“The roadside village”, now Strada in Casentino, started as a market place in the Solano valley, (the largest tributary of the Casentino part of the Arno), on the plain near the bridge to Castel San Niccolò. Tightly linked to the town, in the nearby area of a parish church dating back to the start of the 11th century (San Martino in Vado gives onto a ford over the Solano river), Strada has become over the course of some centuries a largely expanded and developed village. Recognised in 1776 by the Grandduke Pietro Leopoldo’s decree as the administrative seat of the Castel San Niccolò council, it was the first mayoral seat and subsequently the administrative centre and council headquarters.
The built-up area of Strada has many things to see and do. Visit the parish church of San Martino in Vado (dating from the beginning of the 11th century), one of the most important Romanesque churches in Casentino and supposedly built by Countess Matilda of Canossa. The church has a typical Romanesque appearance with three naves and is divided into seven aisles by six pietra serena monolithic columns, each with a capital different from the other; these were completed by skilled workers from 12th century Lombardy. The frescoes that decorate the internal walls come from the parish church of St Nicholas adjacent to the castle and they portray a Crucifixion and St Nicholas with saints (from the 14th century Florentine school). On the left wall, next to the entrance, there is a 17th century oil on canvas of St Simon Stock receiving a scapular from the Madonna.
The piazza Matteotti in the centre of town is particularly charming and surrounded by the austere Vettori and Vettori-Tommasi palaces. The Logge del Grano, with five spans topped by round arches in pietra serena and covered by an old roof, dominates the square. The 16th-century Chapel of the Visitation is on one side; inside, paintings depict the Immaculate crowning of the Saints of Titus (1580) alongside Virgin with Child and Saints (around 1600) by Giovan Francesco Guerrieri.
Next to the Logge is the former mayoral and council seat, used now as a library. Strongly connected to Strada’s history is the “Collegio”, a mighty 18th century structure in the panoramic part of the town immediately above the centre; previously used as a seminary by the Jesuits, then by the Salesians and finally by Fiesole’s diocese. Currently it’s partly used as a public residence.
Strada in Casentino is known as the town of stone work, by virtue of the old pietra serena caves present in the area and the manufacturing tradition of the town and the many stonecutters that have beautified the houses and palaces of several Tuscan cities. In the few first days of September, the Exhibition of Stone Masonry takes place biannually, with stonecutters and sculptors from all over Italy getting together to take part.
You’ll also find the Museum of Stone Masonry which has a permanent exhibition that aims to document, study, interpret and pass on the material and immaterial heritage of the Solano valley stone.