In the village of Collodi, small houses flow down a steep hill like a waterfall. At the bottom of this hill is an ancient fortress, while on the other side is the majestic Villa Garzoni, standing on the ruins of the ancient medieval castle and seemingly supporting the entire village.
The oldest part of the village, which dates back to the end of the twelfth century, has a similar origin to that of many other small medieval towns: for mainly military reasons, the population was instructed to climb up the hill in order to better defend themselves from possible attacks.
Collodi, like all towns that were built in a strategic geographical position, has a very troubled history, marked by the Garzoni family who belonged to the Ghibellines and therefore always saw Florence as an enemy. When the Florentines consolidated their power in Valdinievole (in 1339), the Garzoni family was forced to emigrate to Lucca, but kept their possessions in Collodi, San Martino and Sesto.
Walking through the narrow streets of the village, you’ll be mesmerised by how well its history and architecture have been preserved. From the ancient stones that have paved the small streets for centuries between rows of houses, which in turn maintain their medieval appearance; to the remains of various fortified structures, including some of the city gates, Collodi will amaze you with its historical beauty. The castle, surrounded by vast walls and numerous towers, one of which has been transformed into a bell tower, is right at the end. At the top of the castle is the parish church of San Bartolomeo, from which there is a remarkable panoramic view of the area.
Today, Collodi’s activities are more concentrated around the tourist attractions of Villa Garzoni and its Italian Garden. It was in these very spectacular grounds, characterized by water playgrounds and triumphs, that Carlo Lorenzini's father worked as a gardener. He is now better known as Carlo Collodi, author of The Adventures of Pinocchio: the story of a puppet. The brilliant novel, which recounts the adventures of a “living puppet", has inspired hundreds of directors. One of the most beloved animated films of all time is the Walt Disney production Pinocchio.
The Cat and the Fox, the Fairy and the Whale are characters that animate the famous Pinocchio Park, creating a sort of "toy town" where the whole family can spend a day in nature and children can lose themselves in the story’s magic.
Collodi is also home to the colourful Butterfly House, a stone and crystal greenhouse with over a thousand species of butterflies from all over the world.
The Valdinievole is a place of inspiration, where Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini often stayed. But it is much more than that: it is also an oasis of wellbeing and health. Montecatini and Monsummano Terme are found in the part of Tuscany that ranges from Lucca to Pistoia; today they are still greatly admired for their beautiful springs and elegant Art Nouveau architecture.
And what about Pescia? In the home of plant nurseries and floriculture, you’ll be able to visit the original Bonsai Museum or the fragrant Citrus Garden.
We recommend you take a trip to the medieval historical centre of Uzzano, set on top of a hill, for a breathtaking view of the whole valley.
The best time to visit Collodi is the last week of August, when it celebrates its patron saint San Bartolomeo. During the festival, the town hosts a series of entertaining events, such as historical re-enactments, costumed actors, food tastings and markets for all tastes and ages.
The torta coi becchi, a rustic shortcrust pastry cake filled with a mixture of rice and chocolate, is a delicacy found throughout the Valdinievole. Montecatini Terme wafers, thin sheets of almond-based dough with the unmistakable scent of vanilla, are a must-try for those with a sweet tooth, and are ideal accompaniments for coffee or ice cream.
Throughout the town’s celebrations and fairs, the air is filled with the characteristic aroma of aniseed arising from the brigidini di Lamporecchio (a typical confectionary invented by the nuns of Santa Brigida in a convent in Pistoia).