Inhabited since Etruscan and Roman times, Impruneta is a town on the outskirts of Florence. It's immersed in the countryside that can still be described in the same way that Giovan Battista Casotti did in 1714: "Impruneta is a community of twelve small villages, located a very short distance from each other, or rather, gathered almost in a heap on some hills which arise in that part of the area, or as they call it, Contado Fiorentino, that takes its name from the river that bathes it, Valdigreve; just over six miles from Florence, going towards the sirocco ”.
Impruneta is also known thanks to the centuries-old tradition of bricks and terracotta production, Impruneta terracotta, that over the centuries has become a characterizing and distinctive element of Tuscan architecture and of the landscape, as well as a well-known product that's exported all over the world.
Since the Middle Ages, Impruneta has naturally been linked to the political and economic events of nearby Florence. The real driving force of the Impruneta community has since been the famous Sanctuary of Santa Maria, founded in 1060. There was probably a place of worship here since the Etruscan era. The current basilica was founded following the discovery of the sacred image of the Madonna, preserved inside the sanctuary, which tradition says was painted by the Evangelist Luke. The Madonna di Impruneta was also very dear to the Florentines, and was in fact moved several times to the city since the fifteenth century. In 1711, she was even proclaimed co-patron of the city of Florence. Originally in Romanesque style, the parish church underwent numerous alterations over the centuries, so much so that only the crypt of the original layout was preserved, while the rest of the structure has a sober Renaissance appearance. Inside, notable works by Michelozzo and Luca della Robbia are preserved.
Over the centuries, the cult of the Madonna dell’Impruneta has favored the accumulation of various gifts and ex-votos that are today preserved in the Museum of the Treasure of Santa Maria which is located inside the loggia. In addition to the ex-votos, the museum houses numerous other objects of sacred art, a series of illuminated manuscripts, 15th century fabrics, silver and terracotta.
The meeting point of the town, as well as a traditional market place and village festivals, is the central Piazza Buondelmonti, also known due to a famous illustration by Jacques Callot from 1620, which portrays it during the San Luca Fair.
Just a short walk from the piazza is the Fornace Agresti. This complex, owned by the municipality, is important not only for the historical value of the buildings that date back to the early eighteenth century, but also because the tools, molds and models used until a few decades ago have been preserved here, when the furnace was still in business. Located halfway up a clay-filled hill, from which it drew the raw material, the Fornace is built in brick and stone, with a loggia on the entrance facade. Inside are the various places and structures that were once used for the activity of the furnace, organized on differing and facing floors. Today, in addition to being a documentation center on Impruneta terracotta, it hosts concerts, exhibitions and tastings.
For fans, here's a piece of Italian golf history: the Ugolino Golf Course was founded in 1933 based on a project by the English architects Blandford and Gannon and subsequently expanded. There are numerous competitions and national championships that took place on this course, nestled in the Tuscan hills.
The village of Impruneta is located in the Florence and the Florentine Area, between the Ema stream and the Greve river. It's an area of hills that slope down towards Florence, in an alternation of vineyards, olive groves, woods and fields planted with cereals.
These are the two most important and participated-in traditional annual events.
The previously mentioned Fiera di San Luca, in October, is linked to the celebration of the patron saint (October 18) and was first formed as a cattle fair. According to one of the theories, its origins date back to the Middle Ages, when shepherds crossed the Apennines to reach the Maremma, stopping here to care for the animals.
Today, lasting over a week, the area hosts markets, food stands, games, sporting and cultural events.
During the harvest period, the Grape Festival takes place, an event that has been celebrated since 1926. It takes place on the last Sunday of September, when the historic center of Impruneta is filled with a parade of large allegorical floats on which shows, folk dances, tastings and the exhibition of wine and typical products of the area are displayed.
Impruneta is linked throughout the world to the traditional production of terracotta, one of Tuscany's high-quality products, which is one of the highlights here, also thanks to the characteristics of the clay in the area. Among the most iconic examples of Impruneta terracotta are the tiles of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore by Brunelleschi, as well as the terracotta used in the construction of the Medici villas and many noble palaces, as well as for shaping Della Robbia sculptures.
Traditionally, vases, basins, dishes and bricks were made with terracotta. Impruneta was specialized in the processing of jars, even large ones, to contain olive oil and wine, as well as for other food and wine products of the area.
The best-known dish from Impruneta is probably Peposo, the popular spicy stew which, according to tradition, was cooked for a long time in active kilns to heat terracotta. Legend has it that Filippo Brunelleschi, who came to Impruneta to supervise the production of "his" tiles, was charmed by this local recipe that the Impruneta "fornacini" ate in an earthenware pan.