Civic Museum of Fucecchio

The Museum of Fucecchio, housed in Palazzo Corsini and inserted within the Park where the towers of the 14th-century Rocca Fiorentina can still be seen, can today be considered the "city museum". The three sections—Archaeological, Historical-Artistic, and Naturalistic—narrate the history of Fucecchio and the transformations of the Fucecchio landscape over time, in chronological stages and themes.

The first rooms illustrate the transformations of the natural environment starting from the Pliocene, through the fossil remains of the sea that covered over this sector of the Valdarno at that time, until the appearance of continental fauna, and then of man, to whom the prehistoric and protohistoric section is dedicated. Along an important route that, during the 5th century BC, must have run to the edge of the alluvial plain, two specimens of aes signatum were found, ingots of molten bronze that had a corresponding value, today on display in the museum. On the hills of the Cerbaie, near Cappiano, already in Roman times there was a town, from which a funerary inscription and a marble votive altar originate, but the history of Fucecchio begins with the birth of the castle founded in the 10th century by the Counts Cadolingi. The rooms dedicated to the formation of the medieval landscape around the castle that controlled the intersection of the Via Francigena with the Arno will be outfitted through a new layout, to be inaugurated with the exhibition Alle radici di un luogo leonardiano: una signoria e il suo paesaggio (At the roots of one of Leonardo’s places: a lordship and its landscape) (28 September 2019). Virtual and plastic reconstructions, as well as multimedia elaborations, accompany the visitor through the centuries that viewed the changing landscape and the evolution of the Cadolingi castle, in the large walled village militarized by Florence during the 14th century with the construction of the Rocca. At the beginning of the 16th century, Fucecchio still maintained the appearance it had reached in the Florentine period, which is how Leonardo depicted it on one of his most famous maps.

The thematic room entitled "A story of the Arno" illustrates the special role of the river as a long-term commercial carrier, through a wide display of amphorae, used for transport along the river during ancient times, and objects on board the medieval wreck of Empoli. The shipwrecked vessel near Empoli was a ferry for river navigation, extraordinarily well preserved, and very similar to the one drawn by Leonardo on one of the folios of the Codex Atlanticus (f. 27r). The objects from the wreck, including an archaic majolica jug, date the shipwreck back to the first half of the 14th century. The shipwreck was probably caused by the 1333 flooding of the Arno. The river ferry was also equipped with a caulker’s ax for the adjustment of the keel on site, and a steelyard, indicating the boat’s function as freight transport. Extensive documentation of the work of the master hull-working craftsmen who worked on the banks of the Arno in Leonardo’s time can be consulted at the Centro Espositivo della Cantieristica navale e del Canottaggio di Limite Sull’Arno (Navy Shipyard and Oarsmen Exhibition Center of Limite Sull'Arno).

In the Historical-Artistic Section of the museum you can admire a work that is truly interesting for the details represented, the Madonna with the Child in glory and saints by Giovanni di ser Giovanni, called Lo Scheggia, brother of Masaccio. The Virgin with the infant Jesus, framed by the violent red of the cherubs, is flanked by the figures of four Saints. On the left side, San Sebastiano is positioned on a spur of land, while San Lazzaro and Santa Marta and Santa Maddalena are standing on a typical marsh vessel, the noccolo, or small, flat-bottomed boat. This is an allusion to the journey of the three saints who, according to tradition, arrived in Provence from Palestine. In the Fucecchio marshes, small boats identical to the one painted in the mid-15th century by Lo Scheggia are still in use (Centro di Ricerca, Documentazione e Promozione del Padule di Fucecchio). By contrast, Leonardo seems to have drawn, on the expanse of water situated at the center of the 1473 Paesaggio dell’Arno (Arno Landscape)—according to a recent interpretation, the Fucecchio Marshes—one or two navicelli, another type of marsh watercraft with typically curved bows. The 1473 Paesaggio dell’Arno will be on display in the exhibition entitled "At the Origins of the Genius" (Museo Leonardiano, Vinci, 15 April - 15 October 2019).

The Civic Museum of Fucecchio also preserves a very rich ornithological collection dedicated to the local fauna of the marsh, both fossil and contemporary. The collection has a notable historical and naturalistic interest as a testimony of the avifaunal wealth of this particular environment. In fact, among the water birds exhibited, we find rare species such as the white-headed duck, now extinct in Italy, the Western swamp hen, which survives only in Sardinia, and the ferruginous duck. Leonardo, who had visited these places in his youth, would have had the opportunity to observe the numerous species of birds that lived in the marshes. At Cerreto Guidi, Leonardo's Codex on the Flight of Birds will be on display in a facsimile version for the exhibition entitled “Il volo tra Pisanello e Leonardo” (Flight, between Pisanello and Leonardo) (Villa Medicea di Cerreto Guidi, 14 September 2019­ - 7 January 2020).
Texts by
Silvia Leporatti / English translation by John Venerella