The Montalbano landscape encompasses the character of an ancient and almost solemn beauty, full of history and memories, with that of a dynamic evolution over the centuries to the present day, which can be seen in both the tangible and intangible territorial artefacts of and also in the activities of its people. The structural elements of this landscape are found in the morphology of the area, in its geological composition and in its territorial system (natural and wooded areas, water network and settlement system) which are all clear and recognizable. It is in these aspects that they are most distinguishable, these which have been handed down throughout the centuries and which must be understood as the distinctive trait, the genius loci of Montalbano. This landscape is both sweet and rugged at the same time: sweet as the icon of the Tuscan landscape, but also as firm as the land on which man has been able to induce forms of economy and technology without dispelling any of its innate beauty. This landscape has been moulded by the clever wisdom of the peasant-craftsmen, but it has also been used for leisure and recreation as well as for hunting, which was practiced out of hunger and pleasure. Since the Renaissance to present day, it is regulated and limited to restricted areas and defined by local authorities. This tradition has continued over time. It is for this reason that the Barchi follow the fields and the villa gardens follow the countryside in a continuum that has the naturalness of a landscape built with love and labour over the centuries. The Montalbano hill range is a fork of the Tusco-Emilian Apennines, spreading over approximately 16,000 hectares and which branches off from the Serravalle Pass, winding its way North West – South East and reaching as far as the Gonfolina Gorges, where it acts as a watershed between two large plains, the Pistoia-Florentine and the Val di Nievole. The ridge is relatively low, without any major height variations and stands at an altitude of about 400 -600 m.
The “bucchero” and the classic black and white ivory are testimonies of the Etruscan civilisation in the territory of Carmignano (at least until the 1st century B.C.). The Etruscan settlement was located on the tops of Artimino hill. The acropolis was in the vicinity of the Villa of one hundred chimneypots (Villa Ferdinanda), while the houses were placed close to the castle. In the local “Museo Archeologico Comunale” (Municipal Archaeological Museum) we can admire great part of the findings coming from Etruscan houses (fragments of bucchero vases and sandstone sculptures, ceramics imported from Etruria and from Greece, objects of domestic use, table and cooking crockery, bronze and silver coins, fragments of amphoras for wine and terracotta building material) and from the necropolis (the famous bucchero censer with an inscription from the tomb of tumulus C of the “Prato di Rosello”, and then two sets of unguentarium of the 7th century B.C.).
The Medici in 1626, realized the Barco Reale, a game preserve encircled by a wall of approximately 50 kilometers in the area of Montalbano, in order to protect, but also to hunt, wild boars, hares, partridges, pheasants, francolins, etc. The woods (oaks, chestnut trees, mulberry trees, pines, ilexes, fir-trees, elms, walnut-trees, cypresses, etc.) and shrubs (broom, juniper, myrtle, hawthorn, etc.) were rigorously protected. In the first decades of the 17th century the huntings suffered a certain decline and also the Barco was slowly neglected; with the transfer of the estate to the Lorena (1736) the management of the farms was entrusted to the tenant farmers who looked after the interests of the landlords. After the half of the 18th century the fall of the commerce of timber and the amount of works, to put the enclosures and the lands inside the preserve in order, caused a standstill situation unblocked only after the accession to the throne of Pietro Leopoldo (1765). Some important measures brought about a change in the utilization of these areas.
The enclosing walls In origin the enclosing walls (50 kilometers long) constituted the limit of the preserve. At present we can see remains and traces only for 30 kilometers. The masonry is in sandstone of great dimensions with lime mortar. Gates and sluice gates were spaced out long the wall; the gates are disappeared while some sluice gates remain. The remains of the wall are a “cultural property” which must be protected and enhanced.
The Places of Leonardo Leonardo lived in Vinci with his grandfather Antonio until about 1469. Even after moving to Florence, he maintained a constant relationship with Vinci and Montalbano. It was the enormous legacy of drawings and manuscripts, including the two volumes of the Madrid Codices discovered in 1967, which documents with certainty the fruitful relationship that Leonardo had with whole territory of Montalbano. The famous youthful drawing of landscape that is now kept at the Uffizi – the first landscape drawing in European art history – was drawn by Leonardo on 5 August 1473 at the festival of Our Lady, St. Mary of the Snows in Montevettolini. It accurately identifies the fortified hill of Montevettolini, the hill of Monsummano Alto and the flooded plain between them, as seen from the wall of Poggio del Belvedere: the area depicted is thus very suggestive of Montalbano as a whole. The cartographic construction procedures of the more mature Leonardo originated from this line-of-sight. A group of drawings from 1506-7 records one of his construction projects in Serravalle of a dam and a reservoir to collect water to power a mill. One indication of Leonardo’s interest for the technology of mills is seen on another sheet of the Codex Atlanticus, also dated around 1506-1507, where Leonardo drew a system – accompanied by some notes. This was known as the “mill of Doccia at Vinci” and was previously found in the area of Doccia, in the far north of the country. However, in those years Leonardo was frequently travelling the length and breadth of the Arno valley and the whole area of Montalbano, as well as the Padule di Fucecchio marshland and the Lake Bientina of Pisano.