went back to Scarperia, a small town in the Mugello valley to the north of Florence just a short drive away.
Scarperia is part of the “Borgi piu’ belli d’Italia“, or “most beautiful villages in Italy” network and, despite the drizzle we had on Saturday morning, we once again fell under the spell of the town’s charm as we park and walk toward the tower that is our destination.
The Piazza dei Vicari, and the Palazzo that dominates the square with its bell tower, marks the heart of the historical center, which you might be able to cross in less than 10 minutes from one end to the other. Since we had visited the town during the “Renaissance Days” in early September, we had not had a chance yet to visit the Palazzo dei Vicari and the museum within, dedicated to the tradition of knife-making for which Scarperia is widely known, so we went back specifically for that.
We met Elena from the ProLoco Scarperia office inside the palace who led us on an interesting tour of the palace, the museum, past the historical archive and a climb up the tower! Elena is a precious source of information of everything related to Scarperia, she and a colleague basically run everything related to Scarperia and tourism out of their small office. We highly recommend you stop here in you’re in town and staying in the area to pick up brochures, maps and more info on what to do in the area, the network of museums spread out across the Mugello and more.
A visit to the palace and to the museum can be done without a guide, but we highly recommend you pay the extra 2 euro (for the adults, kids under 7 are free) to do the guided tour that includes the climb up the tower if weather is nice. You get to see all of the official rooms within that were used by city officials for centuries (but now in a building nearby) and enjoy a great view of Scarperia and Mugello from the top.
The museum dedicated to sharp cutting tools, from knives to scissors, called “Museo dei Ferri Taglienti”, is an incredible treasure I didn’t even imagine. It was very interesting to learn that Scarperia has been known worldwide for its knives ever since the Middle Ages, with most of the town being artisan workshops handmaking knives and similar cutting tools. From 450 artisan workshops in its heyday, only 4 remain still active today in Scarperia and production nowadays is industrial rather than handmade, as one can imagine demand for such products is small.
One of the most interesting stops generally open to small groups of 10 people is a small artisan workshop abandoned in the early 1970’s which was donated to the city. Here, an artisan knife-maker will demonstrate how knives are made, wish we could have seen that! Being just us, we got a peek into this workshop frozen in time, with the tools, forge and materials still in their place as if the master knife-maker had just stepped out.
Stay tuned for more details on the Palazzo dei Vicari and on the museum, I look forward to sharing some of the interesting bits of history and information we got from Elena! The official site for Scarperia is this http://www.prolocoscarperia.it/ but unfortunately it isn’t in English so we hope our articles will help provide that information for everyone ;-).
About Lourdes Flores
An American living in Florence for over 10 years, Lourdes continues to explore and discover new places in Tuscany with the eyes of a tourist but with the experience of living in Italy. She shares her experiences on this blog and website, particularly offering lots of travel planning help on the Forum!