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Toscana - Places to Visit - Bibbiena

The old part of Bibbiena, a medieval fortress, is set at the top of a hill surmounted by the Torre Tarlati.

Bibbiena in Toscana

One noteworthy monument is the 16th-century Palazzo Dovizi, named after the renowned family from where Cardinal Bernardo, called il Bibbiena (1470-1520) belonged. He was secretary to Pope Leo X, diplomat, and author of the comedy La Calandria, which held a mirror up to Renaissance society.

Other illustrious sons whose names are linked to Bibbiena were the Gallis, a family of theatrical designers known the world over by the name ofthe Bibienas.

An essential element of the Gallis scenery was its architecture, extraordinarily imaginative yet rigorously respecting the rules and principles of perspective. A visit is suggested to the 15th-century Church of San Lorenzo, containing two lovely terra-cottas, a Deposition and an Adoration by Andrea della Robbia, to the Oratory of San Francesco, a jewel of Tuscan rococo, and finally to the Church of Santi Ippolito e Donato.

Built in the early 12th century, along with other valuable works this church preserves a superb 13th-century wooden sculpture depicting a Madonna and Child, a canvas by Ligozzi, a masterly triptych by Bicci di Lorenzo, an Annunciation by Balducci, and a very rare panel painting by Cola di Camerino.

One kilometre from Bibbiena is the Basilica Santuario di Santa Maria del Sasso, built on a design by Giuliano da Majano, with its clear-cut Renaissance features. Inside the basilica are works of art of inestimable artistic value, including a Madonna and Child by Fra Paolino del Signoraccio, a Nativity by Maria del Ligozzi, a centrally-placed shrine where the Madonna and Child of Bicci di Lorenzo is revered, a chancel with a magnificent Assumption by Fra Bartolomeo and Fra Paolino, and a terra-cotta altarpiece by Santi Buglioni.

The lower church contains a wooden sculpture venerated as the Madonna del Buio and a precious painting on canvas by Lappoli. Inside the monastery is a grandiose 16th-century cloister. Another important locality is Soci, where, in addition to the panno Casentino (woolen cloth) with its characteristic green and orange colours, high-quality carded and combed wools have been produced for over a century.

Bibbiena in Toscana

On the outskirts of the village is a 17th-century villa called the Mausolea that was formerly the guest-rooms and hospice of the Camaldolensian monks. Farther along, Partina, dominated by its castle, rebuilt in the late 19th century in neo-Gothic style, is now the site of an interesting museum containing archaeological finds from the Casentino district.

Serravalle, a popular tourist spot bathed in the green of Casentino Forests National Park, houses an important centre for the study of environmental bio-indicators.

At Terrossola, the Church of San Marco contains a canvas by Botticini.

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