The area around the town of Montale is rich with artistic treasures, many of them little known. After visiting the exhibit "Nella luce di Caravaggio" at Villa Castello La Smilea, take the time to discover these ancient parks and churches that will fascinate you still today.
What to see:
Villa Smilea is named for it being at the sixth mile (sex milia) along the road for Agliana, heading towards Pistoia. It is still today fortress-like, massive, with two tall towers and pensile arches that define much of its structure. One enters through an attractive doorway into a courtyard defined by the villa itself and by two symmetrical buildings with elegant windows. This villa is home to the communal library and holds an important collection of works by Jorio Vivarelli (Fognano 1922 – Pistoia 1988), an important pistoiese artist and protagonist of exhibits both at home and internationally.
Chiesa di S. Salvatore in Agna (Badia) (Via A. Gramsci)
This monastery has Longbardic origins. We know that at the end of the 8th century it depended on the powerful abbey of S. Salvatore di Brescia. Located along an important trans-appenine trail, it was well connected to the important abbeys of Pratum Episcopi and Fontana Taona; these three abbeys offered shelter to pilgrims. During the Carolingian period it belonged to the imperial family, while at the middle of the 10th century it passed into the jurisdiction of the Bishopry of Fiesole, which in the following century paid for the reconstruction of the abbey’s church.
The abbey, after a long and illustrious history, lost its religious function at the end of the 18th century and became private property, which it still is today. The church is nicely restored with neo-Romantic forms from the 1920s, when the whole structure was radically restored. The church still has its single nave shape with three apsides and a suggestive crypt with interesting sculpted capitals, some of which are from the 9th and 11th centuries.
Pieve di S. Giovanni Evangelista (Piazza G. Matteotti)
This Romanesque country church was cited already in 957 as being dependent on the Cathedral of Pistoia. Its importance is due to its role as an aggregation center for the surrounding areas, in that this church was at an important point on the road that led from the Limentra area towards Pistoia. Its current state betrays changes and restorations in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The visitor enters through a small portico from 1708. Inside is harmoniously neoclassical thanks to work done in 1806-1807. On the right wall, a painting from the first half of the 17th century with an unusual representation of the Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian, attributed to Matteo Rosselli (1578-1650). Closer to the Neoclassica decorations is a Christ and the Samaritain by Pietro Benvenuti (1769-1844). There is a good quality Annunciation from the mid 16th century and a Crucifixion and saints attributed to Cigoli but perhaps by the Florentine painter Lorenzo Lippi (l606-l665). The decoration of the cupola with the Vision of Saint John the Evangelist is by the academic painter Luigi Sabatelli (1772-1850).
Public park - Parco pubblico di Fognano (Via A. Gramsci - Fognano)
An attractive park with olive trees, a white sacrificial altar emerges, disrupted by a piece of cold metal; the nearby sculpture represents perpetual life winning over matter, fed on water. The work from 1976 is titled “Il sacrificio: una morte per una vita by Jorio Vivarelli.
Frescoed fountain by Ardengo Soffici (Piazza San Francesco - Fognano)
This fountain from 1933 is protected by a tabernacle structure and decorated by a fresco that represents Saint Francis making water come miraculously out of rock. The paitning is by Ardengo Soffici (1879- 1964).
A small town with antique origins opens up onto the hillside with the church of S. Michele at its tip. This community still maintains a strong sense of identity that conserves its past and a link to the territory that attempts to beat off the de-population typical of these mountain areas.
Chiesa di S. Michele (Piazza G. Di Vittorio - Tobbiana)
In an attractive position with a view over the valley, a Romaneque building is well documented but no longer stands. A current church stands here with its simple façade and belltower.